Guide to Online Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) Programs
There are many online marriage and family therapy degrees available at the associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate levels. Marriage and family therapy involves the study of individuals and groups, and how to best go about helping people with various life issues using a perspective that centers on family and relationships. Those who get a master's or PhD in marriage and family therapy can go on to become licensed therapists, where they will work daily with clients of various backgrounds dealing with a range of issues, from abuse to a mental health disorder like anxiety or depression.
Students pursuing degrees in marriage and family therapy should look for programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education, the predominant accrediting body for marriage and family therapy degrees. Attending accredited programs will ensure that students are receiving high quality educations that will put them on the best path for further educational or career options in the field.
Most Popular Accredited Online Schools for Marriage & Family Therapy Degrees
Online Marriage & Family Therapy Degree Overview & Career Information
While only degrees at the master's and doctoral level qualify an individual to work as a licensed therapist, there are programs at the undergraduate level that allow an individual to earn a degree that will prepare them to work with children and families in other social service settings. At the associate level, a student could complete a degree which prepares them to move on to bachelor's and eventually master's level work as a therapist. They could also use their degree to find work as a paraprofessional in various areas, such as within the foster care system or at intervention centers. Bachelor's level students will be able to move on to master's level study in marriage and family therapy, and may find work in various positions as community managers or child advocates. Master's level graduates can pursue licensure as a marriage and family therapists, as can PhD graduates. PhD graduates can also go into teaching at the university level or research.
Online Associate Degrees in Marriage & Family Therapy
While there are no fully online associate degrees in marriage and family therapy, and though an associate degree is not enough to become a licensed therapist, there are online associate degrees that can help prepare an individual for a career in marriage and family therapy. For instance, aspiring marriage and family therapists without any previous educational experience may be interested in earning their associate degree in a subject such as family life education. Family life education students will complete a two-year degree consisting of 62 to 67 semester credit hours. Coursework includes classes in families in society, social policy and families, human behavior in context, and sexuality over the life span. This type of degree can be found at the community college level. Admission to a family life education associate degree program will require a high school diploma or GED, and will take around two years to complete. Upon graduation, students will be prepared to move on to bachelor's-level study, and will be able to find paraprofessional level work in the areas of foster care and adoption, halfway houses and group homes, adult care facilities, crisis intervention centers, and other social service programs.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Marriage & Family Therapy
Like the associate degree, a bachelor's is not enough to become a licensed marriage and family therapist, and there are no fully online degree programs specifically in marriage and family therapy. However, an individual wishing to become a therapist must first earn their bachelor's degree before moving on to a master's, and there are online bachelor's programs that can better prepare the aspiring marriage and family therapist for graduate work. Individuals looking to pursue this type of degree program may be interested in earning their bachelor's in something like psychology with an emphasis in child advocacy, behavioral health science with an emphasis in family dynamics, or family and human development. Admission to one of these programs will require a high school diploma or GED, and applicants usually must also submit an admissions essay. A bachelor's degree generally takes four years and 120 semester credit hours to complete, and can be found at colleges and universities across the country. Depending on the specific program students can expect to take part in coursework such as ethics of behavioral health sciences, marriage and family ethical and legal issues, lifespan development and psychology, social psychology, human development, and marriage and family relationships. Upon completing their degree, graduates will be prepared to enter a master's program in marriage and family therapy. They will also be qualified to work in such positions as child advocate, case manager, community manager, behavioral health technician, and other social service careers.
Online Master's Degrees in Marriage & Family Therapy
A master's degree is the minimum education required to work as a licensed marriage and family therapist, and these programs are offered at various universities. During their master's program, students will learn the skills they need to be effective therapists through coursework, clinical experience, and an internship. View rankings of the best online master's degrees in marriage and family therapy, ranked based on annual tuition rates and alumni salaries.
Online Doctoral Degrees in Marriage & Family Therapy
Online doctorate degrees in marriage and family therapy are also available for those who desire advanced study in the field. During a doctorate program an individual will complete standard coursework, as well as clinical practice, research and dissertation, and an internship. PhD students may also have the opportunity to further specialize in an area such as military family therapy, child and adolescent therapy, couple's therapy, or medical family therapy. Depending on the state in which the student resides, completing a PhD program can meet the educational requirements needed for licensure. Students will complete 60 or more semester credits, depending on how much they transfer over from previous graduate work. Total time to completion will vary depending on number of credits transferred and the amount of time it takes the student to finish their dissertation, but students should plan on at least two years. Coursework will include classes such as family systems, social ecology, the art of creative transformation, and qualitative and ethnographic research. In order to be admitted to a doctorate program students will need a master's degree, and will need to submit a resume, statement of purpose, three letters of recommendation, and GRE test scores. Graduates of PhD programs will be well-equipped to work as marriage and family therapists, as well as teach at the university level.
Online Certificates in Marriage & Family Therapy
Online certificates in the field of marriage and family therapy and related disciplines are also available. Many marriage and family therapy certificates are aimed at those who are already working as licensed therapists and who wish to gain the ability to provide specialized help to couples and families. Other certificates are for those who are not working as licensed therapists, but who are working in another social services field and want a add to their skill set with a certificate in a subject such as family life education, domestic violence prevention, or victim studies. Certificate credit requirements and time to completion will vary based on the specific program, but generally can be completed in a year or less. Coursework may include classes which cover the topics of mental health issues specific to children who are adopted or in the foster care system, family relationships over the course of one's life, family resource management, victimology, and family therapy techniques. When a licensed therapist completes a marriage and family therapy certificate, they will be able to offer services specific to couples and families. If a professional in a social services field completes a certificate pertaining the study of marriage and families, they will face increased job opportunities and a more diverse range of skills.
The Importance of Accreditation
When choosing a marriage and family therapy program one factor to consider is the school's accreditation. Regional accreditation is the first type of accreditation to look for in a school. Regional accreditation means that an independent agency had evaluated the school and made sure that it meets a certain set of standards. This accreditation is important for a variety of reasons, such as the fact that federal financial aid will only apply to regionally accredited schools, and credit transfers are much easier if they are made between accredited institutions.
Another type of accreditation to look at is program accreditation. The Commission on Accreditation of Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) is the group that oversees marriage and family therapy degree accreditation. If a program has COAMFTE accreditation it means that an independent organization has evaluated the program and determined that it meets a set of high standards. Students who enroll in one of these programs can be assured that they are receiving an education that will prepare them for their future career. Additionally, some states require that a marriage and family therapist have a degree from a COAMFTE-accredited institution in order to obtain a license, which is another reason to choose a program that has this accreditation.
Marriage and Family Therapy Licensing
In order to work as a marriage and family therapist an individual must receive licensure. Each state will have its own requirements for licensure, so aspiring therapists will need to check on the specific requirements for the state they wish to practice in. However, there are some general guidelines that many states stick to. First of all, a graduate degree in marriage and family therapy must be obtained. Some states require that this degree be earned through a COAMFTE-accredited school. Even in the states that don't require this accreditation level for licensure, having a degree from a COAMFTE-accredited school might still make the licensure process easier, as an individual may not need as many supervised practice hours post-graduation. During their degree program students will need to complete an internship. In addition to a degree, those seeking licensure will need to accumulate a certain number of supervised clinical hours after that have graduated, typically two years of full-time work. There will also be an examination that the individual must pass in order to earn their license. There will also likely be a continuing education requirement in order to keep the license up-to-date.
Careers in Marriage and Family Therapy
Those who get a degree in marriage and family therapy typically become mental health professionals that work specifically with couples and families. They help these groups deal with issues such as addiction, lack of self-esteem, stress, mental health disorder, and other problems. They also work with individuals and tackle problems with a family-centered perspective, addressing the person's relationships and their own actions. On a day-to-day basis, they will meet with their patients and create plans for treatment. As most marriage and family therapists work within a private practice, they will also spend time advertising their practice and dealing with other business needs. Professionals who have received a PhD can go on to teach at the university level and conduct their own research.
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