If you want to become a counseling professional who works with families or couples, you may want to explore becoming a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). To practice as an MFT in Florida, you must complete several steps to acquire the required education, experience, and license. Many mental health professionals enjoy a career helping clients discover the patterns and habits that contribute to better relationships and happier lives.
This article outlines the path to creating your rewarding career as an MFT in Florida. MFTs help people through difficult familial transitions as well as help them to see how their relationships affect their mental and emotional help. MFTs also need training in assessing and treating mental health disorders to help clients identify any underlying mental health issues that could be impacting their ability to maintain healthy relationships.
To become an MFT in Florida, you need to have the desire to learn and the commitment to your continued education in the field to acquire your Florida MFT license. Marriage and Family therapy focuses on the inter-relationships between self and the world. MFTs are mental health professionals who offer services such as assessing, diagnosing, and treating mental health disorders. Clients seek an MFT when they need premarital or marital counseling or are coping with a familial transition.
Before studying to become an MFT in Florida, you must complete a bachelor’s degree in a related field.
Education in Marriage and Family Therapy begins at the graduate or doctoral level. Before enrolling in a graduate MFT program, you must complete a Bachelor’s degree in a related field of study. Related disciplines include psychology, sociology, mental health, social work, or another social science.
A strong bachelor’s degree program should prepare you for graduate-level coursework by requiring courses in psychological research, statistics, psychological theories, and sociology. The program should expose you to psychological research practices, ethical and moral practices, and opportunities to network with professors and local mental health professional organizations.
If you completed a bachelor’s degree in a major unrelated to psychology, you can still apply to graduate MFT programs. You may need to complete some prerequisite courses in psychology before starting the graduate program.
Once you have successfully completed a Bachelor’s degree in a related field, you can begin your studies toward becoming an MFT in Florida.
States are responsible for licensing of mental health providers. You must obtain the proper license within the state you wish to practice. The information below outlines the steps to get a Florida MFT license. You do not have to complete your studies at a Florida college or university to obtain your Florida MFT license. However, there are state-specific criteria that you need to meet. The steps are outlined below:
Step 1: Complete a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy (MFT) from an accredited program.
The degree must include at least 36 semester hours of coursework in marriage and family therapy, as well as 180 hours of supervised clinical experience. The degree must consist of coursework in the following topics:
- Theories of Marriage and family therapy
- Assessment and diagnosis of family systems
- Treatment planning and intervention
- Ethics and professional practice
- Supervised clinical experience
Step 2: Pass the national exam for marriage and family therapists, administered by the Association of Marriage and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB).
The exam covers various topics, including marriage and family systems theory, assessment, intervention, and ethics. Florida does not offer a state exam and instead requires an applicant to pass the national exam or the state exam of Texas, Ohio, or California (before April 2004).
Additional coursework through the state of Florida is required to obtain a Florida MFT license. These courses ensure that all candidates for licensure are aware of presenting issues for children and adults that they may treat in the future and can only be taken with an approved provider. You can find a list of approved providers on the Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage & Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling website.
Courses required through the State of Florida are:
- Laws & Rules Course: an 8-hour course and the Florida law and ethics code related to counseling professionals.
- HIV/AIDS Course: a 3-hour course on the health and safety regulations regarding this disease.
- Domestic Violence Course: a 2-hour course on identifying and reporting domestic violence.
These courses must be completed within six months of licensure, and you should retain your certificate of completion for your records.
Step 3: Complete two years of post-graduate supervised clinical experience.
A candidate must complete this experience under the supervision of a licensed marriage and family therapist.
The supervision experience must have consisted of the following:
- At least 100 hours of supervision in no less than 100 weeks;
- 1,500 hours of face-to-face psychotherapy with clients; and,
- 1 hour of supervision every two weeks
A word about Provisional Licenses:
You may be eligible for a provisional license if you are already working in the counseling field. A provisional license is available only to applicants for licensure by exam or endorsement who have already met the minimum requirement of two years of post-masters supervised experience but still need to meet Florida’s licensure requirements. It allows you to practice under supervision while you meet any additional licensure requirements such as master’s level coursework (MFT applicants must have completed 10 of the course content areas, and six semester or nine quarter hours must be in marriage and family systems, theories, or techniques), continuing education coursework, or passing the national exam. Provisional licensees are required to meet face-to-face with their supervisor for at least one hour per month. A supervisor for a provisional licensee is defined as a Florida Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Marriage and Family Therapist, or Mental Health Counselor. This license is valid for 24 months and cannot be renewed.
Provisional licensure applications are available upon request and will be provided once the Florida Board of Social Work, Marriage & Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling Office has received an application by endorsement/exam.
Step 4: Apply for licensure with the Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling.
The application process includes submitting an application fee, transcripts from your MFT program, proof of passing the AMFTRB exam, and letters of recommendation.
Once you complete all these steps, you will be a licensed marriage and family therapist in Florida. You can practice independently or work as part of a team of mental health professionals.
However, if you have a unique circumstance regarding your previous life experiences, you may need to consider the following:
If you have a special circumstance when it comes to licensure: The state of Florida is responsible for ensuring that everyone who enters into practice as an MFT has the capability, education, and skills necessary to benefit the lives of their clients. Suppose you have ever encountered troubles with your mental, physical, or emotional health or displayed unethical behavior or practices. In that case, you may have to prove your ability to become an MFT in Florida for the following circumstances:
Applicants with Mental Health Disorders or Substance Abuse History:
The Board reviews each applicant’s history to determine that the applicant is able to practice the profession with reasonable skill and competence. If you have a history of severe, chronic, or recent mental health problems or drug addiction, you must submit a current mental health status report. Mental health status reports must come from a licensed mental health professional with which you have no personal or professional relationship.
The report should include a description and summary of the diagnosis, onset, course of treatment, medications, inpatient treatments, outpatient treatments, group settings, factors that have triggered setbacks, compliance with treatment, prognosis, and recommendations for continued treatment.
Applicants with prior disciplinary actions are required to submit the following:
Board Actions – Certified copies of the document(s) relative to any disciplinary action taken against any license. The documents must come from the agency that took the disciplinary action and must be certified by that agency.
Self-Explanation – A detailed description of the circumstances surrounding your disciplinary action and a thorough description of the rehabilitative changes in your lifestyle since the time of the disciplinary action, which would enable you to avoid future occurrences. It would be helpful to include factors in your life that may have contributed to your disciplinary action, what you have learned about yourself since that time, and the changes you have made that support your rehabilitation.
Applicants with Criminal History:
Applicants with prior criminal convictions can still become an MFT in Florida but are required to submit the following:
Final Dispositions/Arrest Records – Final disposition records for offenses can be obtained from the clerk of the court in the arresting jurisdiction. If the records are not available, you must have a letter on court letterhead sent from the clerk of the court attesting to their unavailability.
Completion of Probation/Parole/Sanctions – Probation and financial sanction records for offenses can be obtained at the clerk of the court in the arresting jurisdiction. Parole records for offenses can be obtained from the Department of Corrections or from the clerk of the court in the arresting jurisdiction. If the records are not available, you must have a letter on court letterhead sent from the clerk of the court attesting to their unavailability.
Self-Explanation – Applicants who have listed offenses on the application must submit a letter in their own words describing the circumstances of the offense. Include the date of the original offense, the charge, and the jurisdiction where it occurred in your letter.
Once you have obtained your Florida MFT license, you will continue to stay current on the research and developments in your field. Here are some additional tips for becoming a marriage and family therapist in Florida:
- Get involved in your field early on. Volunteer or intern at a mental health agency or clinic while you are still in school. This will give you valuable experience and help you network with other field professionals.
- Get involved with professional organizations. There are several professional organizations for marriage and family therapists, such as the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) and the Florida Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (FAMFT). Joining a professional organization can help you stay up-to-date on the latest research and trends in the field and provide you with opportunities for continuing education and networking.
- Be prepared for a challenging but rewarding career. Becoming a marriage and family therapist is a challenging but rewarding career. If you are passionate about helping people and are interested in working with families, this may be the right career for you.
- Participate in counseling for yourself. One way to know precisely what your clients are experiencing is to have the experience yourself. It is often recommended that anyone pursuing a degree in mental health should participate in counseling to broaden their knowledge of the experience. Becoming a client will make you a better counselor.
- Establish a network of professionals you can conference with. Counselors, psychologists, or mental health providers should have a professional network of colleagues they regularly consult with regarding their patients. This practice is essential for anyone in private practice. If you are working as part of a mental health facility, collegial consultation should be a regularly scheduled part of your weekly activities.
All mental health providers should take the responsibility of their position very seriously. Clients rely on their counselors to be professional by being knowledgeable in their discipline, maintaining confidentiality, and always acting in the client’s best interest. Violations of the ethics code can lead to a penalty of fines, suspension, or being stripped of your Florida MFT license.
Marriage and Family Therapists are a vital part of the mental health community. By following this comprehensive guide, engaging in ongoing professional development, and staying committed to ethical practice, you can build a successful career as a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Florida and make a lasting impact on the lives of others.