Marriage and family therapists (typically referred to as MFTs or family therapists) are recognized by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, as one of the five core mental health professions along with psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, clinical social workers and psychiatric nurse specialists. Marriage and family therapists are mental health professionals with a minimum of a master’s degree, two years’ supervised clinical experience and are licensed to independently diagnose and treat mental health and substance abuse problems.
MFTs treat individuals, couples and families. The unique feature you will find during treatment with an MFT is the therapist will focus on understanding your symptoms and diagnoses within interactions and relationships. The existing environment and context is given careful examination paying particular attention to the family system – as defined by you. MFTs treat predominantly individuals but always from the perspective that “relationships matter.”
Research has shown that family-based interventions are as effective—and in many cases more effective—than alternative interventions, often at a lower cost. Studies suggest that family therapy is a preferred method of treatment for depression, substance abuse, alcoholism, relational discord problems, and child/adolescent challenges including suicide and high risk behavior. Family therapy outcomes for severe mental illness include improved well-being, fewer medical illnesses, decreased medical care utilization, and increased self-efficacy.
Family-based interventions are also effective for persons with medical problems. Treatment outcomes show improvement in the identified patient, as well as in other family members. Family therapy is particularly effective with families who are providing care to elders and to a child with a chronic illness (e.g., asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, cancer).