MFT Programs in Montana

Kacy Kaiser

Written by Kacy Kaiser

M.S. in School Counseling | Long Island University

Updated & Fact Checked: 3/4/2024

Montana is known for its gorgeous landscapes and national parks.  However beautiful this vast wilderness is, residents of Montana have been struggling with mental health issues at higher rates than the rest of the country.  Many people in Montana also do not have access to the help they need to cope with these challenges.  Compassionate and well-trained mental health counselors are needed now more than ever. 

There is an increasing demand for Mental Health Counseling of different types. Our relationships significantly impact our mental health, and because of this, Marriage and Family Therapy is a rapidly growing field. Marriage and Family Therapy specifically treats the relationship dynamics in a person’s life and helps them to improve their relationships. People who work as Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) are licensed and certified counselors. They undergo specialized training to work with individuals, couples, and families.  

MFTs examine a person’s relationships and their dynamics to help them function better. MFTs can help people keep the good times happening within their relationships and cope with and grow through struggles and challenging times. If you consider embarking on a Marriage and Family Therapist career in Montana, we will show you programs to help you achieve this goal.

Online MFT Programs in Montana

While no college or university in Montana offers a fully online Marriage and Family Therapy program, you don’t have to be in the state to take advantage of online programs. Montana students can complete their Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from the comfort of their home computer. 

Online programs offer great flexibility, making them ideal for working students or those with other commitments. However, ensuring the program is flexible enough to meet your individual needs is important. It is essential to consider the program’s cost when deciding to enroll. The program’s price can vary depending on the institution and the specialization you choose.

Here is a list of FULLY online programs that Montana residents can take advantage of:

  1. Alliant International University: prepares future therapists to work with and provide treatment for familial relationships, marital/couple relationships, parent-child relationships, pre-marital, and other personal relationships.
  2. Syracuse University: offers an online Master of Arts degree in Marriage and Family Counseling. The program has a 60 credit requirement along with 500 hours of practicum experience. The program is COAMFTE accredited. 
  3. University of Wisconsin- Superior: offers a 100% online Masters in Counseling with Marriage and Family Therapy track.  The program is designed to prepare students to become licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs) by passing the national exam. 
  4. Touro University Worldwide: offers a 100% online program accredited by         COAMFTE.  Graduates will be eligible to sit for the National MFT exam and apply for licensure in most states.

Accredited MFT Programs in Montana

Montana COAMFTE Accredited MFT Programs

The Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education is a national accrediting body for marriage and family therapy programs. The programs that COAMFTE accredits meet high-quality standards and are recognized by state and national professional organizations.

While there is no COAMFTE accredited program in Montana, there are a few programs in the nearby state of Washington that are. Listed below are the COAMFTE-accredited programs in Washington state:

  1. Antioch University – Master of Arts
  2. Pacific Lutheran University – Master of Arts
  3. Seattle Pacific University – Master of Science
  4. Seattle University – Master of Arts
  5. Whitworth University – Master of Arts

CACREP Accredited Marriage and Family Therapy Programs in Montana

The CACREP-accreditation can apply to both general and specialized counseling degree programs. CACREP stands for the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. It is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that accredits counseling programs in the United States and Canada. CACREP accreditation is voluntary, but many state and national professional organizations recognize it. 

CACREP accreditation is a valuable asset for counseling programs. It demonstrates to students, employers, and the public that the program meets high-quality standards. CACREP accreditation can also make it easier for graduates to obtain licensure and employment. 

There are several CACREP-accredited programs in Montana:

No GRE Required MFT Programs in Montana

Similar to the SAT and ACT required for undergraduate admissions, a standardized test called the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is sometimes required for admission into graduate-level programs. However, many colleges and universities today no longer require standardized admission tests and instead, students can choose to use the “test optional” avenue to admission. There are many Marriage and Family Therapy programs that do not require the GRE for admission. Consequently, some programs may require it only under certain circumstances. 

There is one program in Montana that is specifically an MFT program and does not require the GRE for admission:

  1. Montana State University: Master of Science in Counseling and Human Resource Development specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy.
    The requirements for admission are:
    • A completed graduate application
    • A Personal Statement
    • Three Letters of Recommendation
    • Undergraduate College Transcripts showing gpa of 3.0 or higher
    • Resume

In addition to the Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling program, Montana State University also does not require the GRE for its Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling masters degree programs.

What Will You Learn in a Montana MFT Program?

Montana MFT programs prepare students to become socially proficient marriage and family therapists by integrating the principles of social justice and diversity throughout all courses and clinical work. MFT programs train students to apply knowledge of systemic principles, theories, and research to practice with individuals, couples, families, and groups. With this training, you can begin a marriage and family therapy career.

Students in a Montana MFT program will gain the skills to address a variety of mental health and relationship issues from a family systems framework. In addition to family systems theory, students are well grounded in individual and group counseling theories and how they can help their future clients, whether they be individual clients, couples, families or children. Interpersonal issues between family members, the family and outer environmental systems are specifically highlighted.

In addition to coursework, students in MFT programs must complete both practicum and internship hours where they work with clients under the supervision of a professor and professional MFT. This experience is necessary for students to gain understanding and practice as a therapist but is also a requirement to sit for the licensing exam.

Some topics covered by MFT programs include:

  1. Family Systems Theory
  2. General Theories of Counseling
  3. Substance Abuse
  4. Physical, Emotional and Verbal Abuse
  5. Evaluation and Assessment of mental illness
  6. Anxiety and Depression
  7. Interpersonal relationships
  8. Diversity and Inclusion

Once students have completed the required coursework and internship hours, they are eligible to sit for a licensing exam and apply for a license as an MFT in Montana.

How To Become a Fully-Licensed MFT in Montana:

The Montana Board of Behavioral Health is the licensing board for all prospective LMFT’s. Their purpose is to ensure the professionalism and ethical standards of MFT’s are adhered to in the state of Montana. If a candidate is unlicensed, they must complete several steps to obtain their MFT license in Montana.  There is a second pathway for therapists who already hold a license in another discipline, like social work or psychology, or from another state.  Candidates who already hold a license do not need to sit for the national licensing exam.     

Here are the steps on how to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) in Montana:

  1. Complete a master’s degree program from an accredited or reputable program in Marriage and Family Therapy or a related field.
    • The program should have at least
      • 36 credits in core counseling curriculum
      • 9 credits in internship experience
      • 500 hours of client contact
  2. Complete a Supervised Experience
    • The candidate can be employed as an intern while earning the 3,000 hours of supervised experience.
  3. Pass the National Exam for Marital and Family Therapy.
  4. Complete a Background check with fingerprints.
  5. Complete the application for full licensure from the Montana Board of Behavioral Health.
  6. Renew your license every year.

Step 1: Complete a masters degree from an accredited or reputable program.

Completing a degree from an MFT program will give you the knowledge and experience necessary to pass the National MFT exam and begin a rewarding career as an MFT in Montana. CACREP and COAMFTE-accredited programs ensure that the curriculum meets their standards and prepares students for work as Marriage and Family Therapists. You can also be eligible for licensure as an MFT in Montana if you completed a program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Rehabilitative Counseling or another related field.

Step 2: Complete the required Supervised Experience hours.

The Montana Board of Behavioral Health requires that a candidate will need a total of at least 3,000 hours of supervised experience. The candidate may carry over 500 hours earned in qualifying practicum and internship experiences from their graduate program. The candidate must have at least 1,000 post-degree clinical contact hours. The candidate may count individual counseling toward the total. However, at least 500 hours must be spent supporting couples or families. The 1,000 hours must be accrued in the five year period before the candidate applies for licensure.

Step 3: Pass the National Examination for Marital and Family Therapy (NMFTE).

The NMFTE exam is facilitated by the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards. It is a national exam that all LMFTs must pass to be licensed.

The exam is a multiple-choice format that tests your knowledge of MFT theory, assessment, and intervention. You must score at least 75% on the exam to pass.  They offer four testing sessions per calendar year.

Step 4: Complete a Background check with Fingerprints.

Candidates for an LMFT license in Montana must complete a background check and fingerprinting with the Montana Department of Justice.

Step 5: Complete the application for Full Licensure with the Montana Board of Behavioral Health.

Following the completion of the required hours of supervised experience and of the national exam, the candidate must complete an application for licensure. The application can be found online on the MBBH website.

Step 6: Renew Your License every year.

Fully Licensed MFTs in Montana must renew their MFT licenses every year.  In addition to renewing their license, MFTs must complete 20 hours of Continuing Education Credits and provide evidence of this in their application. This requirement ensures that MFTs in Montana keep up to date with the latest research and best practices in the discipline.

Career and Salary Opportunities for LMFTs in Montana

Marriage and family therapy is growing, and many career opportunities are available for MFTs in Montana. Here, we will discuss some of the different career paths that MFTs can take and the average salary for MFTs in Montana.

Career Opportunities for MFTs

There are many different career paths available for MFTs in Montana. Some of the most common career paths include:

  • Private practice: Licensed MFTs can open their private practices and see clients individually, couples, or families.
  • Inpatient and outpatient mental health facilities: MFTs can work in inpatient and outpatient mental health facilities, providing therapy to individuals, couples, and families.
  • Substance Abuse and Addiction Treatment Facilities.
  • Schools: MFTs can work in schools, providing therapy to students and their families.
  • Community-based non-profit organizations: MFTs can work in community mental health centers, providing therapy to individuals, couples, and families.
  • Government agencies: MFTs can work for government agencies, providing therapy to individuals, couples, and families.
  • Military and Veterans’ facilities

Salary for MFTs in Montana

Marriage and Family Therapists are in high demand in Montana. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have statistical information on the average salary of MFT’s in Montana.  However, we can make an estimate based on neighboring states. In the neighboring state of Idaho, the average MFT salary is $60,280. And in Washington State, the average salary of MFTs is $60,010. 

Marriage and family therapy is a growing field and therapists can work in various settings, and salaries can vary based on the employer. MFTs work in mental health centers, hospitals, substance abuse treatment centers, nursing homes, residential care facilities, and as private practitioners. 

A career as a Marriage and Family Therapist can be gratifying. As an MFT in Montana, you can work in various settings and earn a decent salary while helping people live more fulfilling lives. You will be able to show people how creating healthier relationships can improve their mental health and overall enjoyment of life. Enroll in one of these MFT programs and start your path to becoming an MFT in Montana today!