The Hawkeye State (no affiliation with the Avengers character) may pull in agriculturally-minded and politically focused individuals, but many students may be interested in pursuing a career in marital and family therapy counseling in Iowa for various reasons. Even if corn, a staple in the state, isn’t your favorite food, here are a few options for studying in the state as well as the requirements for becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist in Iowa.
Accredited MFT Programs in Iowa
If you are pursuing a master’s or Ph.D. program in marriage and family therapy, make sure the program is approved by a recognized accrediting agency. An accredited program means it has been examined by an accrediting body and deemed suitable as an educator and training program. If a program is accredited, the agency is saying that it has met the minimum requirements for training future counselors and teaches them what they need to know to be a therapist in the U.S. One of the most common therapy accrediting agencies is the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). CACREP accredits clinical mental health programs in the U.S. and Canada. A CACREP-accredited program is not necessarily a marital and family therapy program. If you prefer an accrediting agency that specifically looks at MFT programs, Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) is a good one to look for. COAMFTE specifically examines MFT programs. Iowa has two COAMFTE-accredited programs and no CACREP-accredited programs.
COAMFTE Accredited Iowa MFT Programs
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) is the accrediting agency that uses COAMFTE as its stamp of approval. Since the standards to become a licensed MFT are up to each individual state, not every state fully recognizes COAMFTE. However, it is becoming more and more popular. Just make sure you check the licensure requirements for the state where you are hoping to practice or get your license. Here are the two COAMFTE-accredited programs in Iowa.
The University of Iowa:
If you are perhaps hoping to delve into the research side of marital and family counseling and psychology, you might consider this Iowa City program. It is not required that MFT counselors have a Ph.D. However, if you are hoping to research or teach, this is the route for you. The University of Iowa’s program takes an apprenticeship approach to mentor student researchers to be thoughtful and multicultural thinkers in the field. Teaching, research, supervision, and clinical practice are all areas trained and explored in this program. In their first year, students pair with a program faculty member and help with the instructor’s research while developing their own research program. The remaining years have students continuing their own research projects, among other curricula. Students interested in this program need a master’s degree in marital and family therapy to apply.
Mount Mercer University:
This two-year program takes place on-campus in Cedar Rapids. It may be the only MA-MFT in Iowa, but the program doesn’t let that get in the way of providing top-notch training. According to the school, the program is one of only a handful in the country that teach students therapy from a neuroscience perspective, examining the effects of environment and genetics on human behavior. The hands-on curriculum places students with a cohort of fellow learners with whom they experience the program together. The program offers a flexible schedule, touting itself as one made for those working and with families. Furthermore, no GRE scores are required, and students earn their counseling practice hours at the on-site Olson Marriage & Family Therapy Clinic.
What will you learn in an Iowa MFT program?
You can expect to have a mixture of classroom learning and practical, hands-on experience in an MFT program in Iowa. Nine credit hours are devoted to foundational subjects, like the family lifecycle, the sociology of the family, and families under stress. Students spend another nine credit hours studying assessment and treatment, and then another nine studying human development, including psychopathology, personality development, and sexuality. You can also expect to study professionalism in the field, ethics, and research.
A major part of your education in Iowa will be your practicum. The 300-hour practicum has you gaining practical experience working with clients under an approved supervisor. Generally, the practicum will be paired with other courses relevant to the student’s time as a practicum advisee.
How to become an LMFT in Iowa
Iowa requires candidates for licensure as an MFT to attend a marital and family therapy educational training program accredited by the COAMFTE. Degrees earned from a non-COAMFTE-accredited program need to have been approved by another recognized agency. Programs should be 60 semester hours long (or 80 quarter credit hours). The program should also include a 300-hour practicum.
After completing your education, your next step is to seek work with an approved supervisor. Before starting your two-year term as a supervised counselor, you must seek temporary licensure through Iowa’s Board of Behavioral Science, which will last for three years. You’ll need to have completed your master’s program before beginning this part of your career, and recent graduates need to complete 3,000 hours of work experience with 1,500 direct client hours and 200 supervision hours.
During your term working under the temporary license, you should take the MFTRB’s Marriage & Family Therapist exam. You don’t have to have the license to do your temporary license work, but it should be taken and passed before the license expires. Candidates should apply to the board for licensure before they are eligible to register for the test.
To apply for licensure, candidates should submit the application form itself along with official transcripts or an evaluation from the Center for Credentialing and Education. The application is accompanied by a fee of $120.
What does an LMFT in Iowa do?
A licensed marriage and family therapist in Iowa performs many of the same duties and uses similar techniques as a clinical mental health counselor. The difference lies in both licensing and education requirements as well as the focus. LMFTs work specifically with clients in the context of marriage and family. Clients may be couples, families, or individuals dealing with issues related to relationships. LMFTs also work with other agencies in the community to make sure their clients have a holistic wellness team. This could be social workers, healthcare providers, or other agencies that provide for the community and its members.
Iowa LMFT Career and Salary Opportunities
The marriage and family therapy field is a growing one, just like the clinical mental health counseling field as a whole. The MFT industry is projected to grow by 16% nationwide by 2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you choose to work as an MFT in Iowa, you will be joining a national workforce of 54,800, a number that is quickly growing as more programs in MFT appear. The average salary for LMFTs in the U.S. was $59,660 as of May 2021. In contrast, the annual average salary for LMFTs in Iowa was a bit lower at $49,920. However, this number should not be taken in isolation from other factors, like the comparative economy of Iowa compared to the rest of the U.S. Iowa had 260 LMFTs as of 2021.
Iowa MFT Resources
If you are interested in MFT programs in Iowa, here are links to the programs mentioned in this article.
The University of Iowa: Couple and Family Therapy Ph.D. Program
Mount Mercer University: Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy