Online Master’s Degrees in Marriage & Family Therapy (MFT)
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As the name suggests, marriage and family therapists, often abbreviated as MFTs, work with individuals, couples, and families about issues that affect or are related to their home and family life. Within this field, it is common for counselors to work with people in abusive relationships, troubled children, or relationship issues such as infidelity. MFTs may also help their clients with work-related issues that affect family life. They may work in individual or group counseling settings or even within prisons, substance abuse clinics, or schools—any setting in which family life affects their clients’ mental health.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019), jobs for marriage and family therapists are projected to grow 22 percent between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations.
Marriage and family therapists need at least a master’s degree to practice. Getting an online master’s degree in marriage and family therapy is a convenient way for many modern students to achieve their degrees and launch their careers. Many counseling degrees such as MFT are offered online. Program leaders are experienced in helping students find opportunities within their local communities for volunteering and clinical experience that can set them up for success in their new careers as MFTs.
Discover what to expect from an accredited online master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, including details on coursework and tuition.
Typical Admissions Requirements for Online Master’s Degrees in Marriage & Family Therapy (MFT)
An online master’s degree in marriage and family therapy (MFT) offers flexibility for students who are also working professionals. One major benefit of an online program is the ability to work on classwork and projects on a more personalized schedule, at home on the student’s own time.
Many schools require a graduate admissions test score as part of their admissions process. Some do not, so that is one of the first decisions that a student has to make. Studying for (and taking) the GRE can add months to a student’s timeline.
Admission to a master’s program requires that a student have a bachelor’s degree, at a minimum. While in many cases there are no requirements for the type of bachelor’s degree that a potential master’s student can have, many programs will give more consideration to an applicant who has a degree related to or complementary to counseling in some way—counseling, psychology, sociology, or even education. Some programs have a minimum GPA requirement.
Typical admissions requirements for online master’s degrees in marriage and family therapy include:
- A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
- Official transcripts from the student’s previous school(s)
- An essay outlining interest in the program
- Letters of recommendation
- Resume or CV outlining relevant work and volunteer history
- A GRE, MAT, or another standardized test score, if required
- A completed official application including the above information is submitted, typically with an application fee
Licensure is different in each state. However, the general standard for licensure is the completion of a 60-credit-hour major with two years of post-degree supervised work and passing a state licensure exam. Students should determine the requirements for licensure in the state or states they would like to practice in the future.
Courses in Online Master’s Degrees in Marriage & Family Therapy (MFT)
Here are some sample courses from online master’s degrees in marriage and family therapy programs that students would be likely to encounter:
- Orientation to the Counseling Profession
- Fundamentals of Human Development
- Parent-Child Therapy
- Couples Therapy
- Trauma and Crisis Intervention
- Legal and Ethical Issues in Counseling
- Multicultural Counseling
- Social Issues in Counseling
- Individual Counseling Procedures
- Group Counseling Procedures
- Family Counseling
- Counseling Theories and Interventions
- Methodology of Research
- Family Therapy Perspectives on Cultural Diversity
- Family Therapy Across the Life Cycle
- Theory and Development of Family Systems
- Alcohol and Other Drugs in Social Work Practice
- Preparing for Community Practice
- Dependency and the Family
- Sex Therapy in Marriage and Family Therapy
- Career Counseling
- Assessment and Intervention in Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling and Therapy
Supervised Clinical Hour Requirements & Internships – Online Master’s Degrees in Marriage & Family Therapy (MFT)
While each program is slightly different, the standard for a master’s degree in MFT is a minimum of 500 hours of supervised fieldwork. Some programs, such as Palo Alto University (profiled below), require a minimum of 700 hours.
The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), one prominent certifying body for counseling education, accredits programs in which students complete a minimum of 100 hours of supervised counseling practicum experiences over a minimum of ten weeks. Practicum students complete at least 40 hours of direct service with actual clients. Students must have a minimum of one hour per week of weekly interaction with supervisors.
After the practicum, students must complete 600 hours of a supervised counseling internship in settings relevant to marriage and family therapy. Internship students complete at least 240 clock hours of direct service, and they experience an average of 1.5 hours per week of group supervision.
Program Accreditation for Online Master’s Degrees in Marriage & Family Therapy (MFT)
The primary certifying body for marriage and family therapy programs is the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). COAMFTE began actively accrediting programs in 1978 after developing standards for graduate degree and post-degree programs over a three-year period.
COAMFTE is recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) as the only accrediting agency for training programs in marriage and family therapy in the United States and Canada.
Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP) accredits master’s and doctoral degree programs in counseling and its specialties in the United States and throughout the world. The difference between COAMFTE and CACREP is that CACREP certifies counseling education in general. COAMFTE certifies only marriage and family therapy counseling education programs.
Featured Online Master’s Degrees in Marriage & Family Therapy (MFT) Programs
Alliant University International’s 100 percent online MFT program is accredited by COAMFTE—one of only five such online programs in the nation to hold that distinction. The school also has a traditional on-campus program offered at several California campuses, which is one of only eight COAMFTE-accredited programs in the state of California.
Students at Alliant can earn a master of arts in marital and family therapy with a built-in specialization in chemical dependency. This CAADE-accredited (California Association for Alcohol/Drug Educators) specialization prepares students to work with individuals, couples, and families facing addiction. This specialization is embedded into the MA and does not require any additional coursework. The master’s program is offered as both a semester-long and eight-week term program and is open for enrollment during each of those enrollment periods.
This program includes 500 hours of direct client contact (at least 250 with couples or families). Students receive at least 100 hours of individual and group supervision, at least 50 hours of which are based on direct observation or videotape.
- Location: Fresno, Irvine, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Francisco, California
- Duration: 60 credits and two years, either across six semesters or 13 terms, depending on which calendar is applicable
- Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE); California Association for Alcohol/Drug Educators (chemical dependency specialization only)
- Tuition: $980 plus fees
The online master of arts (MA) from Palo Alto University allows students to choose from either a marriage, family, and child specialization or clinical mental health. This program is offered either in-person or online. The MFT program fulfills the State of California’s educational requirements to pursue licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) or dual LMFT/LPCC licensure. It may also fulfill the requirements of other states and territories; however, the prospective student should confirm their individual state licensure board requirements.
Students in this program gain experience as a counselor through the completion of a minimum of 700 hours of counseling-related experience over a nine- to 12-month period. This experience includes a minimum of 280 hours of direct counseling experience. Online students complete the program in nine quarters. Online learners who enroll in the fall can also select a slower-paced 11-quarter program.
- Location: Palo Alto, California
- Duration: 93 quarter-units; nine or 11 quarters (two to three years)
- Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Program (CACREP)
- Tuition: $544 per unit plus $36 fees per unit
Regent University’s master of arts in marriage, couple, and family counseling is available as an in-person and online model with a required in-person residency. Regent provides a Christian-focused education within 16 miles from the Atlantic Ocean on the southern coast of Virginia.
Online students are required to participate in two week-long residencies. Students may select from one of three course schedules that allows them to take classes at their own more self-directed pace.
- Location: Virginia Beach, Virginia
- Duration: 60 hours (two years)
- Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Program (CACREP)
- Tuition: $710 per credit (in-state and out-of-state resident), plus fees
Capella University’s master of science in marriage and family therapy is offered in primarily an online model but with two required six-day in-person residencies. Each residency is embedded within a six-week online course. During weeks one through three, students work exclusively online. A six-day in-person residency follows during week four. Weeks five and six are once again completed online.
In addition to the two six-day residencies, the degree requires a minimum of 500 internship hours. The four internship courses require 500 direct client contact hours, with 200 or more of those hours being within relationships. The internship is supervised and performed at an approved fieldwork site. The capstone exam is a 200-question, multiple-choice national licensing exam. Capella also offers a free trial course for a nongraded, noncredit way to experience the online course room.
Notably, Capella offers a “Guided Path” model for coursework, in which when and where learning takes place is up to the student, but weekly assessment deadlines help keep students on track. With no daily log-in requirements, students decide when to study.
- Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Duration: 72 credits (two years or more)
- Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission; COAMFTE
- Tuition: $487 per credit
Northcentral University’s online master of arts in marriage and family therapy program does not require a GRE for admission. While it can be beneficial if a student has earned a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as family studies or psychology, it isn’t required. Although the program is online, students participate in direct client contact and supervision in their local area. Northwestern offers a marriage and family therapy licensure track program specifically for California. This California licensure specialization is 60 credits (20 courses).
Class discussions, assignments, and other activities have weekly due dates, typically at the end of the weekend, but the work can be completed online at a time of the students’ choosing. Courses run for either eight or 12 weeks. Students here can begin seeing clients as soon as they’ve completed the first six fundamental courses.
Most students will start their practicum experience, which involves direct client experience, between the sixth and ninth course. Students are expected to complete 500 hours of direct client contact and 100 hours of supervision. It generally takes one year to complete the practicum and internship courses and finish the required hours of direct client contact and supervision.
- Location: San Diego, California
- Duration: 45 credits, two to three years; California licensure track 60 credits, 33 months
- Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission; COAMFTE; International Accreditation Commission for Systemic Therapy Education (IACSTE)
- Tuition: $2,700 per course base tuition rate plus fees; $56,540 estimated total program cost
Syracuse University’s 60-credit marriage and family therapy master of arts program can be completed online, apart from a short in-person residency.
Syracuse’s program is the first accredited marriage and family therapy program in the country and has been offering degrees for more than 50 years. Specialized training can prepare students to work with marginalized populations, refugee and immigrant families, at-risk youth, and the LGBQ and Transgender communities.
- Location: Syracuse, New York
- Duration: 60 credits (two years)
- Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE); International Accreditation Commission for Systemic Therapy Education (IACSTE)
- Tuition: $10,098 for six credits during one 12-week quarter
Touro’s fully online master of arts in marriage and family therapy graduate degree program admits students with no GRE required and no in-person residency requirements. The program offers three tracks: an MA clinical track and non-clinical track (i.e., no practicum or clinical hour requirements), and a licensed professional clinical counseling (LPCC) track.
Touro offers affordable tuition; each eight-week, three-credit course costs $1,500, regardless of the track the student chooses. The program is designed so that graduates are eligible for MFT licensure in the State of California and most other states, without requiring any additional coursework.
- Location: Los Alamitos, California
- Duration: 72 credit hours, clinical track (two years)
- Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE); WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC); California Board of Behavior Sciences (BBS)
- Tuition: $500 per semester-credit
Walden University offers a master of science in clinical mental health counseling along with other educational tracks for specialization. Within the general clinical mental health counseling program, students can choose from marriage and family counseling along with five other specialties: military families and culture, trauma and crisis counseling, forensic counseling (which works in tandem with the criminal justice system to determine proper resolution of cases and the most effective treatment for offenders), and addiction counseling.
All of Walden’s counseling faculty members hold doctorates and are licensed practitioners. Because this school is fully online, its student resources are fully online too, including a digital library with librarians, 24/7 technical support, a writing center, and a career center. The school offers monthly payment plan options that allow students to pay tuition in installments with no interest.
- Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Duration: General program is 111 credits; specialties are 121 credits (two years)
- Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP); Higher Learning Commission
- Tuition: $470 per quarter hour, plus fees
Pepperdine’s online master of arts in clinical psychology program prepares students for either licensure as a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) or a licensed professional counselor (LPC). LPCs are able to work with people in many settings and with a broad mental health need, while LMFT counselors are trained to specifically support people with issues related to couples, as well as marriage or family units.
Pepperdine’s program meets the licensure requirements for the state of California along with 17 other states.
- Location: Malibu, California
- Duration: 62 to 68 units (two years)
- Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges—Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC); California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC)
- Tuition: $1,645 per unit
Professors to Know in Online Master’s Degrees in Marriage & Family Therapy (MFT)
Manijeh Daneshpour, PhD, LMFT
Alliant International University
Dr. Manijeh Daneshpour is the systemwide director and professor of marriage and family therapy in the Department of Couple and Family Therapy at Alliant International University in Irvine, California. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist with more than 22 years of academic, research, and clinical experience. She is from Iran and identifies herself as a third-wave feminist.
Dr. Daneshpour’s main areas of research, publications, and presentations have been centered on issues of multiculturalism, social justice, third-wave feminism, and premarital and marital relationships.
Thom deLara, MBA, MSW
Thom deLara is a professor of practice and chair of the Department of Marriage and Family Therapy at Syracuse University. In his role as chair, he has overseen the expansion of the department and has reengineered the curriculum to specifically meet the needs of children, and of those suffering from trauma across the life cycle. His current curriculum priorities include the development of a nationally recognized clinical program for educating and training mental health providers to work with veterans and military families and the development and implementation of online master’s and doctoral degree programs.
Professor deLara is a Clinical Fellow in the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists; an Approved Supervisor with the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy; and a Diplomate of the International Academy of Behavioral Medicine, Counseling and Psychotherapy. He is also a member of its Advisory Council for Family Therapy and a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers.
What Can I Do With a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy (MFT)?
There has never been a greater need for professionals to help improve the emotional and mental wellbeing of the general population, but especially within families and couples. There are numerous job settings open to marriage and family therapists.
Many marriage and family therapists establish their own offices. In these scenarios, they see clients in their offices for scheduled appointments. Since they establish the type of clients they want to see, they may see individuals, run group sessions, work specifically with children and their parents, or see only couples together.
A therapist in private practice may see a wide range of issues or may choose to specialize by treating only particular issues, such as sexuality. MFTs may join a team of other therapists in private practice, by either sharing space or having their own offices within a shared building.
Substance Abuse & Addiction Treatment Centers
Families can be severely impacted by substance abuse and addiction. A marriage and family therapist in this setting would work with the addicted individual and their families. This could mean the spouse or parent, or a child or other close family relative whose substance abuse impacted the family.
Addiction doesn’t have to mean chemical dependency; MFTs can work with people who are addicted to food, gambling, or sex, as all of these addictions impact family, parent-cchild, and couples’ relationships. In this setting, MFTs would be likely to help develop treatment plans and help their clients establish a healthy support system and healthy ways of coping.
Domestic or Relationship Abuse Shelter
According to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), couples slap, shove, hit, or otherwise assault each other in almost 20 percent of all marriages and intimate partnerships. When these abuses escalate, the victim needs help escaping and often needs somewhere to go.
A marriage and family therapist working in a domestic or relationship abuse shelter can help the victim heal from the violence and abuse and understand and break the patterns. Often this means working with either the victimized men or women, and their children. This may mean helping their clients create an escape plan and coordinating with social service agencies.