Learn what it takes to succeed as a family therapist.
Marriage and family therapy (MFT) is a form of psychology that aims to improve communication and resolve family conflicts. Many families and couples rely on the help of therapists with a clinical psychology background to help guide them through life changes and challenging times. But is an MFT worth it?
Many people in the profession would say yes. With a family therapy education and clinical practice experience, you can help make a difference in how people relate to one another, and provide them with the tools to make their lives better.
Marriage counselors and family therapists are experts in clinical mental health counseling, which is crucial as there are many struggles that families and couples have that require professional intervention.
Whether it is a newly engaged couple looking to establish a strong foundation for their marriage or a family struggling to cope with their children's behavioral problems, a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) can use their expertise in behavioral sciences to provide the necessary guidance for them to overcome their difficulties and achieve success.
What it takes to become an MFT
MFT training can be intense1 as it requires a minimum of 500 face-to-face client hours, half of which are couple and family hours, before graduation. As well as training and clinical practice, there are personality traits that could help you determine whether an MFT is worth it for you.
Successful MFTs tend to be empathetic, perceptive, objective, open-minded, intuitive, level-headed, and optimistic. They should be able to listen attentively, maintain confidentiality, demonstrate integrity, analyze information, derive conclusions, and help develop solutions.2
Benefits of pursuing an MFT degree
MFT Career opportunities
A degree in marriage and family therapy not only helps prepare you to become a family therapist but can position you to pursue a variety of careers. In the field of education, you’ll be well-positioned to become a teacher, health educator, or school counselor. An MFT degree can also lead to a career as a social worker, probation officer, case manager, or other human services positions.
MFT degree holders can also be found in facilities for residential treatment, including specialized care for substance abuse, eating disorders, domestic violence, and trauma, as well as mental health services offered by private practitioners.
Impactful and rewarding work
Many family therapists find meaning in helping others sort out conflicting emotions and challenging situations. Therapists often feel that their jobs are gratifying and give them a sense of making a difference in the world.
As a therapist you can often earn a comfortable living while having the flexibility to be able to enjoy time spent with your family and other pursuits. If you choose to work independently, you can have the satisfaction of running your own practice.
Marriage and family therapy programs will help prepare you to work with all sorts of people from all walks of life. This makes the job interesting and challenging and encourages you to keep an open mind, a spirit of compassion, and a sense of curiosity about your clients.
Diverse practice settings
MFT degree holders can also be found in a wide variety of environments, from residential treatment facilities to hospitals and clinics, schools, and in private practice. MFTs often work closely with others in complementary professions to provide patients with the best possible holistic care.
A flexible lifestyle
As a marriage and family therapist you can arrange your schedule to be full-time or part-time, and you can choose to work weekend or evening hours if it suits you and serves your clients. With online counseling becoming more common and accepted, you’ll also have the opportunity to meet with clients from wherever you are and wherever they are, making the job location-independent.
Why choose Alliant for your MFT degree
A legacy of professional training
The California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP) at Alliant has a long and storied history of esteemed faculty and industry luminaries that have passed through its doors to share knowledge with the next generation of family therapists. For the last 50 years, these programs have worked to produce successful marriage and family therapists and the most respected thought leaders in the field. CSPP offers:
- MA in Marital and Family Therapy
In this online master’s program, you'll get the opportunity to develop the skills you need to flourish in your career as a couple and family therapist. Some of the topics explored include parent-child therapy, group therapy, family system, trauma and crisis intervention, and more, all designed to help you provide people with tools to make their lives better.
- PsyD in Marital and Family Therapy
When you're ready to advance beyond your master's degree, the PsyD program will expand your clinical practice and ability to treat your clients holistically. This field of psychology focuses on each aspect of who we are as individuals and in our family relations, taught through a model of scholarship and hands-on practice.
Are you curious about other paths to pursue in the field? Learn about the differences and similarities between a licensed professional counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist. And find how a social worker's job is different than that of a family therapist.
Accredited and online
Coursework for the MFT degree program is offered completely online and is one of only a small number of online MFT programs in the nation to be COAMFTE-accredited. Choosing an online master's program with COAMFTE accreditation is ideal if you are going to pursue a career as a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) and plan on traveling between states.
Experienced Faculty and Resources
Marriage and family therapy programs at CSPP exist today as part of the legacy of notable professionals who have brought their talents as psychologists and educators to Alliant. Like the rest of the illustrious, 50-year CSPP legacy, the MFT program has had some of the biggest names in this field pass through its doors, such as Jay Haley, Dr. James Framo, and Dr. Susan Johnson.
Today’s faculty carry on the legacy with professors like Dr. Sean Davis, Dr. Manijeh Daneshpour, and Dr. Scott Woolley. This commitment to inviting the field’s leaders and trailblazers to join our faculty is why our MFT programs are held in such high regard both nationally and worldwide.
It is this history that is the largest and most prominent differentiator between Alliant MFT programs and those offered by other schools around California and the rest of the country. Learn more about our MFT program faculty.
Campus and Online Learning Options
You can earn your MA in marital and family therapy degree online or on-campus through CSPP in Irvine, Los Angeles, San Diego, or Sacramento. Whichever you choose, you’ll learn about clinical mental health counseling and hands-on training through 300 hours of direct client contact, 100 supervision hours, and at least 100 professional development hours, giving you 600 to 1,300 hours to apply toward your license.
On-campus learning allows you to socialize with your professors and fellow students, face-to-face. This can make it easier to collaborate on projects and exchange ideas. Some students find that a more structured learning environment with a hands-on, guided approach can facilitate learning. In-person classes allow you to interact more often with your instructors and peers, helping you to track your progress and get more constructive feedback.
Online learning can allow you to study on your schedule, making it a good option for those who are working and raising a family. It’s accessible to just about everyone, no matter where they live, so if you don’t live near a campus, you can still get a quality education. New technologies and ready access to cameras and microphones mean you can interact and communicate with your teachers and fellow students, even if you can’t join them in the classroom.
LPC vs LMFT?
A licensed professional counselor (LPC) and a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) are two categories of mental health professionals who work on individual and group levels to help people overcome challenges in their personal and interpersonal lives.
Because LPCs and LMFTs are very similar career paths, it’s natural for someone with an interest in the field to feel torn between deciding upon one over the other. Understanding the overlap and differences between LPCs and LMFTs can help you choose the career that’s right for you.
Curious how the experience of a family therapist compares to that of a social worker? Differences between an MFT vs an MSW.
Private and public scholarships can help you meet the cost of your education, and Alliant offers institutional scholarships for many of our students. Learn more about these scholarship opportunities here. Additional financial aid is available for those who qualify in the form of loans, grants, federal work-study, and military aid. Learn more in our Financial Options Guide.
So, is an MFT worth it?
If your skills and interests lean toward helping families to improve their relationships, you have the willingness to put in the training time and you feel that your personality is a match, you’ll find that marriage and family therapy can be a rewarding career on many levels.
To learn more about our family therapy graduate programs, visit our CSPP-dedicated microsite. You’ll find videos featuring our university president, dean of CSPP, faculty, and more.
- The AAMFT Blog, “How Marriage and Family Therapists are Different Than Other Mental Health Professionals”, AAMFT, May 15, 2017, https://blog.aamft.org/2017/05/how-marriage-and-family-therapists-are-d…;
- “Five Rewarding Aspects of a Career in Marriage and Family Therapy”, Online Psychology Degrees, May 24, 2021, https://www.online-psychology-degrees.org/list-articles/five-rewarding-…;