The 10 Best Online Marriage and Family Counseling Programs
The purpose of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) is to help couples and/or families overcome difficult hurdles and enable healthier family environments. If this type of work interests you, there’s never been a better time to pursue a career in Marriage and Family Counseling. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job growth for the field of Marriage and Family Counseling or Therapy is expected to increase by 41% between 2010 and 2020, much faster than average job growth expected for the economy as a whole.
Within the mental health field, the earnings potential for marriage and family therapists outpaces the other specializations like mental health counselors, and child, family and school social workers. The BLS found that the median salary for a marriage and family therapist was $46,670 as recently as May 2012.
Many of the programs available offer degrees in Psychology with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy. These are primarily master’s degree programs, admission to which will require a bachelor’s degree, either in Psychology or at least a few undergraduate courses in Psychology.
These programs are designed to prepare students for licensure in the states where they plan to practice as therapists. Therefore, they will require fairly extensive research and clinical hours. License requirements may vary somewhat by state.
There are dozens of MFT programs on offer across the country, though most are only offered on-campus. Distance learning or online study programs have grown in number over the past several years, with varying degrees of success. It is important that you look closely at the curriculums of each program you are considering before you choose one.
What makes a good online MFT Program?
Coursework should include the following topics at a minimum:
- Theories of psychotherapy
- Family studies
- Couples therapy
- Ethics in a marriage and family therapy practice
- Social and cultural diversity
- Human sexuality
- Play therapy theories
- Study should also include a supervised clinical component.
Other factors to consider include program Accreditation. Accreditation is granted by the Commission on Accreditation of Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). Firstly, accreditation by COAMFTE is strictly voluntary, and not all online programs have gone through this process. The purpose of the accreditation, as with accreditation in most industries, is to ensure the quality of the program offering. This serves a dual purpose: for the student, you can be assured that your program meets the highest standards set by your field; and for the program or University, it lends a higher status or credibility to the program. As a part of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, a professional association which represents more than 25,000 marriage and family therapists, the COAMFTE reviews and grants accreditation to Graduate, Doctoral and post-Doc programs that meet or exceed the standards set by the Commission. In order to check if the program you are considering is currently accredited, contact COA@aamtf.org
1. University of Florida
The University of Florida Marriage and Family Counseling program is an eco-systematic approach to counseling which focuses on solution-oriented conversations with the parties involved. This is a 72 credit hour program prepares students to be Registered Interns in the field, and eventually entry-level careers as a Therapist. Some examples of courses include Group Counseling Theory and Process, Career Development, Diagnosis and Treatment of Mental Disorders and of course, Marriage Counseling.
2. Capella University
The Harold Abel School of Social and Behavioral Science offers an accredited and rigorous program, which include online study as well as some on campus seminars and clinical hours. Some face-to-face at their campus in Minnesota is required to finish the program, which is a 10-week course of study. Up to 12 transfer credits are accepted. The program received COAMFTE accreditation in 2013.
3. Touro University
Master of Arts in MFT requires 60 semester credits which includes 2 clinical practicum courses. This program is fully online, and meets all the academic requirements to help students prepare for MFT licensure in the State of California, which matches the standards of most other states. TUW’s program focuses on a team approach that aims to deliver holistic treatment to patients and families.
4. California Southern University
The Califonia Southern University offers a Master of Arts in Psychology that satisfies all of the educational requirements for licensure as a marriage and family therapist in the state of California. A variety of counseling techniques, theory, and skills are covered in courses such as Psychology of Marriage and Family Systems, Psychopathology, Psychology of Violence, Psychology of Aging, and more. This 62 credit program takes four years to complete, and each credit hour is $350.
5. Mid-America Christian University
The Master of Science in Counseling, Marital and Family Therapy at MACU provides a solid foundation in Counseling, with an emphasis on MFT. This program is Christian faith-based, with a focus on scientific methods and critical thinking to provide a comprehensive approach to student development. It requires 45 to 51 credit hours, and the main campus is in Oklahoma City, OK.
6. Northcentral University
At NCU’s School of Marriage and Family Sciences, all coursework is completed online, and clinical/practical requirements can be completed in the local area where the student resides. No visits to their Arizona campus is required. In addition, all faculty hold Doctoral degrees in MFT or related fields, and degree plans are flexible and personalized to meet the needs of students from different states. NCU’s Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy was the first online program to receive COAMFTE accreditation.
7. Liberty University
The Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy, while mostly an online course, there is some time on campus required, along with 60 credits for completion. This program, based in Lynchburg, VA, has a faith-based orientation.
8. Walden University
Walden offers a Master of Science in Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling, a General degree, but also offers the MFT with two sub-specialties: Crisis and Trauma, and Forensic Counseling. The program requires 90 quarter credit hours. Walden is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, and is a member of the North Central Association (ncahlc.org).
9. University of Massachusetts
The Master of Science in Family Therapy at UMass is designed to meet the academic requirements for licensure in family therapy (LMFT) as required by the Board of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professions in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Therefore, students interested in this program should check with their state agency requirements if they plan to practice elsewhere. This program promotes collaboration within and across disciplines, and aspires to produce graduates that will serve urban communities in need.
10. Saybrook University
Saybrook offers a MA in Psychology with Specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) and Professional Clinical Counseling. This program prepares the student for licensure in several specialties and meeting multiple state licensure requirements. Specialties include MFT, Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC), and Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC). All coursework is completed online, however the program requires students to attend twice yearly intensive personal training sessions at their Oakland, CA campus.