If any U.S. body of water could act as a metaphor for the twists and turns of life, the Mississippi River would be it. The second-longest river in North America begins its journey from Lake Itasca and travels all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. Those who have decided to enter the field of marital and family counseling may feel like the path they took to get to this point imitates the Mississippi River’s winding, and they may also feel overwhelmed by the route before them. Luckily, we have everything you need to know about MFT programs and licensure processes in each U.S. state. For those who are interested in becoming a couple and family counselor in Mississippi, the following article focuses on graduate training programs in family therapy and licensing requirements in the state.
Accredited MFT Programs in Mississippi
When searching for an academic training program in MFT, candidates will likely notice that each school boasts of being accredited by a particular institution. This distinction is important because you must attend an accredited program for your education to count towards your license requirements. A program that is accredited simply means it has been given a stamp of approval by a recognized accrediting agency that says the program meets minimum training requirements and teaches its students what they need to know to become a counselor. The most recognized accrediting agency is the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). CACREP accreditation can be given to any qualifying clinical mental health program, including marital and family therapy programs. However, programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) are MFT programs. Only MFT programs can earn COAMFTE accreditation. Keep in mind that just because a program is CACREP-accredited doesn’t mean it satisfies the requirements for MFT licensure, as students interested in becoming an MFT must have a certain amount of credits in courses related to marriage and family therapy, and they also must have clinical practice hours related to family or couples counseling.
COAMFTE Accredited Mississippi MFT Programs
COAMFTE-accredited programs are assumed by most states to satisfy requirements for licensure as a marital and family therapist. COAMFTE accreditation is overseen by the professional association known as the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). There is only one accredited program in Mississippi, and it is COAMFTE-accredited.
University of Southern Mississippi:
Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy
This program in the Hattiesburg campus boasts a six-to-one student-teacher ratio as well as a 100 percent pass rate for its students on the national MFT licensing examination. Not only will students learn foundational theories and techniques in the field, but they will also train on maintaining well-being as a therapist and developing a professional identity. The program also focuses on methods for building the therapeutic alliance, ethics, assessment and diagnosis, model and intervention application, and diversity. Students gain 500 hours of the practical application of their skills through the supervised practicum, which takes place in both the on-site training clinic and in clinics around the community.
No-GRE MFT programs in Mississippi
Luckily for many, the University of Southern Mississippi is one of many schools that are forgoing the requirement that applicants for their programs submit GRE scores. Traditionally, the GRE standardized test was meant as a way to measure students’ readiness for continued education. However, multiple factors have worked together to contribute to schools doing away with the practice of requiring scores, including the Covid19 pandemic, increased awareness of different learning styles, and increasing numbers of international students (the GRE is only required in U.S. schools).
What will you learn in a Mississippi MFT program?
Most marital and family therapy programs will look similar, as state requirements for licensure dictate much of the content. Students can expect their Mississippi MFT program to combine both the foundational learning of theory and technique with practical application. The education will include courses in MFT theories and models; history of MFT; relational and systemic philosophy; treatment approaches to various populations and issues in MFT; multicultural counseling; research and evaluation; professional identity; law; ethics; lifespan development; assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health issues; contemporary issues; teletherapy; and implementation of interdisciplinary collaboration.
Every MFT program includes a practicum period. This will be the student’s first interaction with actual clients under direct supervision. The 12-month practicum is supervised by an approved supervisor and may take place either on campus or at clinics within the community, depending on the school’s resources. Students must earn 500 client contact hours, 200 of which must be related to families or couples.
How to become an LMFT in Mississippi
Licensing for MFTs in Mississippi is overseen by the Mississippi State Board of Examiners for Social Workers and Marriage and Family Therapists. The Board will pay special attention to candidates’ education and specifies that the program attended by the candidate must be COAMFTE-accredited or be accredited by a similar agency. Candidates who did not attend a COAMFTE-accredited program will need to prove that the program meets the minimum requirements set by the COAMFTE.
In order to gain the mandatory post-graduate supervision hours gained in the residency in training period, candidates will need to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy Associate (LMFTA). Before this can happen, they must pass the National Examination in Marital and Family Therapy. Candidates send in a request to the Board to take the exam along with a $25 fee. Candidates should have the institution where they earned their MFT degree send official transcripts to the Board. Once permission is given, candidates can sign up for the test, which is offered yearly in four four-week windows. Candidates must pay $220 to the Professional Examination Service and an additional $75 to Prometric, the test administrator.
Once a candidate passes the exam, they can send in their application to the Board to become an LMFTA. The Associate will work for two years with an approved supervisor to accrue at least 1,000 hours of clinical practice working with clients. Candidates should also have 200 hours of supervision, and a supervision plan will need to be made and approved before hours can be counted. Review and approval of the plan cost $100. The supervisor will assess the candidate twice in the two-year employment of the associate: once near the beginning of the supervision and again toward the end.
Once the minimum two-year supervision period is over and the candidate has earned their hours, it is time to apply for full permanent licensure as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). Much of the work to be fully licensed will have been done by now, as the candidate had to apply to become an LMFTA. The first step was to apply for permission to take the exam, and then the candidate had to register for supervision and apply for associate status. Three letters of reference from licensed professionals are needed for the LMFT application, along with assessments and further documentation from supervisors. The candidate will also need to get both a sex offender registry check and a state and federal criminal background check.
What does an LMFT in Mississippi do?
While a licensed marital and family therapist functions similarly to a licensed professional counselor, the focus and specific techniques may differ. An LMFT is qualified to work with individuals, families, and couples on relational and communication challenges creating dysfunction within the lives of these units and hindering well-being. An LMFT might work with clients on a variety of issues including divorce, child or elder abuse, pre-marriage counseling, communication issues, relational stress, life transitions and changes, trauma, grief, and many others. Couples and family counselors in Mississippi may be called on to work in an interdisciplinary setting, collaborating with professionals from other fields to ensure the well-being of their clients. Counselors may even need to act as advocates for their clients who may be facing systemic barriers to growth and improved lives.
Mississippi LMFT Career and Salary Opportunities
A mix of factors has led to an increase in demand for mental health therapists in the last decade. The Covid19 pandemic increased people’s isolation and forced many to come face to face with mental health issues, inner struggles, or relational dysfunction, driving many to seek help. The pandemic also increased the use of computers for telework, which has increased public awareness of telehealth. Furthermore, advances in technology have increased access to counseling via telehealth. Finally, overall awareness of mental health has grown dramatically, further increasing the demand for counseling services, which includes the rising demand for couples and family counseling. The couples and family counseling field is projected to grow by 16% nationwide by 2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of practicing MFTs in 2021 was 54,800, and the average salary in the U.S. was $59,660. In contrast, Mississippi had only 70 LMFTs in 2021, pointing to a need in the state for more counselors. The average yearly salary for LMFTs in Mississippi was $45,880.
Mississippi MFT Resources
Here is the link to Mississippi’s only accredited couples and family therapy program. There are many programs in the U.S. to choose from, and many may feel overwhelmed by the options. Choosing Mississippi narrows those options for those interested in studying in “The Hospitality State.”
University of Southern Mississippi: Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy