(Excerpted from the California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists website)
Why use a Marriage and Family Therapist?
Marriage and Family Therapists are relationship experts!
They work in private practice as well as various other settings with individuals, couples, families, children and adolescents, and the elderly, providing support and perspective as patients struggle with life's challenges.
Marriage and family therapists (MFTs) practice early crisis intervention and brief, focused psychotherapy to resolve problems or reduce symptoms in the shortest time possible. They also have the expertise and skills to work with persons where more intensive, long-term treatment is necessary to cure or relieve mental or emotional conditions.
They work in California's courts and schools as well as its health institutions, child protective services, mental health treatment centers, research centers, organizations and businesses.Patients who are treated by marriage and family therapists are more productive at work, visit their doctors less often, and have lower average lengths of stay at in-patient facilities.Marriage and family therapists are licensed by the State of California. They must undergo extensive education, training, clinical fieldwork and pass two rigorous exams to demonstrate professional competency.In California, record numbers of citizens are seeking treatment for mental disorders that affect their work performance and personal lives. Personal and family stresses are greater, expectations for quality of life are higher, and access to qualified mental healthcare providers has improved as society has come to recognize the impact of mental health on physical well being.Marriage and family therapists are core mental health practitioners educated and trained to help with relationship difficulties, and diagnose and treat the mental disorders and emotional problems of individuals, couples, families and groups. Marriage and family therapy is highly effective because of the "systemic" orientation that its therapists bring to treatment. In other words, they believe that an individual's mental or emotional problems must be treated within the context of his or her current or prior relationships if the gains are to be meaningful and productive for the patient. This treatment philosophy is consistent with current thinking in the health care field, which increasingly emphasizes inter-agency cooperation, involvement of the family, integration and coordination of services. Our health care system is now moving toward a more systemic approach and is increasingly rejecting individually focused care.As a result, marriage and family therapists are often able to treat a patient's condition quickly - a cost-effective and practical approach to mental healthcare and a prime reason so many physicians and others refer patients to marriage and family therapists. When it is in the best interest of the patient or outside the scope of the marriage and family therapist's license, therapists collaborate with and refer to other health professionals, such as physicians or psychiatrists in the case of prescribing medication.Policy-makers, both in business and government, are beginning to understand and support the notion that mental health services play a critical role in prevention. Healthy individuals and families promote socially acceptable behaviors, increased self-esteem, more tolerance for society in general, increased capacity for intimacy, work, maturity and responsible functioning. This ultimately results in less unnecessary utilization of medical services.A competent Marriage and Family Therapist in California will . . .
Be licensed by the Board of Behavioral Science
Be bound by a professional code of ethics
Abide by the laws and regulations affecting the profession
Participate in a professional association such as the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT)
Engage in activities to keep up-to-date in a changing professional environment
Treat patients only within the scope of their license and competence
Refer patients to other qualified practitioners when appropriate or necessary
Welcome inquiries about methods, background, experience and fees
Competent therapists do not offer solutions or take sides. They help clients work out solutions according to individual values and lifestyles. Seeking professional assistance is a sign of courage and a willingness to deal with life's many changes.
Distress signals where Marriage and Family Therapists can help
Emotional stress or anxiety
Child behavior problems
Feelings of loneliness, isolation
Unusual eating patterns
Unexplained injuries to family members
Excessive alcohol or drug use
Family conflict or tension
Divorce or separation
Difficulty coping with changing lifestyles
Fear, anger or guilt
Grief or emotional painA Marriage and Family Therapist helps individuals, couples, families and children explore and solve problems.Clients can expect that discussions will be kept confidential, except as otherwise required or permitted by law. Examples of times when confidentiality must be broken are when child abuse has occurred or where the patient threatens violence against another person.
Education, experience and training -
How MFT compare with other mental health professionals
Coursework in counseling and psychotherapy
4 years post-degree
governmental entity, school/ college/ university, nonprofit or licensed health facility, private practice (registered interns only)
governmental entity, school/ college/ university, non-profit or licensed health facility, private practice (associate clinical social workers only)
training program approved by a university/ college/ school or as registered psych assistant employed by licensed psychologist, licensed physician and surgeon board-certified in psychiatry, by a clinic, by a psychological corporation, by a licensed psychology clinic or by a medical corporation
psychiatry training program approved by American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
By state of California
Emphasis on Primary Service
counseling and psychotherapy from a variety of therapeutic orientations with individuals, couples, families and groups
psychosocial diagnosis, assessment, and treatment, client advocacy, consultation, evaluation and research
psychotherapy, psychological testing, etc.
prescribing and monitoring psychotropic medications and sometimes psychotherapy