Specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy Frequently Asked Questions

What is marriage and family therapy?

Marriage and family therapy (MFT) assists individuals, couples and families in resolving a wide continuum of problems, such as depression, anxiety, couple conflict, parenting challenges, family stress, child and adolescent issues, relationship dissatisfaction, family conflict, sexuality and addiction. Marriage and family therapy treats its clients from a relational perspective recognizing that good relationships are vital to our well-being and life satisfaction. Difficult relationships can be a key part of the presenting problem and can have a negative impact on our health and well-being. Relationships also shape who we are, are a context for change and valuable resource for resolving problems.

How are LMFTs different from other licensed mental health professionals?

For individuals considering a career as a professional therapist, the first important decision is to determine what professional identity is the best fit for you. Like other therapists, marriage and family therapists (MFTs) are well-trained to work with individuals. MFTs are uniquely qualified to provide therapy for couples, parents and families. For future therapists who would like to work with children, we believe it is essential to also have the ability to work with their family.

Why does this program specialize in marriage and family therapy?

The ability to provide competent therapy for couples and families is a unique skill that requires specialized education and training. Research shows that professionals who work with couples and families without this training usually are ineffective. We believe that the marriage and family therapy (MFT) training model is very strong and that our students graduate are high-caliber entry-level therapists. Research has demonstrated that relational therapy is effective with the gamut of presenting problems and can be the most effective modality in many instances.

How do marriage and family therapists get licensed?

Currently, all 50 states have a license for marriage and family therapists (LMFT). Our program meets the educational and experiential requirements for licensure in most states. You can use electives to meet a course requirement unique to a particular state. All mental health professionals need two years of supervised experience after obtaining their master's degree and must pass a national licensing exam. Our alumni have been very successful in obtaining a state license and in passing the national exam usually on their first attempt.

What can I do with a degree in marriage and family therapy?

With a master's degree, marriage and family therapists can work in a variety of settings including private practice, community agencies, schools, employee assistance programs and hospitals. The marriage and family therapist brings their unique set of relational skills to their employment settings.

What is the importance of the Commission for the Accreditation of Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) accreditation?

The Specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy (SMFT) program at NIU has accredited by the Commission for the Accreditation of Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) since 1982. Accreditation ensures that programs are maintaining the highest standards in education and training. Accredited programs are recognized on a national level and pave the way for licensure in each state.

What is the clinical training like in a marriage and family therapy program?

Our students obtain 500 or more hours of face-to-face contact with clients under the close supervision of our faculty and experienced supervisors in the community. This extensive experience is effective in preparing our students for a career as a marriage and family therapist. Supervision is provided in a variety of ways including review of taped sessions, live supervision, case supervision and consultation with difficult situations in both individual and group formats.

Contact Us

Family and Consumer Sciences
118 Wirtz Hall
DeKalb, IL 60115

DeAnna Harris-McKoy, Ph.D., LMFT-S
Director, Marriage and Family Therapy Program

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