Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) – What is it?

A Marriage and Family Therapist, commonly referred to as an MFT, is a licensed mental health provider. They are one of six core mental health professionals, which also include clinical social workers, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, professional clinical counselors, and psychiatric nurse specialists. MFTs work mainly with diagnosing and treating individuals, families, and couples. When working with their clients, MFTs view client symptoms, diagnoses, and present issues in the context of the client’s relationships. MFTs will frequently have extensive training in child and adolescent issues. Oftentimes, MFTs work in private practice, but MFTs can also be found in other settings such as health care organizations, non-profits, and educational institutions.

Why become an MFT?

Working as an MFT can be a very rewarding experience. A Marriage and Family Therapist can play a key role in helping individuals, couples, and families improve relationships and their overall well-being. With the increasing prevalence of mental health disorders in our society, MFTs (and other mental health professionals) play an important role in helping those who suffer to heal. In addition to the rewarding work, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is predicting a 22% increase in job growth for MFTs over the next ten years (4% is the average for other professions). MFTs have never been more in demand.

How to become an MFT?

In order to become a Marriage and Family Therapist, one must first graduate from an accredited university or college with their Masters or Doctorate degree. Following this, the individual is required to complete several years of supervised clinical experience, which includes working with families, couples, and individuals. The exact MFT experience requirements from state to state may vary, so the best thing to do is contact your state licensing board to find out what they are. MFTs are required to gain an incredible amount of training and experience understanding the psychodynamics of relationships in order to best help their clients, their families, and even their surrounding communities. Once pre-licensure experience requirements are met, most states require MFT associates to pass the AMFTRB National MFT Exam. If you are in California, you will need to pass the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) California MFT Law and Ethics Exam one year after becoming an associate, and then the California MFT Clinical Exam (or Written Clinical Exam) before receiving their clinical license.. Whichever MFT exam you need to take, TDC has a program that offers all you need to PASS with confidence on your first try.


MFT Exam Prep

Check out TDC's Social Work Exam Prep programs here:

National AMFTRB MFT Exam Prep    California MFT Clinical Exam    California MFT Law & Ethics Exam




The main difference between an MFT and an LCSW is the focus of education and how they conceptualize issues. A Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) provides therapeutic interventions that consider the context of the client's relationships. A Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), while providing a similar psychological approach to intervention, would also focus on connecting clients to resources, engage in advocacy work, and try to affect change at the policy level. And LCSW’s clinical training would prepare them for working in school systems, health systems or other organizations where clinical therapy would be provided.

MFT vs. Psychologist?

The roles of licensed MFTs and Clinical Psychologists can overlap but there are also some key differences between the two professions. The primary difference is how each conceptualizes the presenting issues. MFTs look at their clients in the context of their relationships, whereas psychologists focus more on the individual In addition, the training and education requirements are very different. An MFT requires a master's degree whereas clinical psychology is a doctoral degree. 

How long does it take to get an MFT license?

From the start of your MFT master’s program to licensure, it typically takes between 4-5 years. Most  MFT master's degree programs can be completed between 2-3 years. Following graduate school, most states require approximately 3000 hours of clinical supervised experience, which can be completed, over an average of 2 years. However, since each state has different requirements (like California), be sure to contact your state licensing board to learn about the exact requirement that pertains to MFTs in your state.

How much do MFTs earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019 the median pay for an MFT was $49,610/year.  However, median pay can vary greatly by state, locality, and the type of work environment.

What disorders do MFTs most commonly treat?

  • Depression, bipolar, and other affective disorders
  • Alcohol and drug use disorders
  • Domestic violence
  • Marital or relationship issues
  • Eating disorders
  • Anxiety or stress-related disorders
  • Childhood emotional or behavioral disorders
  • Divorce or transitional adjustment
  • Schizophrenia or other delusional disorders
  • Sexual issues
  • and many more…


Get Prepared to become an MFT

Preparing for the MFT exams Marriage and Family Therapist can be a challenge. Study with The Therapist Development Center to help pass the AMFTRB National MFT Exam, Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) California MFT Law and Ethics Exam, or the California MFT Clinical Exam. At The Therapist Development Center, we are here to help you study and prepare for the social work exams every step of the way so you can pass with flying colors.