MFT Programs in Tennessee

Anna Harris

Written by Anna Harris

Marketing Manager | M.Ed in CMHC – William & Mary

LMFT Candidate | Updated & Fact Checked: 3/1/2024

Tennessee might be known for moon pies, country music, and barbecue, but it is also a state with marriage and family therapy programs that offer hands-on training for students hoping to pursue their license as an MFT. Whether you’re hoping to obtain your license here, attend a Tennessee university for MFT, or both, let’s take a look at what to expect from the marital and family counseling programs in Tennessee and what is required for licensure here. 

Accredited MFT Programs in Tennessee

One of the most well-known accrediting agencies for clinical mental health counseling programs is the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). This agency more broadly examines programs in mental health, not specifically for marriage and family therapy programs. However, CACREP does accredit MFT programs. For students interested in CACREP-accredited programs, there are two in Tennessee. 

Belmont University:

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

Belmont’s CACREP-accredited program combines scientific techniques and best practices in counseling with Christian perspectives. Students can follow one of three tracks, including the marriage, couple, and family counseling track. Regardless of which you choose, the program takes 60 semester hours to complete. Coursework focuses on Christian ethics, faith-based perspectives on human suffering, and counseling and psychotherapy techniques.

Trevecca Nazarene University:

M.M.F.C./T. in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling

Students of Trevecca’s marriage, couple, and family counseling program have the benefit of the university’s reputation in the state mixed with small class sizes and a cohort model that groups students into supportive student communities within the program to learn and grow together. The 60-hour program includes required practicum hours, which can be completed at one of many clinics and agencies that partner with Trevecca.

COAMFTE Accredited Tennessee MFT Programs

CACREP is not the only agency that accredits MFT programs. The Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy (COAMFTE) is an accrediting agency that specifically deals with marriage and family therapy programs. COAMFTE examines MFT programs to make sure they match the standards for a program that will produce thoughtful and prepared MFT therapists. Tennessee has two COAMFTE-accredited programs.

Lee University – The marriage and family therapy graduate program is designed to prepare students for licensure as an LMFT working as a competent clinician from a holistic, systemic, and contextual perspective in education and clinical practice. The program utilizes a spiritual framework in MFT counseling. The program is typically completed in two years for students enrolled full-time and the curriculum is accredited by COAMFTE. It is preferred that students applying for this program have an undergraduate degree in the social sciences. The Master of Science degree incorporates academic research as a part of their curriculum and encourages student involvement in research processes.
NameCityStateDegree LevelAccreditationGRE Required?Full Program NameURL
The University of TennesseeKnoxville, TNMastersCOAMFTEN/AMaster in Family Therapy (M.F.T.) or Master in Marriage and Family Therapy (M.M.F.T.Learn More
Lee University (MS)ClevelandTNMastersCOAMFTENoM.S. in Marriage & Family TherapyLearn More
Lipscomb University (MMFT)NashvilleTNMastersCOAMFTEYesMaster of Family Therapy Learn More

Lipscomb University:

Master of Marriage and Family Therapy

With a campus in the heart of Nashville, Lipscomb University offers students a Master of Marriage and Family Therapy that takes 60 credit hours and two years to complete. With training founded in a Christian worldview, the program teaches students the fundamentals of marriage and family therapy and requires 300 hours of clinical training. Students are put into cohort groups in which they will learn and grow together throughout the program. On top of the clinical hour requirements, students will write a Theory of Change paper by the end of the program. The capstone project integrates all of the information learned in the program.

No GRE Required MFT Programs in Tennessee

For students uncomfortable with the idea of taking the GRE standardized test, it may not be a concern. More and more universities are deciding to make the submission of GRE scores for admission optional. For those hoping to avoid the test, here is a list of Tennessee programs that do not require applicants to take the GRE:

University NameCityStateDegree LevelModalityAccreditationProgram NameProgram URL
Belmont UniversityNashvilleTNM.A.CampusCACREPM.A. in Marriage, Couple, and Family CounselingClick Here
Lee UniversityClevelandTNM.S.CampusCOAMFTEM.S. in Marriage and Family TherapyClick Here

What will you learn in a Tennessee MFT program?

In Tennessee, to qualify for MFT licensure, you must complete a minimum of 45 semester hours over two years (if studying full-time) in courses with content areas required by the Marriage and Family Therapy License Board. 

Coursework must include three classes each in personal and human development, marriage and family therapy, and marriage and family studies. Students must also take one course in research and another course in ethics. 

To satisfy the academic and educational requirements for licensure, your program will also need to include at least 300 hours of clinical practice in a practicum or internship. This supervised practice requires hands-on work in treatment, diagnosis, and problem assessment based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). 

How to Become an LMFT in Tennessee

As we already mentioned, to become a licensed marriage and family therapist in Tennessee, you need the right education. There is no specific accrediting group that university training programs need to be approved by. Still, it should have the minimum requirements listed in the last section, including the credit hours in specific coursework and supervised practicum hours in a placement approved by your program.

The next step after graduation is gaining your post-graduation clinical practice hours. During this time, you will be gaining experience as a resident in training, which can look a bit different depending on what state you are in. In Tennessee, that means you will bare the title “intern” or “trainee” and gain practical experience in a clinic with an approved supervisor. During this time as a post-graduate intern/trainee, you will need a temporary license that gives you permission to work as a trainee therapist. In total, you will need to accrue 1,000 hours of clinical training with 200 of those hours in direct supervision. Once you get your temporary license, you will have three years to complete these hours. After these three years, you cannot renew this license.

Next, you will need to complete two exams. The first exam is the National Examination in Marital and Family Therapy, which requires approval to take from the Board of Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marital and Family Therapists and Licensed Pastoral Therapists. You can get this approval by submitting your application for a temporary license. After you get this temporary license, you have nine months to attempt the exam. If you fail, you can keep your license, but you need to pass within two years. 

The exam is four times a year, and you should register at least a week before the start of the testing window, which lasts about four weeks. It costs $220 initially and then another $75 to take the exam.

Once you have finished your supervised practice and applied for your permanent license, you can take the state oral exam, the cost of which is included in your application for permanent licensure. 

The final step before finishing your application for permanent licensure is taking a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and FBI background check, which is required for all LMFT candidates. 

To apply for your permanent license, you will need a number of items, including letters of reference from two sources, proof of citizenship, transcripts, and other supporting documents as needed. You’ll also be expected to complete the state’s practice profile, which is online information that is mandatory to provide to the public about your licensure, training, participation in managed care plans, any disciplinary action you face, and malpractice settlements above $10,000.

Once your application is submitted with all required documentation, tests, and background checks, the actual decision time will depend on when the documents are received. Your application should arrive within at least 30 days of the next board meeting to be considered for that round of applications. 

What does an LMFT in Tennessee do?

A licensed marriage and family therapist’s work places heavy emphasis on relationships. While LMFTs may deal with many of the same or similar issues as licensed mental health counselors, LMFTs work specifically with families, couples, and individuals from a family systems perspective. LMFTs work with clients to heal and grow their interpersonal relationships, often through intrapersonal exploration. Therapists also work to remove barriers to clients’ well-being, particularly through connecting clients with other resources or helping clients in areas where systemic blocks may hinder clients’ growth. 

Tennessee LMFT Career and Salary Opportunities

The marriage and family therapy field is projected to grow between now and the next 10 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, the field is expected to grow 16 percent from now to 2030 nationwide. Increased awareness of mental health, greater access to services because of telehealth, and greater demand for services all contribute to this thriving industry. In Tennessee specifically, 1,340 LMFTs call the state home, making it a great example of the growth in the MFT industry. As far as yearly salaries go, the national average for licensed marriage and family counselors was $59,660 as of May 2021. The Tennessee average yearly salary for that same year was a bit lower at $43,560. 

All Marriage and Family Therapy Programs in Tennessee

Tennessee has a few different MFT programs, including both on-campus and online offerings. Review the following list for a complete overview of all the MFT programs that are available in the state.
NameCityStateDegree LevelAccreditationGRE Required?Full Program NameURL
The University of MemphisMemphis, TNMastersCACREPN/AMarriage, Couple, and Family CounselingLearn More
The University of TennesseeKnoxville, TNMastersCOAMFTEN/AMaster in Family Therapy (M.F.T.) or Master in Marriage and Family Therapy (M.M.F.T.Learn More
Belmont UniversityNashvilleTNM.A.CACREPNoM.A in Marriage, Couple and Family CounselingLearn More
Lee University (MS)ClevelandTNMastersCOAMFTENoM.S. in Marriage & Family TherapyLearn More
Trevecca Nazarene UniversityNashvilleTNM.M.F.C./T.CACREPYesM.M.F.C./T. in Marriage, Couple and Family CounselingLearn More
Lipscomb University (MMFT)NashvilleTNMastersCOAMFTEYesMaster of Family TherapyLearn More

The University of Memphis – This program will begin accepting applications in the Fall of 2025 and is currently seeking accreditation by CACREP which will enable students to be prepared for licensure as an LMFT upon graduation. Students will also be encouraged to be involved in cutting-edge research run by faculty and senior students over a variety of topics relevant to mental health treatment. Students will be trained and evaluated in academic coursework, clinical competence, and research-informed competence. The curriculum consists of 60 credit hours and will take approximately two and a half to three years to complete with a 9-credit-hour requirement for clinical practicum training.

Tennessee MFT Resources

Here are a few links to relevant resources mentioned throughout this article for students who are interested in exploring more about the options for MFT programs in Tennessee.

Additional Resources:

Belmont University: M.A. in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling

Trevecca Nazarene University: M.M.F.C./T. in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling

Lipscomb University: Master of Marriage and Family Therapy