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What does a Marriage and Family Therapist Do?

woman with a MFT masters program smiling with married couple
Alliant International University
Published 10/30/2018
4 minutes read
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Navigating relational issues can be a challenging task. The family system and its dynamics are incredibly complex, as unique personalities come together, each bringing their own perspectives, circumstances, and issues. Occasionally, the outside help of a marriage family counselor is needed to unite these personalities and give clarity to situations-and that's where a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) can offer help.

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What Is A Marriage And Family Therapist?

An MFT therapist is a licensed marriage counselor and mental health professional that generally receives training in both psychotherapy and family systems. Marriage and family therapist's work with families and married couples, helping them reconcile differences, overcome difficult situations or deal with mental or emotional issues. Yet the day-to-day activities of a marriage family therapist can hardly be boiled down to such a short overview. Let's take a more in-depth look at the functions of an MFT, and see the top 4 ways they impact lives and family units on a daily basis.

Diagnosing Psychological Disorders

If one family member is experiencing psychological distress, all the members within the family can be affected. Depression, anxiety, and other psychological problems can slowly chip away at an individual's emotional health while causing rifts in familial relationships. A marriage family therapist is trained to recognize, diagnose, and address psychological disorders through family counseling so that healing can begin both within the individual and in the family as a whole.

Assisting in Difficult Circumstances

When families face difficult situations like divorce, job loss, illness, or death of a loved one, the MFT is a professional counselor trained to help them cope and navigate through the struggle. These life changes can place a great deal of pressure on individuals and relationships, and it's the marriage and family therapists’ role to counsel and support families as they confront these trying times.

Mediating Relationships

Many families experience conflict, albeit to varying extremes. MFTs are trained to help mediate these conflicts and provide individuals with useful communication tools in  family counseling to promote reconciliation. Whether it's marital tension, mental and emotional disorders, behavioral problems in children, or anything in between, a marriage and family therapist brings their insight and impartiality to bear on the situation at hand, provoking thought, discussion, and positive life changes.

Breaking Dysfunctional Cycles

MFTs are also trained to handle much more severe problems such as substance abuse, addiction or domestic violence. These circumstances require significant treatment, as often the safety of individuals is a concern. MFTs must quickly and accurately assess the situation, ensure the safety of their client or clients, and help develop plans to break destructive cycles.1

How to become an MFT

In order to become a family and marriage therapist, it’s best that you have the proper tools. A marriage and family therapy degree will train you to handle the various situations that you may face, giving you insight into the most effective family therapy activities, methodologies, and up-to-date industry information.2 An online MFT program or family therapy program is also a valuable option for candidates who want to fulfill their goals and make an impact in a more flexible environment.

If you're considering a COAMFTE accredited degree or graduate study in marriage and family therapy, learn more by contacting Alliant International University's California School of Professional Psychology. We will provide the family therapy education and training that will help you as you pursue your dream of becoming an MFT, making an impact one family at a time.

Explore your options in marriage family therapy. Learn about our master’s program in Marital and Family Therapy and our PsyD in Marital and Family Therapy degrees today!


  1. Inc. Advanced Solutions International, About marriage and family therapists, accessed November 23, 2021,….
  2. “What Degree Do You Need to Become an MFT?: All Psychology Schools,”, accessed November 23, 2021,

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