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What is an LMFT? (Licensed Marriage Family Therapist)

therapist talking to a couple
Reviewed By
Published on: 12/08/2023
Last Updated: 12/08/2023
6 minute read

Licensed Marriage Family Therapists (LMFTs) offer expert guidance to individuals, couples, and families experiencing complex relationship-based issues. LMFTs use relationship dynamics as a means of addressing different behaviors and problems, including:

  • Depression
  • Marital distress
  • Anxiety
  • Individual psychological conditions, such as schizophrenia, addiction, and affective disorders
  • Child-parent issues

LMFTs provide individual and group counseling to help patients determine how to overcome these and other issues by working on their connections with their family or spouse. As a licensed professional counselor, they offer solution-focused treatment centered on end goals that ultimately aim to resolve their patients’ relationship issues.1

There are pros and cons of being a marriage and family therapist, but if helping families live more peaceful, loving lives piques your interest for a career path, you may be wondering: What is a LMFT’s pedigree and how can I join this fulfilling field? 

Grab your pen and clipboard, we’re going over the educational and licensing requirements LMFTs need to start practicing. 

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How to Become an LMFT: Education and Licensing

Assuming you’ve already completed high school and an undergraduate program, the first step to become an LMFT is obtaining a qualifying postgraduate degree. At the minimum, LMFTs are required to get a master’s degree in their field that covers:2

  • Marriage and family therapy principles
  • Mental health recovery-oriented care and related service delivery methods
  • The influence of culture and socioeconomic status on an individual’s mental health and recovery

Alternatively, LMFTs can also choose to enroll in a qualifying doctoral program that touches on the same principles of mental health counseling. Upon completion of their postgraduate degree, aspiring LMFTs will have finished the first and (generally) longest step toward helping their first client as a marriage and family therapist.

Oftentimes, new graduates can register as Associate Marriage and Family Therapists (AMFTs) after getting their master’s or PhD. They’ll then be required to complete a state-designated minimum for practice hours before applying to become an LMFT.3 This must be a supervised experience overseen by a licensed mental health professional, such as a:4 

  • LMFT
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
  • Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC)
  • Licensed Clinical Psychologist
  • Licensed Educational Psychologist (LEP)*
  • Licensed Physician and Surgeon certified in Psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology

Finally, after completing your postgraduate degree and accruing enough clinical experience and practice hours, you’ll have to fulfill state testing requirements before being granted your LMFT license in order to start providing mental health services. If you want to know how to become an LMFT in California, you must also pass the California Law and Ethics Exam as well as the LMFT Clinical Exam—though other states may have varying types of examinations.5

At last, after finishing your trifecta of education, experience, and examinations, you’ll be ready to apply to your state’s licensing board and start practicing as an LMFT.

Why Choose Alliant University for Your MFT Degree

Picking the right place for your postgraduate studies can be essential to your success as an LMFT, because your education will lay the foundation for your knowledge of the field. You should carefully consider where to invest your time, money, and effort based on the opportunities, accreditation, faculty, and experiences a school offers.

Alliant International University is a fantastic place to start your journey toward becoming an LMFT. Celebrating our 50th year, we have adapted to the changing educational landscape to provide students with the best education. With Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) programs all over California and even online, Alliant is an exceptional, accessible option for aspiring therapists.

With Alliant, you’ll have access to multiple marriage and family therapy programs with Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) accreditation. As noted, LMFT licensure is granted on a state-by-state basis. 

COAMFTE-accredited degrees, however, significantly simplify the process of transferring your license to another state and minimize the extra work involved. And, Alliant is one of the few COAMFTE-accredited programs within California.

Degree portability is only the beginning with Alliant, however. Aside from top accreditations, enrolling in a MFT program at Alliant can offer:

  • The opportunity to learn from a diverse, distinguished faculty who prioritize student needs and value their pupils’ success
  • Hands-on, real-world practice that not only gets your foot in the LMFT field, but counts toward the total necessary practice hours needed for your license
  • An in-depth understanding of the core components and principles of MFT, including child parent relationship therapy, couples therapy, and more

Alliant provides students the opportunity to work toward their LMFT license while acquiring the key skills necessary to help a wide variety of patients. And, with two degree options to choose from, there’s likely an upcoming program that meets your current qualifications and future aspirations.

Pursue Your Passion in Marriage and Family Therapy with Alliant

What is a LMFT in counseling, clinical, and therapeutic settings? How can pursuing a degree in MFT help me treat families in need of therapy? What principles do LMFTs apply in their sessions?

If these and similar questions about MFT interest you, consider the master’s in marital and family therapy program at Alliant. This program allows students with a qualifying bachelor’s degree and the desire to enhance their education learn more about MFT, break into the field, and advance toward a relevant career.

For a more robust, theoretical, and detailed look into the world of MFT, apply to our doctorate in marital and family therapy program. Enrolling here means joining a long line of industry-leading thinkers and therapists who have been rethinking and revolutionizing MFT knowledge and dialogue for over 50 years.

To enroll in either program, review admission requirements, compile your paperwork, such as degrees and transcripts, and submit an application. The deadline for general applications is December 15th, so don’t delay—your future as an LMFT awaits.


  1. “About Marriage and Family Therapists.” American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.…. Accessed November 13, 2023.
  2. “BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONS CODE - BPC.” California Legislative Information. January 1, 2022.…. Accessed November 13, 2023. 
  3. “Information for Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (AMFT) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) Applicants.” California Board of Behavioral Sciences. Accessed November 13, 2023.
  4. “MFT TRAINEE & ASSOCIATE MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPIST SUPERVISOR INFORMATION & QUALIFICATIONS.” California Board of Behavioral Sciences. January. 2022. Accessed November 13, 2023.  
  5. “Information for Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (AMFT) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) Applicants.” California Board of Behavioral Sciences. Accessed November 13, 2023.

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