Online Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) Degree Programs

Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT)


Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) Online Degree Programs

Entering the field of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) is a deeply rewarding choice for those passionate about helping individuals, couples, and families navigate life’s challenges. Earning an online Master’s degree in MFT can be the crucial stepping stone towards this fulfilling profession.

What are the Benefits of Online MFT Programs?

Online MFT programs come with numerous advantages, both from the perspective of distance learning and the unique benefits associated with studying Marriage and Family Therapy. Let’s explore these benefits in more depth.

Benefits of Online Learning

  1. Flexibility and Convenience: One of the biggest draws of online learning is the flexibility it offers. You can access course materials, attend lectures, and complete assignments anytime and anywhere that suits you. This convenience is particularly beneficial for students who have work or family obligations that make traditional classroom attendance difficult.
  2. Access to Diverse Programs: Geographic location is no longer a barrier to accessing the program that best suits your career aspirations. You can enroll in your desired MFT program irrespective of where you live, which also means exposure to diverse faculty and classmates from various backgrounds and experiences.
  3. Cost-Effectiveness: While tuition fees for online and on-campus programs can be comparable, online students often save in other areas such as commuting, housing, and meal costs. Some online programs also offer digital versions of textbooks, which can significantly reduce expenses for students.
  4. Learning at Your Own Speed: Numerous online programs deliver education in an asynchronous format, permitting learners to navigate course content according to their individual pace. This approach is particularly beneficial for students who favor additional time to assimilate intricate concepts, as well as those who wish to expedite their educational journey.
  5. Technological Skills: Online learning also helps students develop tech-savvy skills. Navigating learning management systems, utilizing digital tools for assignments, and engaging in online discussions can enhance digital literacy.

Benefits of an MFT Program

  1. Impactful Career: Studying MFT prepares you for a career that can truly make a difference.As a Marriage and Family Therapist, you will assist individuals, couples, and families in coping with life’s hurdles, enhancing their mental and emotional health.
  2. Wide-ranging Practice: MFT professionals aren’t limited to working with families and couples. They can provide services to individuals and groups in diverse settings such as private practices, mental health clinics, and hospitals.
  3. Balance of Theory and Practice: MFT curriculum typically fuses theory and practice, furnishing students with a robust understanding of counseling theories and therapeutic methods, complemented by experiential learning through clinical internships.
  4. Specialization Prospects: Numerous MFT programs extend specializations in fields like substance abuse, trauma, or child and adolescent therapy, enabling students to customize their education according to their interests and professional objectives.
  5. Emerging Field: The requirement for Marriage and Family Therapists is anticipated to rise in the future. With the increasing awareness and importance of mental health, MFT professionals are set to play a pivotal role in addressing societal mental health concerns.

All things considered, online MFT programs present a flexible, comprehensive, and accessible route to a promising and growing profession.

Steps to Earn an Online Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy Degree

Online MFT Education Requirements

To enroll in an MFT Master’s program, candidates typically need a counseling or psychology bachelor’s degree or a related field from an accredited institution. Additionally, prospective students may need to provide letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and, in some cases, satisfactory GRE scores.

Marriage and Family Therapist Licensure Requirements

Before you can practice as a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT), there are specific requirements you must fulfill. These requirements typically include earning a master’s degree from an accredited program, accumulating supervised clinical experience, passing a licensing examination, and possibly meeting additional requirements specified by your state’s licensing board.

Master’s Degree

The first step to becoming an LMFT is to earn a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, counseling, psychology, or a related field from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) or a regional accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Clinical Experience Under Supervision

Achieving your master’s degree is a significant milestone on your path to licensure as a marriage and family therapist, but it is far from the final step. Paramount to your professional development is the acquisition of clinical experience under the guidance of an established licensed professional. Your state’s licensing board will stipulate the precise volume of hours you must complete, which commonly ranges between 2,000 and 4,000. This period of supervised practice is an invaluable opportunity to interact directly with clients and apply your academic knowledge in real-world scenarios across various therapeutic contexts, including individual therapy, couples counseling, family therapy, and group therapy sessions.

Passing the Licensing Exam

Another fundamental requirement is successfully passing a licensing exam recognized by your state. The Examination in Marital and Family Therapy, conducted by the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB), is a common choice. This rigorous test is designed to evaluate your understanding and practical skills in several key areas. Among these are the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of various emotional and mental disorders, all within the complex framework of family and couple systems.

State-Specific MFT Licensure Requirements

While the above are common elements of MFT licensure requirements, each state has its own specific rules and regulations. For instance:

  • California: In California, you must complete 3,000 hours of supervised professional experience, and 500 of these hours must be with couples, families, or children. The state also requires passing the California Law and Ethics Exam in addition to the national examination. Learn more about online MFT programs in California.
  • New York: In New York, you need to complete 1,500 hours of direct client contact after obtaining your degree. You’ll also need to pass the national exam and complete coursework or training in the identification and reporting of child abuse.
  • Texas: Texas requires 3,000 hours of supervised experience, with at least 1,500 hours of direct client contact. You’ll need to pass the national exam and a jurisprudence exam that covers Texas laws and rules.

To determine the exact licensure requirements for your state, it’s important to check with your state’s licensing board or consult the AMFTRB for further information.

Clinical Placement Requirements

Clinical placement is an essential component of MFT programs, providing hands-on, supervised experience in therapy settings. Depending on the program, students may need to complete between 500 and 1,000 hours of direct client contact during their clinical placement.

MFT Online FAQ

What is a MFT?

An MFT, or Marriage and Family Therapist, is a professional specializing in psychotherapy and family systems. They employ their specialized training to diagnose and treat a range of mental and emotional disorders, uniquely considering the intricate dynamics of marriages, couple relationships, and familial systems in their approach.

What does a Marriage and Family Therapist Do?

Marriage and Family Therapists diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders, focusing on the context of family structures. They might work with families, couples, individuals, or groups, employing various therapeutic techniques.

What are the benefits of earning a MFT Degree Online?

An online MFT degree offers flexibility, access to a wide range of programs, and the ability to complete your degree at your own pace while balancing other life commitments.

What Can You Do with an MFT Degree?

Securing an MFT degree opens up a range of career opportunities within the field of mental health. Graduates can become licensed marriage and family therapists, but the potential careers don’t end there. 

The knowledge and skills obtained through an MFT degree can also be applied in roles such as child and family social workers, school counselors, mental health counselors, and even as educators and researchers in the field of marriage and family therapy. 

The degree cultivates a specialized understanding of family systems that is highly applicable to a broad spectrum of roles within the counseling and mental health domains.

How Much Do MFT Degrees Cost?

The cost of an MFT degree can vary greatly depending on the institution, the length of the program, and whether it is public or private. It is essential to explore different options and consider potential financial aid or scholarships.

Can you get an MFT Degree Entirely Online?

Yes, many reputable institutions offer entirely online MFT degree programs, some of which are COAMFTE accredited MFT programs.

Is a MFT Degree Worth It?

The answer to this question depends on your career goals. If you’re passionate about helping individuals, couples, and families navigate mental and emotional challenges, an MFT degree could be a fulfilling choice.

Are Online MFT Programs as Good as On-Campus MFT Programs?

Online MFT programs can offer an education comparable to on-campus programs, as long as they are accredited and have a strong curriculum, good student support services, and supervised clinical placement opportunities.

Do I need to attend a COAFMTE Accredited Program?

While not always required, attending a COAMFTE-accredited program ensures that the education you receive meets high standards set by the MFT profession.

How Long Does it Take to Complete a MFT Program?

Typically, it takes two to three years to complete a full-time MFT Master’s program.

Can MFT Prescribe Medication?

No, MFTs cannot prescribe medication. Only medical doctors, including psychiatrists, can prescribe medication.

Where do Marriage and Family Therapists Work?

Marriage and Family Therapists work in a variety of settings, including private practice, mental health centers, substance abuse treatment centers, hospitals, and government agencies.

Online MFT Curriculum

An online MFT degree program consists of a variety of courses designed to give you a strong foundation in marriage and family therapy, covering both theory and practice. Let’s delve into the main courses you will likely encounter during your study:

Understanding Family Systems

In this course, you’ll delve deep into the family systems theory, a model that emphasizes the interconnectedness of family members and the influence they have on one another’s behavior. As a student, you’ll explore various family dynamics, roles, and boundaries, learning to leverage these insights when applying family systems theory to therapeutic practices.

Techniques in Marriage and Family Therapy

Equipping you with an array of therapeutic techniques and interventions, this course aims to broaden your understanding of how to work effectively with families and couples. You’ll discover how to promote positive communication, mediate conflict, and facilitate the development of problem-solving skills within a family context.

Navigating Couple Therapy

Couple therapy presents its own unique set of dynamics and challenges. In this specialized course, you’ll learn therapeutic techniques tailored to couples dealing with issues such as premarital stress, conflict resolution, infidelity, and divorce.

Therapy for Children and Adolescents

Working with children and adolescents necessitates a different therapeutic approach. This course will expose you to the specific therapeutic needs of these age groups, covering topics from developmental psychology to childhood disorders, and effective therapeutic techniques.

The Dynamics of Group Therapy

This course provides an introduction to the principles of group therapy. You’ll learn about the dynamics at play within a group setting, the role you as a therapist can take, and the strategies and interventions used in this form of therapy.

Ethics and Legalities in the Profession

Becoming an effective therapist also involves navigating ethical and legal landscapes. This course investigates issues like confidentiality, informed consent, mandatory reporting, dual relationships, and other professional standards to equip you with a strong ethical foundation.

Embracing Multicultural Counseling

A crucial aspect of being a marriage and family therapist is recognizing and respecting diversity. This course aims to prepare you to work effectively with diverse populations by exploring how factors such as culture, race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status can influence mental health and treatment approaches.

Research Methods and Program Evaluation

To continuously improve your practice, understanding and applying research is key. In this course, you’ll gain essential skills in research design, data analysis, and program evaluation, enabling you to use empirical evidence to inform your work.

With each of these courses, you’ll broaden your understanding of human behavior, therapeutic techniques, and complex interpersonal dynamics, further developing your ability to handle the multifaceted challenges inherent in marriage and family therapy.

Field Experience

Field experiences, such as practicums and internships, provide students with hands-on, supervised experience in a therapeutic setting. During these experiences, students apply their learning to real-world situations, gain practical skills, and build professional networks.

Specializations and Concentrations

Some MFT programs offer specializations or concentrations to allow students to focus their studies in a specific area of interest, such as substance abuse, child and adolescent therapy, trauma, or multicultural counseling.

Typical Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of an MFT program, graduates should be able to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders, apply systemic theories and therapeutic interventions, understand the influence of diversity and culture in therapy, and adhere to legal and ethical standards in MFT practice.

Skills Gained Throughout a Marriage and Family Therapy Program

In an MFT program, you’ll have the opportunity to acquire a diverse range of skills that will equip you for a successful career in marriage and family therapy. These skills span from technical therapeutic techniques to the soft skills required for effective counseling. Here are some key abilities you’ll cultivate during your studies:

Therapeutic Skills

  • Proficiency in various therapeutic modalities, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, systemic therapy, and narrative therapy.
  • Competence in applying different therapeutic techniques, such as conflict resolution strategies, problem-solving techniques, and mindfulness exercises.
  • Ability to develop and implement effective treatment plans tailored to the needs of individuals, couples, and families.

Interpersonal Skills

  • Exceptional listening and communication skills to understand clients’ needs and convey therapeutic insights effectively.
  • Empathy and compassion for clients dealing with emotional distress and complex family dynamics.
  • Ability to establish rapport and build trust with clients, creating a safe and supportive therapeutic environment.

Professional Skills

  • Understanding of ethical and legal issues in therapy and the ability to apply ethical guidelines in practice.
  • Proficiency in maintaining professional documentation, such as treatment notes and assessment reports.
  • Ability to collaborate with other healthcare professionals for integrated care.

Cultural Competence

  • Understanding of cultural, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity and its impact on mental health.
  • Skills to provide culturally competent care, considering clients’ cultural backgrounds in treatment planning and delivery.

Research Skills

  • Ability to critically review and apply scientific research in practice.
  • Skills in conducting research, including formulating research questions, designing studies, analyzing data, and interpreting results.


  • Capacity to adjust therapeutic approaches based on client feedback and progress.
  • Ability to adapt to changing professional landscapes, including emerging research findings and evolving best practices in therapy.

By the time you graduate from an MFT program, you’ll be equipped with these critical skills, positioning you to provide effective and empathetic therapeutic services to diverse client populations.

Tips and Essentials for Online MFT Students

Studying online requires strong self-discipline, time management, and communication skills. Establish a regular study schedule, utilize the resources offered by your program, stay connected with your peers and instructors, and seek help when needed.

COAMFTE Accreditation

The Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) ensures that MFT programs meet the high standards set by the profession. Attending a COAMFTE-accredited program can enhance your career prospects and may be required for licensure in some states.

Marriage and Family Therapist Salary and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2020, the median annual wage for MFTs was about $51,340. The job outlook is promising, with a projected 16% growth from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Financial Aid and Scholarships for MFTs

There are numerous financial aid options and scholarships available to MFT students, including federal student aid, private loans, institutional scholarships, and specific scholarships for MFT students. It’s important to explore all options to reduce the financial burden of your education.

What’s the Difference Between a LMFT vs MFT?

The term MFT refers to the professional field or degree, while LMFT refers to a licensed practitioner in the field. To become an LMFT, an MFT graduate must meet additional requirements, including supervised clinical experience and passing a state-approved licensing exam.


Both Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) and Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) are mental health professionals, but their focus areas and training can differ.

LMFTs are trained specifically in family and couples therapy. Their education emphasizes understanding family dynamics and providing therapy with a systemic approach, focusing on the interactions between family members rather than the individuals alone.

LPCs, on the other hand, are trained more broadly in mental health issues and can work with individuals, couples, families, or groups. They may specialize in areas like substance abuse, trauma, or mental health disorders. LPCs are trained to treat a wide range of issues using different therapeutic techniques.

Both can provide mental health services but their approaches may vary, and your choice between an LMFT or LPC might depend on the specific needs or challenges you are facing.


The Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and LMFT roles both involve providing therapy and counseling services, but there are distinct differences in their training and approach to therapy.

LMFTs specialize in relational therapy for families and couples. Their focus is on helping clients improve interpersonal relationships and navigate family systems, using therapeutic techniques that address relational dynamics.

LCSWs, meanwhile, have a broader scope of practice that extends beyond therapy. While they are qualified to provide counseling, their training also includes a focus on social justice issues, advocacy, and connecting clients with community resources. They often work in settings like hospitals, schools, or government agencies, where they provide case management, crisis intervention, and group therapy, among other services.

The choice between an LCSW and an LMFT often comes down to the breadth of services needed and the professional’s focus area.


The distinction between Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs) and LMFTs lies in their training and therapeutic approach.

LMFTs are trained to work with families and couples, employing a systemic approach that considers the interactions and dynamics between family members. Their goal is to improve the health of the whole family system or the couple’s relationship.

LMHCs, like LPCs, are trained to work with individuals, families, groups, or couples, but their focus tends to be more on individuals. They treat a variety of mental health issues and may specialize in specific areas such as substance abuse, mental health disorders, or career counseling.

Both LMHCs and LMFTs can provide mental health counseling, but their specializations and approaches to treatment may vary.

Therapists vs Psychologists

Therapists is a broad term that encompasses professionals like MFTs, LPCs, and LCSWs. Psychologists, on the other hand, typically hold a doctoral degree and are more likely to be involved in research or psychological testing, in addition to providing therapy.

Doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy

A Doctorate in MFT is typically geared towards those interested in advanced clinical practice, teaching, research, or leadership roles in the field. It requires additional years of study beyond the Master’s degree.

Resources for MFT Students

As an MFT student, there are numerous resources available to help guide your studies, support your professional development, and connect you with the broader professional community. Here are some key resources to consider:

Professional Associations

Academic Journals

  • Journal of Marital and Family Therapy: The official journal of the AAMFT, featuring the latest research in the field.
  • Family Process: An interdisciplinary journal covering the multiple aspects of family therapy.
  • Contemporary Family Therapy: This journal covers various topics in family therapy including innovative therapeutic techniques, new theoretical developments, and current research.

Online Resources

  • PsychCentral: Provides various articles and resources related to psychology and therapy.
  • TherapyRoute: An online platform offering resources for therapists and clients, including articles, podcasts, and therapy directories.

Licensure Boards

Networking Opportunities

  • LinkedIn: A professional networking platform where you can connect with other MFT students and professionals.

Mental Health Apps

  • Moodpath: An app for mental health assessment and improvement.
  • Headspace: A meditation app that could be recommended to clients or used for self-care.

Leveraging these resources can enhance your learning experience, help you stay informed about the latest developments in the field, and expand your professional network.

Choosing an online MFT Master’s degree is a significant step towards a fulfilling career in helping others. With careful research and thoughtful planning, you can find a program that fits your career goals and learning needs.

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