Who Are Marriage and Family Therapists?
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs or MFTs) are considered the "friendly mental health providers" and are known as "relationship experts."
LMFTs predominantly treat individuals, in addition to providing couple, family, and group therapy. LMFTs are trained and licensed to independently diagnose and treat mental health and substance abuse problems.
Trained in psychotherapy and family systems, LMFTs focus on understanding their clients' symptoms and interaction patterns within their existing environment. LMFTs treat from a relationship perspective.
Marriage and family therapy is one of the 5 core mental health professions (along with psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and psychiatric nurses), as designated by the Federal Government.
In California, LMFTs must fulfill stringent training and licensure requirements.
These include a minimum of a master's degree with specified coursework, a minimum of 3000 hours of supervised clinical experience, fingerprinting and background investigations, and 6 hours of professional licensing tests on topics including crisis intervention, laws, ethics, clinical evaluation, diagnoses, clinical theories, treatment, and culture.
LMFTs adhere to strict legal and ethical requirements to protect the confidentiality and safety of their clients, and the safety of the public.
What is Marriage and Family Therapy?
Marriage and family therapists treat a wide range of serious clinical problems including: depression, marital problems, anxiety, individual psychological problems, and child-parent problems.
In marriage and family therapy, the unit of treatment isn't just the person - even if only a single person is interviewed. It is the set of relationships in which the person is imbedded. A family's patterns of behavior influences the individual and therefore may need to be a part of the treatment plan.
Marriage and family therapy is:
Marriage and family therapists regularly practice short-term therapy, 12 sessions on average. Nearly 65.6% of the cases are completed within 20 sessions, 87.9% within 50 sessions.
Marital/couples therapy (11.5 sessions) and family therapy (9 sessions) both require less time than the average individuated treatment (13 sessions).
About half of the treatment provided by marriage and family therapists is one-on-one with the other half divided between marital/couple and family therapy, or a combination of treatments.
Marriage and family therapy's prominence in the mental health field has increased due to its brief, solution-focused treatment, its family-centered approach, and its demonstrated effectiveness.
Why Use a Marriage and Family Therapist?
Research indicates that marriage and family therapy is as effective, and in some cases more effective, than standard and/or individual treatments for many mental health problems.
Studies also show that clients are highly satisfied with the services of marriage and family therapists. Clients report marked improvement in work productivity, co-worker relationships, family relationships, partner relationships, emotional health, overall health, social life, and community involvement.
Research studies repeatedly demonstrate the effectiveness of marriage and family therapy in treating a full range of mental and emotional disorders and health problems, including affective (mood) disorders, adult alcoholism and drug abuse, children's conduct disorders, adolescent drug abuse, obesity, anorexia, chronic physical illness in adults and children, dementia in the elderly, adult schizophrenia, childhood autism, as well as marital distress and conflict.
After receiving treatment, almost 90% of clients report an improvement in their emotional health, and nearly two-thirds report an improvement in their overall physical health.
A majority of clients report an improvement in their functioning at work, and over three-fourths of those receiving marital/couples or family therapy report an improvement in the couple relationship.
When a child is the identified patient, parents report that their child's behavior improved in 73.7% of the cases, their ability to get along with other children significantly improved, and there was improved performance in school.
In a recent study, consumers report that marriage and family therapists are the mental health professionals they would most likely recommend to friends. Over 98% of clients of marriage and family therapists report that therapy services are good or excellent.
Thanks and acknowledgement to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy