MFT Programs in Illinois

Illinois, often called the land of Lincoln, is well known for agriculture, nuclear energy, and the third largest city in the U.S., Chicago. The world’s first skyscraper was also built here in 1885. But tall buildings and innovation aren’t the only pull to live and work in this state. The state also plays host to a number of marriage and family therapy programs. Here is a sample of some of the programs available to students and an in-depth look at how to become licensed as a marriage and family therapist in Illinois.

Accredited MFT Programs in Illinois

How do students know which programs are trustworthy? Students can check and see if the program is approved by a well-respected accrediting agency. One of the most recognized and well-respected accrediting agencies for clinical mental health counseling programs is the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). CACREP accredits clinical mental health counseling programs and assesses whether or not they provide adequate training for future mental health counselors. In Illinois, there are three CACREP-accredited programs in the state. 

Featured Online MFT Programs

Northeastern Illinois University:

M.A. in Couple and Family Counseling

Northeastern’s MFT program, located in Chicago, is offered through the Department of Counselor Education, housed within the Daniel L. Goodwin College of Education. The program requires 60 credit hours to complete, and the department boasts about its flexible class hour options for students. Small class sizes ensure students reap the benefits of their experienced instructors.

Along with the required coursework, students must complete a practicum and internship at local clinics, allowing for professional networking in the field and practice integrating theory and technique into a clinical setting.

University of Illinois Springfield:

M.A. in Marriage, Couples, and Family Counseling

Located in the state’s capital, Springfield, the university offers the Marriage, Couples, and Family Counseling concentration as part of its Human Development Counseling program. Along with the core 49 credits in general therapy techniques and theory, MFT students will complete an additional 12 credits (for a total of 61 credits) in family counseling, couples counseling, sexual dysfunction and family violence, and family counseling theory.

Students are also expected to complete 120 hours of clinical experience in approved clinics in the community. These 120 hours include both the practicum and internship hours combined.

COAMFTE Accredited Illinois MFT Programs

Another well-known accrediting agency that is specifically focused on assessing the quality of marriage and family therapy programs is the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy (COAMFTE). Both COAMFTE and CACREP-accredited programs satisfy licensing requirements in Illinois, but COAMFTE accreditation has become popular for MFT programs. Illinois has six COAMFTE-accredited programs. Here is one top-notch program to consider.
NameCityStateDegree LevelAccreditationGRE Required?Full Program NameURL
Northern Illinois University (MS)DeKalbILMastersCOAMFTENoM.A. in Marriage & Family TherapyLearn More
Wheaton College Graduate School (MA)WheatonILMastersCOAMFTENoM.A. in Marriage & Family TherapyLearn More
Northwestern University, The Family Institute (MS) OnlineEvanstonILMastersCOAMFTENoM.S. in Marriage & Family TherapyLearn More
Adler UniversityChicagoILMastersCOAMFTEYesM.A. in Clinical Mental Health CounselingLearn More
Adler UniversityChicagoILDoctoralCOAMFTEYesPh.D. in Couple and Family TherapyLearn More

Northern Illinois University offers a Master of Science degree in Applied Human Development and Family Sciences, specializing in MFT. This track consists of a 21-month intensive program consisting of coursework and clinical training required in preparation for licensure upon graduation as per standards set by their COAMFTE accreditation. The minimum credit requirement for graduation is 54 credit hours, and it typically takes students two and a half to three years to complete. The program offers a thesis track where students will be able to develop clinical research skills, especially if they intend to pursue further education. For the non-thesis track, students will complete a comprehensive examination that tests clinical skills.

Wheaton College – This Christian-based Marriage and Family therapy program offers students a Master of Arts degree that is COAMFTE accredited and prepares clinicians for licensure upon graduation. The program takes on average two years to complete and has a reputation for a 100% pass rate from alumni passing the national licensure examination. This program incorporates a Christian approach to developing clinical competence within the field of MFT. Being a clinically focused program, students are expected to complete practicum training in a variety of training sites and require students to be enrolled full-time. The university also offers a variety of scholarships and funding opportunities to students to make pursuing an education available and accessible.

Northwestern University, The Family Institute:

M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy

Northwestern offers its MFT program both online and in-person on its Evanston campus. Students learn directly from faculty who are licensed therapists, some of whom are known nationally. The program approaches counseling from a systemic and integrative view, and students can practice what they learn in the classroom in the university’s on-campus clinic. Students will gain at least 500 hours of clinical hours and 250 supervision hours while in the program.

No GRE Required MFT Programs in Illinois

Students applying for graduate schools have no doubt heard of the requirement many schools have for candidates for admission to take the GRE, a standardized test assessing preparedness for higher education. However, for anyone who was nervous about the prospect of preparing for yet another long test, there is some good news. Many MFT programs have changed the requirements for candidates and no longer require the GRE for consideration. These schools are instead focusing on other application materials like the application essay and undergraduate transcripts.
NameCityStateDegree LevelAccreditationGRE Required?Full Program NameURL
Governors State UniversityUniversity ParkILM.A.CACREPNoM.A. in Marriage, Couple and Family CounselingLearn More
Northeastern Illinois UniversityChicagoILM.A.CACREPNoM.A. in Marriage, Couple and Family CounselingLearn More
University of Illinois SpringfieldSpringfieldILM.A.CACREPNoM.A. in Marriage, Couple and Family CounselingLearn More
Northern Illinois University (MS)DeKalbILMastersCOAMFTENoM.A. in Marriage & Family TherapyLearn More
Wheaton College Graduate School (MA)WheatonILMastersCOAMFTENoM.A. in Marriage & Family TherapyLearn More
Northwestern University, The Family Institute (MS) OnlineEvanstonILMastersCOAMFTENoM.S. in Marriage & Family TherapyLearn More

Governors State University – The Master of Arts in Counseling program offers a specialization in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling consisting of a 60-credit hour curriculum. Students typically complete this program in two and a half years, with 12 of the curriculum credit hours dedicated to clinical training. This program is CACREP accredited and all specialty tracks prepare students for dual licensure as an LPC, and licensure in the specialty track of choosing, in this case, would be as an LMFT. Being a clinically focused program, students are expected to receive clinical experience from a variety of settings to better help in their professional development as a clinician.

Featured Marriage and Family Therapy Master’s Programs

What will you learn in an Illinois MFT program?

Students taking their marriage and family therapy coursework on a full-time basis in Illinois should be able to finish the program in around two years, depending on the program. In Illinois, to qualify for MFT licensure, you must complete an accredited program with at least 48 semester hours of coursework. 

You can expect to take courses in individual development and family relations, human sexuality, family subsystems, theoretical foundations and clinical practice, professional studies, ethics, and research. You will also be required to complete supervised practicum and internship hours, where you will get your first hands-on clinical experience. You can expect to get at least 300 hours of clinical practicum.

Some accredited programs will also require in-person or online residencies during the program. These residencies are your first chance to practice your techniques in a safe environment. Generally, students in the program gather with staff and guest speakers to learn and practice together. While not all programs require these residencies, be sure to check on the requirements for your school of choice.

How to become an LMFT in Illinois

To become a licensed marriage and family therapist in Illinois, you must complete a COAMFTE or CACREP-accredited graduate program or a program deemed equivalent. MFT program students in Illinois have to complete 48 semester hours of coursework.

After graduating from your program, you will need to become a resident in training, which means working in a clinic approved by your school and working under an approved supervisor to gain clinical practice hours. In Illinois, students entering their residency in training will need to apply to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to become approved as an associate. Once approved and registered, students have up to five years from the time they are approved to complete their licensure requirements. Students should complete a minimum of two years of internships with at least 3,000 hours of clinical practice, all post-graduate. 1,000 hours should be direct with clients. At least 200 of these 3,000 hours must be direct clinical supervision, though 100 hours can be taken from supervised hours earned as part of a graduate school program.

Students must pass the licensing exam developed by the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards, which is offered four times a year. If the student is registered as an associate, they will not be required to submit as much paperwork as they might otherwise. 

Once you have taken the exam, you are eligible to apply for licensure. The application packets for various levels of licensure are available on the Department’s website, and each packet has a checklist students can follow to ensure all materials have been gathered and sent.

What does an LMFT in Illinois do?

LMFTs in Illinois are connectors for families, couples, and individuals in their relationships. They help their clients heal and grow in their interpersonal relationships and they support clients as they understand themselves more. LMFTs may use many of the same techniques and handle similar situations that general clinical mental health counselors. However, LMFTs in Illinois handle intrapersonal and interpersonal problems from a family systems perspective. LMFTs may also act as support for clients who have systemic blocks to wellness. In this case, LMFTs in Illinois may help connect clients to resources within the community to help them thrive.

Illinois LMFT Career and Salary Opportunities

Even though the economy has made it difficult for many people to get jobs, the MFT field has been growing and is expected to grow 16 percent from now to 2030 nationwide, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is much faster than other industries. The growth is likely due to the increase in the availability of mental health services because of the rise in telehealth, especially after the Covid19 pandemic. The pandemic also rose the demand for mental health services. Not only will students be entering a field that has a need for them upon graduation, but newly licensed MFTs can expect competitive salaries. The national average for licensed marriage and family counselors was $59,660 as of May 2021. The Illinois average yearly salary for that same year was a bit lower at $53,560. This state currently employs around 2,540 LMFTs.

All MFT Programs in Illinois

With a handful of MFT programs available in Illinois, finding the right program can be a bit challenging for applicants. Take a look at the following programs, and accompanying information, to find the right MFT program in Illinois for you.
University Name CityStateDegree LevelAccreditationProgram NameProgram URL
Governors State UniversityUniversity ParkILM.A.CACREPM.A. in Marriage, Couple, and Family CounselingClick Here
Northern Illinois UniversityDeKalbILM.A.COAMFTEM.A. in Marriage and Family TherapyClick Here
Wheaton College Graduate SchoolWheatonILM.A.COAMFTEM.A. in Marriage and Family TherapyClick Here

Illinois MFT Resources

There is a lot of information to sort through when it comes to MFT programs in the state. To help those looking for programs and information, here are a few links to relevant resources mentioned throughout this article.

Additional Resources:

Northeastern Illinois University: M.A. in Couple and Family Counseling

University of Illinois Springfield: M.A. in Marriage, Couples, and Family Counseling

Northwestern University, The Family Institute: M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy