How Marriage and Family Therapists are Different Than Other Mental Health Professionals
Marriage and Family Therapists, also known as MFTs, have a unique skill-set that differentiates them from other mental health professionals. We are often overlooked or listed under “or similar training” on a job description after “LCSW, LCPC preferred.” What is interesting is that MFT training is intensely clinical compared to other professional programs: a minimum requirement of 500 face-to-face client hours, half of which are couple and family hours, are required to graduate from an accredited Masters program. What this means is that while MFTs work with individuals, couples and families, they also have extensive training working with, and thinking about, problems in the context of our relationships. After all, we are shaped by where we come from and that informs so much of what we do in other relationships. It is crucial to understand that MFTs view individuals and problems in this larger context, allowing for strengths to emerge and holistic treatment to empower the clients. MFT training is specialized and distinctive from other modalities and its offers remarkable benefits to everyone (individuals, couples, and families). Here are some myths and realities from marriage and family therapists.
A common myth about MFTs (Marriage and Family Therapists) is that we only work with couples and families. Our training gives us the opportunity to see problems from a lens that includes the intricate influence of interaction, belief, culture, upbringing, and relationship. Our individual issues don’t occur in a lab with all factors accounted for or eliminated. MFT’s are a great fit for individuals, as we understand the elemental influences that exist in all of our lives. Heather Holmgren, MFT, Salt Lake City, UT
One myth about marriage and family therapy is that MFTs only help with certain relationship problems (e.g., infidelity, unexpected loss, family conflict). However, MFTs are trained to treat relationship problems as well as common reasons that people seek out therapy (e.g., depression, anxiety, trauma, & addiction). The systemic view of MFTs often fits a client’s way of seeing the world and they are equipped to address the context in which their problems reside. Eugene Hall, LAMFT, Minneapolis, MN
Myth: Marriage and Family Therapists only see Couples. MFTs are highly trained clinicians and use a systems approach when helping individuals struggling with any issue, whether in a relationship of not. Chris Fariello, PhD, LMFT, Philadelphia, PA
It is a myth that marriage and family therapists can only provide marriage counseling if both members within the couple unit are in the office session. The therapist can provide marriage counseling with one person, for the insights, tips and tools can be the ‘difference that makes the difference’ within the couple unit when meeting with one person. Karen Ruskin, PsyD, LMFT, Sharon, MA
Every therapist is not the same, and it does matter who you pick. Different therapists specialize in different things. If you are coming in for couples or family therapy, picking an marriage and family therapist is beneficial because we specialize in the treatment of couples and families. There are also additional specialties that can be helpful. A marriage therapist can also specialize in play therapy, high conflict couples issues, or sexual health issues. When you look for a therapist, pick someone who has training in the issue you are trying to resolve. Not all therapists are going to be comfortable working with your problem. It is better to pick someone who has been trained to work with the problem you need help for. Angela Skurtu, M.Ed. LMFT, St. Louis, MO