What is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)?
When it comes to choosing a counselor, the options can be overwhelming. You may be wondering: Can I use my insurance? How much will it cost? Where should I begin my search? … If you don’t have a personal recommendation from a friend or family member, finding a counselor can be a challenging process. Even if you do decide to use insurance, or go with a specific group, you may be wondering what the difference is between all the different types of counseling credentials: LMFT, LMHC, LSW, PsyD, CDP. When you are considering beginning the counseling process, it can be helpful to understand the different trainings and approaches that accompany each credential. Although all are equally valuable and powerful, they may not all be a good fit for you. In this article, I explain in detail what sets Marriage and Family Therapy Therapists apart and what a therapist with this type of training is equipped to do.
What is a Marriage and Family Therapist?
Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) are mental health professionals who are trained in psychotherapy and have an emphasis on family systems. The term family systems describes the impact of relationships with family members and significant others on the individual. MFTs believe that the system plays a large role in the development and healing of a problem. They evaluate and treat mental and emotional disorders, as well as other health and behavioral problems, and address a wide array of relationship issues. While other professionals might focus solely on the individual, MFTs attend to the nature and role of individuals within the context of their family, community, and greater culture. As stated by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, “MFTs take a holistic perspective to health care and are concerned with the overall, long-term well-being of individuals and their families.” Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists have been awarded either a masters or doctoral degree and have completed two years of post-graduation clinical practice and supervision.
Who Can They Treat?
I often get the question: “Because you are a Marriage and Family Therapist, does that mean you can only treat couples and families?” Although MFTs place a strong emphasis on the family system, most of their work is done on an individual basis. According to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, on average, MFTs have individuals filling up at least half of their caseload. While working with and treating individuals, MFTs continue to use their systemic framework to understand problems and search for solutions. In summary, MFTs are licensed to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders within the context of individual, couples, family, and group therapy.
What Types of Issues Can They Treat?
MFTs are qualified to treat a wide range of mental and emotional disorders. Some examples include: depression, anxiety, marital problems, individual psychological problems, and parent-child relationship problems. Whether this involves a lifelong diagnosis of bi-polar or help with struggling through a life transition, they are equipped to adjust to each client’s specific needs. MFTs are trained to assess, diagnose, and create a treatment plan for both emotional and mental health issues, as well as to collaborate with other health care professionals such as prescribes and doctors.
A Christian Counselor Creates a Safe Space for Clients
Although you should consider the professional background of your counselor, the most important factor in therapeutic success is the relationship between the client and the therapist. The letters behind their names may vary, but my hope for all clients is that they feel a genuine connection and level of trust with the person sitting across from them. As a Christian counselor, my personal goal is for clients to feel accepted, heard, understood, and supported on their journey towards healing.
American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy http://www.aamft.org/iMIS15/AAMFT/
“relationships.jpg,” courtesy of Taliesin, morguefile.com; “on_a_bench.jpg,” courtesy of hotblack, morguefile.com; “Family Visit to Belton Lake,” courtesy of Luis Roberto Laoinez, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0)