MFT, or marriage and family therapy, refers to psychotherapy that deals with addressing the behavior of all the members of the family and the impact of these behaviors on the individual member, other members of the family and the family unit as a whole. Referred to by many names such as couples’ therapy, couples’ counseling, marriage counseling, couple and family therapy and family counseling, MFT seeks to treat a variety of problems such as sexual dysfunction, distress, eating disorders, weight issues, alcohol and drug abuse, conflicts between couples, conflicts between children and parents, grief, learning to deal with illnesses afflicting any family member and behavioral problems of children. MFT also covers issues of mental health such as schizophrenia, anxiety, depression and the like, as well as the effects of such issues on the remaining members of the family.
Obtaining a license to practice as a marriage and family therapist requires rigorous study and training in psychotherapy and the functioning of family systems, at the graduate level, through COAMFTE-accredited training programs. On the completion of such courses, MFTs may be granted licenses that allow them to diagnose and treat emotional and mental issues pertaining to familial units, marriage and couples. Some states may even require MFTs to have a higher educational qualification than just a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy along with the mandated 2 years of clinical experience, passing the board exam and 1500 hours of direct client contact under supervision. Students may also be granted “limited permits” or “licensure by endorsement” for out-of-state practitioners.
Licensed MFTs (LMFTs) can practice in the following places:
- Non-profit organizations
- Public or government agencies such as Foster Care, Public Social Services and the like
- Run their own private practice
- Hospitals or clinics (general and specialized)
- In-patient facilities
- Academic institutes such as schools and universities
- Court system
MFT is viewed as a “core” mental health profession, sharing the honor with social work, counseling, psychiatry and psychology. At least 1.8 million people in the United States alone are being treated by MFTs and the field is only expected to grow, employment wise, by 22% between 2018 and 2028.
As MFT licenses expire every 3 years, renewal through continuing education is required and licensees have to meet the New York MFT CE requirements. Each LMFT must complete 36 hours of continuing education through approved courses each time they apply for renewal, that is, every 3 years. Of these 36 hours, only 12 hours, whether in a 36-month period or one-third of the entire amount of hours in periods of other lengths, may be allocated to self-study of the material provided by the New York State Education Department approved providers.
The only people exempted from renewal are those who are still in the first registration period post-initial licensure. Exemptions may be granted in the following cases as well:
- Inactive: Those licensed but not practicing in New York (those wishing to return to practice in New York must complete one hour of continuing education for each month of inactivity, along with the required 36 hours)
- Adjustment: For those facing health issues, physical and mental disabilities, active duty with the United States Armed Forces or other reasons beyond the licensee’s control
- Conditional Registration: Granted to those who will make up their continuing education requirements or deficits from the previous period while continuing to work.
In the case of inactive licensees, those wishing to return to practice in New York may use any continuing education hours completed in the 12 months prior to the new registration date if they weren’t practicing in another jurisdiction and 36 months prior if they were practicing in another jurisdiction. Only those courses that are approved by the New York State Department of Education will count towards continuing education and the courses may be done whenever the licensee wishes, as long as they are completed prior to the license expiry. (Licensees are notified 4 months before their license expiry).
The following are counted towards continuing education to meet the New York MFT CE requirements:
- Preparing and teaching an MFT CE course offered by an approved provider, so long as the course material hasn’t been previously presented, more than once, failing which it would require the addition of new or revised material.
- Preparing and teaching a course at a Department-recognized institute of higher learning or psychotherapy, relating to MFT, so long as the course hasn’t already been taught previously by the licensee, in which case, new and revised material should be added.
- Presenting at professional conferences sponsored by Department-approved provider organizations of MFT CE, so long as the presentation hasn’t already been presented previously (more than once), in which case new and revised material should be added.
- Self-study of Department-approved provider’s course (12 hours only, as mentioned earlier).
- Authoring articles for the first time in MFT and the same being published in a peer-reviewed journal or book.
- Authoring a book on MFT for the first time.
Additionally, courses may only be done in the approved subject areas — those defined by section 8403 of the Education Law, such as patient communications, recordkeeping, behavioral and social sciences pertaining to MFT practice, and other subjects that contribute to the professional practice of MFT, in order to meet the New York MFT CE requirements.