Marriage and Family Therapy is sometimes misunderstood. It is easy to assume that Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) only work with married couples and families facing problems. After all, this is implied by our title. What MFTs want you to know, however, is that they work with a range of clients, including individuals, couples, and families. And at the core their identity is the relational aspect of how they work with everyone inside and outside of the therapy office, and how they think about the relationships that contribute to a problem and its potential solution. We are not, for example, Psychologists, Counselors, or Social Workers—we are Marriage and Family Therapists. Here are some thoughts from MFTs that separate fact from fiction when it comes to understanding our distinct identity.
Myth: A common myth about MFTs (Marriage and Family Therapists) is that we only work with couples and families.
Fact: Our training gives us the opportunity to see problems through a lens that includes the intricate influence of belief, culture, upbringing, and relationships. Our individual issues don't occur in a lab with all factors controlled. MFTs are a great fit for individuals, as we understand the elemental influences that exist in all our lives. Heather Holmgren, MFT, Salt Lake City, UT
Myth: One myth about marriage and family therapy is that MFTs only help with certain relationship problems (e.g., infidelity, unexpected loss, family conflict).
Fact: MFTs are trained to address relationship problems, as well as many common issues that incline people to seek out therapy (e.g., depression, anxiety, trauma, & addiction). The systemic view of MFTs often fits a client's way of seeing the world because MFTS are equipped to address the context in which their problems reside. Eugene Hall, LAMFT, Minneapolis, MN
Myth: Marriage and Family Therapists only see couples.
Fact: MFT's are highly trained clinicians who use a systems-approach when helping individuals struggling with any issue, whether in a relationship of not. Chris Fariello, Ph.D., LMFT, Philadelphia, PA
Myth: The therapist can only provide marriage counseling if both members within the couple are in the office session.
Fact: The therapist can provide marriage counseling with one person, for the insights, tips, and tools can be the “difference that makes the difference” within the unit when meeting with one person. Karen Ruskin, PsyD, LMFT, Sharon, MA
Myth: You will be able to solve all your problems in therapy.
Fact: Therapy is a catalyst for change in your life. You will not have enough time to cover every issue in therapy unless you stay in therapy for a few years. (By all means, if you need this, do it.) For most couples, therapy starts a conversation that must continue outside of therapy. Therapy will offer new insights into old issues and it will offer some behavioral guidance for how to make changes in your life. Ultimately, you are responsible for taking action on your own. I usually suggest that my couples do their own version of therapy outside of therapy to hold each other accountable. I will tell them to meet at a coffee shop or for lunch to discuss how therapy is going and how they feel about their progress. This seems to help couples begin to do the work outside of therapy as well. Angela Skurtu, M.Ed. LMFT, St. Louis, MO
If you know that it is time to seek therapy, we can help. Marriage and family therapists (MFTs) are trained in psychotherapy and family systems, and licensed to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders within the context of marriage, couples and family systems. The unique feature you will find during treatment with an MFT is the therapist will focus on understanding your symptoms and diagnoses within interactions and relationships. The existing environment and context is given careful examination paying particular attention to the family system – as defined by you. MFTs treat predominantly individuals but always from the perspective that “relationships matter.” Find a therapist here.
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy represents over 50,000 marriage and family therapists worldwide.