& family therapy
A family's patterns of
behavior influences the individual and therefore may need to be a part of the
treatment plan. 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.
Marriage and family therapy is:
Marriage and family therapists treat a wide range of
serious clinical problems including: depression, marital problems, anxiety,
individual psychological problems, and child-parent problems.
- specific, with attainable therapeutic goals
- designed with the "end in mind."
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 such as: adult schizophrenia, affective (mood) disorders, adult
alcoholism and drug abuse, children's conduct disorders, adolescent drug abuse,
anorexia in young adult women, childhood autism, chronic physical illness in
adults and children, and marital distress and conflict.
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.
Who are Marriage and Family
Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) are mental
health professionals trained in psychotherapy and family systems, and licensed
to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders within the context of
marriage, couples and family systems.
Marriage and family therapists are a highly experienced group of practitioners,
with an average of 13 years of clinical practice in the field of marriage and
family therapy. They evaluate and treat mental and emotional disorders, other
health and behavioral problems, and address a wide array of relationship issues
within the context of the family system.
Marriage and Family Therapists broaden the traditional emphasis on the
individual to attend to the nature and role of individuals in primary
relationship networks such as marriage and the family. MFTs take a
holistic perspective to health care; they are concerned with the overall,
long-term well-being of individuals and their families.
MFTs have graduate training (a Master's or Doctoral degree) in marriage and
family therapy and at least two years of clinical experience. Marriage and
family therapists are recognized as a "core" mental health profession,
along with psychiatry, psychology, social work and psychiatric nursing.
Since 1970 there has been a 50-fold increase in the number of marriage and
family therapists. At any given time they are treating over 1.8 million people.
Why work with a Marriage and
Research studies repeatedly demonstrate the
effectiveness of marriage and family therapy in treating the full range of
mental and emotional disorders and health problems. Adolescent drug abuse,
depression, alcoholism, obesity and dementia in the elderly -- as well as
marital distress and conflict -- are just some of the conditions Marriage and
Family Therapists effectively treat.
Studies also show that clients are highly satisfied with 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
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
percent of clients of marriage and family therapists report therapy services as
good or excellent.
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.
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. Marriage and family therapists are
licensed or certified in 40 states and are recognized by the federal government
as members of a distinct mental health discipline.
Today more than 50,000 marriage and family therapists treat individuals,
couples, and families nationwide. Membership in the American Association for
Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) has grown from 237 members in 1960 to more
than 25,000 in 2000. This growth is a result, in part, of renewed public
awareness of the value of family life and concern about the increased stresses
on families in a rapidly changing world.
What are the qualifications
for a Marriage and Family Therapist?
Marriage and family therapy is a distinct
professional discipline with graduate and post graduate programs. Three options
are available for those interested in becoming a marriage and family therapist:
master's degree (2-3 years), doctoral program (3-5 years), or post-graduate
clinical training programs (3-4 years). Historically, marriage and family
therapists have come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds including
psychology, psychiatry, social work, nursing, pastoral counseling and education.
The Federal government has designated marriage and family therapy as a core
mental health profession along with psychiatry, psychology, social work and
psychiatric nursing. Currently 42 states also support and regulate the
profession by licensing or certifying marriage and family therapists with many
other states considering licensing bills.
The regulatory requirements in most states are substantially equivalent to the
American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists Clinical Membership
standards. After graduation from an accredited program, a period - usually two
years - of post-degree supervised clinical experience is necessary before
licensure or certification. When the supervision period is completed, the
therapist can take a state licensing exam, or the national examination for
marriage and family therapists conducted by the AAMFT Regulatory Boards. This
exam is used as a licensure requirement in most states.