What is a Marriage and Family Therapist?
A marriage and family therapist, also known as an MFT, can help you and your loved ones heal your relationships and improve your mental health. An MFT differs from other types of counselors in that they focus on all the interconnected parts of your life. These therapists can treat pairs or groups connected through relationships, but they also treat individuals using the unique MFT lens.
What Do Marriage and Family Therapists Do?
MFTs are mental health counselors who treat problems in the context of relationships, including romantic, familial, friendships, and others. MFTs can diagnose mental health disorders and apply a systemic perspective in treating such diagnoses. They work with individuals, couples, families and groups, providing a range of counseling services in a variety of settings, including:
- Private practices
Each MFT has their own style and areas of specialty, but all MFTs’ approach to treatment is relationship-oriented. In couple’s or family therapy, MFTs guide conversations between individuals in a relationship or between family members. They help all participating individuals to better understand one another’s perspectives and needs. That’s one unique aspect of working with an MFT – sessions often include multiple individuals, even if the others aren’t physically present. This allows for the MFT to observe how individuals behave within their relationships.
How Is MFT Counseling Unique?
Relationship-based therapy differs from other types of counseling in important ways. In individual sessions, MFTs seek to address the individual’s psyche as well as the relevant, interconnected components of their life. This includes the client’s:
- Family members
- Church community
- Community at large
This is a very unique and powerful method, as MFTs account for all the different people and systems that affect and are affected by the client. This approach allows for a more robust therapeutic experience and often accelerated change.
MFTs try to understand problems within a broader context. They consider your environment, culture, lifestyle and other factors to provide holistic treatment and empower you. MFTs collaborate and coordinate services with other professionals, such as psychologists, physicians and school counselors, to address the important parts of an individual’s life. Overall, relationships are key for MFTs.
Can Family Members See the Same Therapist?
While it’s generally considered a conflict of interest for family members to see the same therapist, MFTs work differently. When it comes to marital and family therapy, it can be advantageous for family members to see the same therapist. An MFT has the education, training and experience to work with people who know one another. To practice, an MFT must have:
- A bachelor’s degree
- A master’s degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field
- Required hours of clinical experience
- A passing score on all licensure exams
Do MFTs See Individuals?
A common misconception is that only those experiencing family- or marriage-related troubles should seek an MFT. While MFTs can treat multiple people connected through family or romantic relationships, they also treat individuals. MFTs address the same issues or concerns as other therapists — they simply use different treatment methods. MFT is a way of viewing the world — MFTs approach concerns and workshop solutions while paying close attention to broader contexts.
In other words, a patient doesn’t need to have concerns about their family or marriage to seek help from an MFT. Anyone can benefit from the unique perspectives an MFT will offer and potentially improve their mental health with an MFT’s specialized approach.
Find a Therapist and Request an Appointment
Both marriage and family therapy can give people the tools to improve their interpersonal relationships and individual mental health. This specialized form of counseling can provide many positive benefits and is a helpful resource for anyone.
If you’re looking for a professional, licensed MFT, consider Stanford Couples Counseling Services. Our therapists are here to help you strengthen your relationships and improve your mental resilience. Find the right therapist for you and make an appointment today.