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Will Online MFT Programs Meet Licensing Requirements?

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Earn a MFT Degree Online to Help Families

I’ve been searching for an online MFT programs (Marriage & Family Therapy). I have a bachelor’s degree in human services and have worked for a year in drug addiction counseling. I am not licensed in any way. I work nights at a residential social service care home and sleep days, so I need an online MFT degree to accommodate my crazy study schedule. Are there any real, reputable marriage and family therapy degrees online that will meet licensing requirements?
—Quentin in California
The short answer is yes. As a career, demand for marriage and family therapists is expected to grow 14 percent—faster than average—through 2018. This is due in part to an increased recognition of the therapy field.
It is more common today for people to seek help for their marital and family problems than it was in the past. Insurance is also more likely to pay for short-term MFT for problems that affect families, ranging from substance abuse to childhood depression.
Rising demand has lead to the creation of a number of online marriage and family therapy programs, as well as other online psychology degrees.
Like all counseling fields, MFT certification is highly regulated. To receive insurance reimbursement, bill government clients or see families in private practice, you will need to meet state licensing requirements. I imagine that is what you mean by a real, reputable online MFT degree.
As late as the 1990s, the majority of states did not license or regulate MFTs. Today, however, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have some form of counselor licensure that governs the practice of MFT counseling.
Typical requirements include completing a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling as well as a counseling internship. Two years (3,000 hours) of supervised clinical experience beyond the master’s degree level is also often required.
After completing all the education and experience requirements, many states require applicants to pass a written theory exam and clinical case vignette exam, plus undergo a criminal background check.
Your state, California, has some of the strictest requirements for becoming a licensed MFT. To understand California MFT licensing, check out the California Board for Behavioral Sciences website. The credential you will work toward is the LMFT (licensed marriage and family therapist). Review their requirements to become a MFT intern.
The regulations for becoming a MFT change frequently. Currently, you’ll need a “qualifying” master’s degree or a doctorate degree. Your degree must include many very specific courses taught by faculty that meet strict teaching and practice guidelines. You’ll also need a counseling internship at a local care center. (Your current job may be able to provide that for you, if they have the proper licensed supervisors on staff.)
As soon as you complete your degree, you’ll need to register with the Board as a MFT intern in order to document post-degree hours of supervised clinical counseling experience toward your licensing requirements.
A master’s degree is commonly required to advertise as a family counselor. Few states will accept a bachelor’s degree with appropriate counseling courses.
The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy’s Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) is the specialized national accrediting body that oversees master’s degrees, doctoral degrees and graduate programs in marriage and family therapy.
The AAMFT maintains a state-by-state guide to MFT licensing, so if you plan to practice therapy in a state other than California, check this guide and match an online MFT program to these requirements.
California does not require an online MFT degree be accredited by the COAMFTE, but they do require that any qualifying graduate programs come from a regionally accredited college.
They also require a lot of very specific courses and conditions be met as a part of your “qualifying degree.”
Read the fine print before becoming a MFT in any state. There’s a ton of it.
Because California is a big state for therapists and has the strictest requirements, look for online MFT programs that are “pre-approved” for California licensure.
Northcentral University Online, headquartered in Arizona, operates one of the largest regionally accredited online psychology schools. They offer a California MFT degree online. They also have a regular MFT track that is shorter, designed for states where requirements are not as extensive.
MFT stands for marriage and family therapist. Marriage and family therapists help couples and families resolve emotional conflict. In doing so, they enhance communication and understanding among family members and help prevent or repair family crises.
Marriage and family therapists engage in psychotherapy of a non-medical nature and make appropriate referrals to psychiatric resources. They often perform research on family communication issues, and teach courses about human development and interpersonal relationships.
Some marriage and family therapists, especially those with doctorates in family therapy, become supervisors, teachers, researchers or advanced clinicians in the discipline.
Counselors also may become supervisors or administrators in their agencies. Some counselors move into research, consulting or college teaching or go into private or group practice. Many choose to pursue a doctoral degree (PhD) to improve their chances for advancement and salary hikes.
Many test the waters on the way to a MFT career by working as human service assistants in residential care or halfway houses. (Sounds like this fits your case!) Some work as case workers in probation and parole offices. Most entry-level MFT counselors hold at least an associate’s degree in social or human services.
Bachelor’s degrees in psychology or sociology also are very popular. To receive the best pay and working conditions as any type of counselor, be prepared to complete a master’s degree in counseling.
Career Changers: Because of the relatively high educational and practice requirements of this field, career changers find themselves following more or less the same path as entry-level employees.

Vicky Phillips, Founder of Get EducatedVicky Phillips was cited in 2009 by US News & World Report as “for 20 years the leading consumer advocate for online college students.” In 1989 she designed America’s first online counseling center for distance learners on AOL. In 1998 she authored the first print guide to online graduate degrees, Best Distance Learning Graduate Schools put out by the Princeton Review. In 2001 she authored Never Too Late to Learn the Adult Student’s Guide to College. is a consumer group that publishes online college rankings along the dimensions that matter most to online students themselves: affordability and credibility. All of our information is sourced directly from college and university websites as well government websites such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Our mission:

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