Licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs) are professional and compassionate individuals who undergo rigorous and thorough training to help families, couples, individuals, and children navigate complex emotions, mental health issues, and relationship dynamics. Because of this responsibility and expertise, LMFTs are not done learning once they have received their MFT master’s degree, or after they finish their internship hours as an associate MFT and become licensed. Instead, LMFTs are expected to complete continuing education courses (or, continuing education unitsCEUs) that are mandated both nationally and by their state. Continue reading to learn more about MFT CEUs and how they are beneficial for mental health professionals.
What are MFT CEUs?
Continuing education units/credits (CEUs) are learning opportunities for licensed marriage and family therapists that help them stay updated on current trends in mental health treatment and psychotherapy. CEUs are required by the licensing boards of many states for mental health professionals to stay licensed. These learning opportunities are mandated state-wide and nationally to help LMFTs continue to provide excellent care to their clients, because great client care is good for both the individual and family, and is thereby good for the community as a whole.
What Is an LCSW?
Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs) are mental health and social services providers who focus services on individuals and community work. They are trained in providing treatment to vulnerable populations in the areas of health, mental health, diversity, and social issues. LCSWs can practice in various settings similar to LMFTs including private practice, hospitals, in-patient and outpatient treatment centers, schools, and rehabilitation centers, and focus primarily on the individual’s needs and community support to ensure continuity of care.
MFT CEU Requirements
CEUs are intended for anyone licensed by the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS), which includes marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers, professional clinical counselors, and educational psychologists. The requirements for continuing education units vary between states, but most require a certain number of hours to be taken a year or every two years. Below is an example of how the requirements can vary between states.
- CEU Requirements: 36 hours every two years. Those who are renewing for the first time must complete a minimum of 18 hours.
- Home study is accepted with no limit on the number of hours.
- Required courses:
- Seven hours of Domestic Violence training, a one-time requirement.
- Six hours of Law & Ethics to be completed at each renewal.
- Three hours of Aging & Long Term Care, a one-time requirement.
- Seven hours of HIV-AIDS, a one-time requirement.
- CEU Requirements: 30 hours every two years
- Home study is accepted with no limit on the number of hours.
- Required courses:
- Two hours of Medical Errors training
- Three hours of Ethics & Boundaries
- Three hours of Laws & Rules
- Two hours of Domestic Violence (required every third biennium)
- CEU Requirements: 36 hours every three years
- Up to 12 hours of home study are accepted.
- Required courses:
- No specific courses were noted, however, that does not necessarily mean that there are none. Check with your state’s requirements.
Types of MFT CEUs
At the time the course starts, CEUs must be taken from an accredited post secondary educational institution, a BBS-approved provider, or an approval agency recognized by the Board. Vista Continuing Education is one provider of CEUs that has been approved by the BBS. Some professional licensing boards may require a certain number of continuing education units that are live in-person as opposed to online via video recordings, video conference trainings, and reading materials. As the world heads more and more towards a technology-centered future, the online education route is becoming more and more accessible and popular.
Why Are MFT CEUs Important?
Marriage and family therapy has been proven to be significantly helpful to the lives of individuals and families, even more so than traditional methods. Because of this, CEUs are important to allow MFTs and other mental health practitioners the opportunity to stay up-to-date on a number of important subjects. Psychology, sociology, and knowledge of mental health and human behavior is always changing, and those are all subjects that are very relevant to the practice of an MFT. CEUs also give MFTs the opportunity to network with other mental health professionals to share experiences, which improves the work of all as they can discuss what may or may not be effective and helpful, as well as different perspectives.
What are the benefits of taking MFT CEUs?
Marriage and family therapists see several benefits by continuing their education through these courses. The first obvious benefit is that they can renew their license in a way that is relevant and helpful to them. For MFTs who have been in the practice for a long time, taking the courses is a good reminder of what they might have learned a while ago. For those who recently graduated, it can be a good way to expand upon areas where they perhaps felt they wanted to learn more. Since CEUs allow for networking, MFTs can feel supported as well in a job that can sometimes be stressful and a little difficult. Similarly, all of the students can share successes with each other.
What Will You Learn In MFT CEUs?
There are many different subjects that continuing education units may cover and while the subjects may change depending on time of year and availability, they may include:
- Addiction— Courses involving this topic will cover many complex issues that will help MFTs treat patients struggling with addiction, such as not just helping clients achieve sobriety in the literal sense of staying away from drugs or alcohol, but also achieving “emotional sobriety”. The courses also deep dive into specific topics, such as heroin and how to access effective addiction treatment.
- Trauma— Courses covering this topic assist MFTs with understanding the complexities behind PTSD and abuse. Some courses also give MFTs the tools to develop effective trauma-informed interventions, which is vital to effectively treating clients who have experienced such events. There are also courses available to help the therapist pass along tools to the client for helping themselves heal as well.
- ADHD— This condition is often misunderstood, even by mental health professionals. Courses on this topic keep MFTs up-to-date on new findings about ADHD and teach them about potential treatments beyond medication as well as symptom management. Some also go over strategies that can help MFTs empower their clients, such as tools that can help a couple thrive that may be impacted by ADHD.
- Telehealth— Courses covering this topic teach MFTs how to have an effective therapy practice through telehealth as well as how to stay compliant with various regulations in regards to legal and ethical standards.
- Anxiety— Courses involving this topic may introduce MFTs to concepts such as ecopsychology and the treatment of eco-anxiety. Some courses delve into scientific topics such as the science of the brain including neuroscience and genetics, as well as how to apply said knowledge through methods such as psychotherapy. Other courses may cover specific issues such as those experiencing perinatal anxiety or depression.
- Suicidality— Courses covering this topic are naturally very important to MFTs as a refresher on how to handle the issue of suicidal ideation, something they may see different clients going through daily. The courses cover suicide prevention, different perspectives on suicide, and how to approach suicide from a clinical practice. There also may be courses educating clinicians about suicidality in teens and what to look out for.
- Autism—Courses covering this topic provide MFTs the tools to understand how to work with a population that is frequently misunderstood and prejudged due to the spectrum of symptoms that causes diversity in their presentation. Some courses teach MFTs how to work with couples or families who are neurodiverse. Others focus on how to identify and treat autism in adults.
- Sexuality— The courses within this topic are broad but equally important. A therapist who wants to take some of these as their continuing education units will have the opportunity to learn things like sex therapy if they focus on couples, women’s sexuality, or subjects about assisting transgender clients.
- Grief— Courses covering this topic allow MFTs to build their skills to help clients through difficult times in their lives. The courses may cover subjects such as clinical practices when it comes to loss and grief. Some courses will educate MFTs on the complications grief can bring as well as treatments that can be implemented.
- Child and Teen Issues— These courses are a specialized topic in a sense, as children are a unique type of client in a way and sometimes misunderstood with their own trauma and developing minds. Some courses may cover how to use stories and therapy books to assist children. Others educate on how to engage families when it comes to youth mental health care, as well as how to identify and work with teens who may be suicidal.
- Therapy Resistance— These courses are a helpful tool for therapists who may work with clients who are mandated to attend therapy but are perhaps not willing, or are in another situation where they do not want to attend. Courses in this topic help MFTs work with angry clients and make therapy a success that may have been failing.
- Compassion Fatigue— Because compassion fatigue is something that those in the helping profession are at risk of experiencing, classes in this subject can be helpful to MFTs to learn how to take care of themselves. These courses may teach therapists how to identify the signs of burnout and how to cope with secondary trauma.
- Ethics— This topic is one that many MFTs have to take every time that they renew their license, so it is very important. Courses may cover information about how to maintain a high standard of care and how to embrace ethically cultural choices to one’s practice. There also may be courses about how to prevent lawsuits.
- Gender Identity— Many people who struggle with their gender identity also struggle with their mental health due to a number of factors including experiencing body dysmorphia or a family who does not accept them. These CEU courses can help MFTs therapeutically treat their clients to help them have better lives with their couples and families.
- Mindfulness— These courses review mindfulness with MFTs and may include topics such as therapeutic techniques for women’s sexual health concerns and strategies for ensuring the therapy is meaningful for clients.
- Depression— Courses covering this topic help MFTs deconstruct stereotypes surrounding depression and suicide. Although depression is fairly common, courses like these are good for updating MFTs on where the knowledge has landed in the present day on what depression looks like and the best ways to treat it.
- Eating and Food Issues—Courses covering this topic are helpful to MFTs because eating and food issues are complex and always changing, especially with the rise in social media. There also may be courses available that teach about the comorbid conditions that go with eating disorders, which can create further issues that may require distinctly unique care.
- Courses on HIPAA— Courses covering this topic remind MFTs about privacy laws which are vitally important both legally and ethically.
How to Find an Affordable CEU Program
It’s important to note that there is a cost to renewing your MFT license each renewal period, which is about every 2 or 3 years depending on your state. Costs can add up, as they may include both the fee for your license renewal and the cost of each course needed to meet your hourly requirement. So, it makes sense that you would want to look for classes that are legitimate, low-cost, high quality, and have what you need.
Some agencies provide continuing education programs either internally or externally for free, so when it comes to searching for a program for MFTs, a good place to start might be by asking your supervisor or colleagues if you work at an office or agency. If you work in private practice, you could look on the website of your state’s licensing board.
When looking for a quality website, be sure to note that it is, in fact, approved by your state board. Feel free to compare the pricing of each website you come across to find one that suits your budgeting and educational needs.
Other ways to find CEUs are through organizations approved by the Board of Behavioral Sciences. Those organizations are:
- American Psychological Association (APA)
- Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB)
- California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT)
- California Psychological Association (CPA)
- National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)
- National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
- National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC)
Additional MFT CEU Resources
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists
SAMHSA Continuing Education for Professionals Concerned with Trauma
Mind Remake Project—75 Free Online Resources for Continuing Education for Mental Health Professionals