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What Is Marriage & Family Therapy?

Want to learn more about what marriage and family therapy is? We’ll explain all you need to know.

Relationships are an inherent part of life – whether interpersonal (e.g., family, friends, or coworkers) or physical (e.g., internal biological systems), these relationships significantly influence your thoughts and actions. The field of marriage and family therapy rests on the belief that relationships are the key to understanding our psychological state.

But what exactly is marriage and family therapy, and what do marriage and family therapists do? Learn more about this field and how to become a marriage and family therapist now.


What is marriage and family therapy?

Marriage and family therapy is primarily concerned with systems—the inter-relationships between the self and other things in the world. This branch of psychology posits that these relationships are at the core of our psychological state and therefore must be included in any meaningful psychological treatment.

This doesn’t mean that marriage and family therapy only happens when people are in the therapy room! At The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, marriage and family therapists (MFTs) are trained to provide counseling services to individuals, couples, and families in need. MFTs work within the context of relational systems to address a variety of mental, emotional, and relational issues. They may also provide programs for relational enrichment, premarital preparation, and parent education.

More than anything else, marriage and family therapy focuses on deep, long-term change. Rather than looking only at symptoms, MFTs examine each individual within a larger systemic context, helping them understand not only their own psychological state but how it impacts (and is impacted) by the world around them.


What do marriage and family therapists do?

MFTs approach psychology holistically. Whether through individual or family sessions, they identify specific aspects of the larger system that need to change in order for the individual to heal. They then identify specific actions the individual(s) can take to change the system, not just themselves. These actions can range from specific tasks and homework assignments to more broad, nuanced approaches over time.

No matter what, the MFT is always considering the variety of players in their patients’ lives, and never just the individual in isolation. When possible, MFTs often try to include multiple members of the system (often the family), knowing that involving more individuals typically leads to better results in changing their interactions!


How do I become a marriage and family therapist?

Like all branches of psychology, marriage and family therapy requires educational support. The first step to becoming an MFT is procuring a bachelor’s degree. While majoring in psychology or something similar during your bachelor’s program may be helpful, it’s not mandatory to complete the next step: earning an M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy. Additionally, you may choose to pursue a master’s program with an MFT specialization, such as The Chicago School’s M.A. in Counseling with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy.

Once students earn their master’s degree, they can begin gaining clinical experience. This clinical experience is necessary in order to become a licensed MFT and is formally supervised. After gaining about two years of clinical experience (although this time varies by state), it’s time to get licensed. The state requirements for licensure vary, but all states require licensure applicants to have a master’s degree and to pass their exam. Once you pass, you are officially a marriage and family therapist—congratulations!


Marriage and Family Therapy is a dynamic field making a big impact.

If you’re interested in learning more about Marriage and Family Therapy programs at The Chicago School, fill out the form below to request more information. 

The Chicago School


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