Therapy FAQ

What is an LMFT and Should You See One for Therapy?

Navigating marital strife or family discord? Consider the expertise of a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Discover their role, therapeutic techniques, and why consulting one could be your path to relational harmony and personal growth.

isbell oliva garcia grow therapy By Isbell Oliva-Garcia, LMHC

Updated on May 12, 2024

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The number of marriages ending in divorce continues to remain high, leaving many searching for answers. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that the national divorce rate in the U.S. is approximately 40%. The pain of marriage and family conflicts can be overwhelming, affecting your overall well-being.

An LMFT can help resolve conflicts and navigate complex relational difficulties. This post discusses what an LMFT is, the scope of their expertise, and why you should consider seeing one for therapy.

What Does LMFT Stand For?

LMFT is an acronym for Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists. These healthcare professionals specialize in the relational and interpersonal dynamics of marriages, couples, and families. LMFTs can also help in the following:

LMFT vs. LCSW

While LMFTs and Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) work to support individuals in their daily lives and overall wellness, they differ significantly. Their scope of work and educational qualifications vary.

Scope of Work

LMFTs focus on providing therapy to couples, marriages, and families. For instance, they concentrate on childhood counseling, premarital counseling, and separation and divorce counseling.

On the other hand, LCSWs don’t necessarily focus on marriage and family therapy. Instead, they provide counseling services to people suffering from emotional, mental, and behavioral issues. 

Education

LMFTs often have a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, counseling, or psychology from an accredited program. Comparatively, clinical social workers should have a master’s degree in social work from an accredited institution to be licensed.

Further, LMFT is a title given to those who have attained an MFT degree and have succeeded in their licensure exam.

What is Marriage and Family Therapy?

Couples and families may face challenges that might affect their thoughts and behavior. As a result, they may seek professional help — marriage and family therapy — to address these problems. The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) defines family therapy as a brief, solution-focused treatment focusing on attainable goals with an “end in mind.”

Marriage and family therapists (MFT) treat clinical issues like child-parent problems, marital and relationship problems, anxiety, and depression. Marriage and family therapy may also treat mood disorders, substance abuse, and chronic physical illnesses.

Goals of Marriage and Family Therapy

Family and couples therapy can be helpful to partners and family members to take steps toward addressing a variety of relational concerns. The primary goals of every marriage and family therapy include the following:

Improving Communication Skills

In most cases, conflicts between family members or couples arise due to poor communication. If one party cannot address their issues, a small problem may become more severe. Therapy aims at helping couples and family members voice their concerns about their relationships through treatment.

Effective communication skills give a chance for problem-solving, improving the relationship dynamics.

Strengthening Bonding Among Families and Relationships

Marriage and family therapy also aims at enhancing the bond in relationships and families. A marriage and family therapist can help to identify circumstance-specific options for how family members can bond with one another. 

Enhancing Mental Health

Marriage and family therapy also focuses on improving mental health. A therapist can help you identify stressors affecting your mental wellness and provide the best ways to address them. Additionally, a therapist can help families and couples establish mechanisms for coping with similar challenges whenever they arise.

Marriage and family therapy also aims at addressing issues such as:

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Techniques Used in Marriage and Family Therapy

The common psychotherapy techniques used in a marriage and family therapy session include the following:

Behavioral Techniques

Behavioral techniques — such as cognitive behavioral therapy — help family members and couples gain the skills necessary to address their concerns. Additionally, these techniques aim at reducing the relapse of conflicting issues by improving communication and problem-solving skills. For instance, a therapist may use modeling and role-playing to help partners and families resolve their communication issues.

Structural Techniques

Marriage and family therapists may use structural techniques to promote healthy boundaries and power dynamics among family members. The structural approach also helps therapists understand the role of family members and how each one views their role. As a result, a therapist can help to improve how the family functions.

Psychodynamic Techniques

Therapists may use a psychodynamic approach to understand the reactions of family members contributing toward the problems they are facing. Additionally, therapists may use this technique to understand existing fears and hopes that motivate partners. As a result, therapists can help partners and family members understand each other better.

LMFT Licensure

Knowing how to check a therapist’s license is crucial to getting the right one for your therapy.

One way of verifying a therapist’s licensure is by searching the MFT Licensing Boards. Licensing boards are tasked with verifying whether a marriage and family therapist has fulfilled the required measures for licensure. You can use the licensing board to check the status of your therapist — whether active, inactive, expired, or revoked.

If you’re working with an online therapist, take advantage of the in-app messaging tools to authenticate your therapist’s qualifications.

The following factors are also important when choosing a therapist:

Education

In each state, LMFTs are supposed to have a counseling, psychology, or marriage and family therapy master’s degree. Remember to check your state’s requirements to ensure the therapist has this qualification.

Supervised Clinical Experience

Before they are licensed, therapists must complete a certain number of supervised working hours. You can check with your state requirements and see if your prospective therapist has undergone supervised clinical experience.

Licensing Exams

Check if your LMFT has completed the MFT National Exam created and administered by the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards. Many states require passing this exam for an individual to operate as a licensed marriage and family therapist.

Issues an LFMT Can Help With

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists are trained to handle problems affecting marriage, family, and other relationships. Here are various reasons to go to therapy:

Stress, Anxiety, or Depression

If you struggle with issues that cause stress and anxiety in your family or marriage, a licensed marriage and family therapist can help you overcome them. 

Feeling Hopeless 

Feeling hopeless and unmotivated about the future may be symptomatic of a mental health concern like depression. An LMFT can help you navigate negative feelings and prevent related effects.

Conflicts 

If conflicts arise in your marriage or family, it’s time to see a licensed marriage and family therapist. They can help address conflicting issues and restore peace in your interpersonal relationships.

Deteriorated Communication 

Poor communication in marriage and family systems can result in various problems. If communication in your family or marriage has become problematic, it may be necessary to include a marriage and family therapy. 

Absence of Intimacy in Your Marriage 

Lack of intimacy in a marriage or relationship may signify the start of more problems. Often, it may be a sign of a lack of interest by one or both partners. An LMFT can help identify and address the root cause(s) of the lack of intimacy, and help pave a way forward.

Alcoholism 

If your partner or loved one struggles with alcoholism or other forms of substance abuse, a therapy session with an LMFT can help.

Traumatizing Events 

LMFTs also serve as mental health counselors and can assist you in overcoming relational trauma. For instance, they can help you navigate the loss of a loved one or domestic violence.

Why Should You See an LMFT for Therapy?

The following are reasons why you may consider seeing an LMFT for therapy:

Safe Place to Express Your Feelings

Marriage and family therapy helps you to cope with your emotional struggles. LMFTs provide a safe environment for expressing feelings and problems in a relationship. Additionally, LMFTs will help you work through conflicts and understand how your actions might affect others.

Improve Your Self-Esteem

Constant conflicts in marriages and family relationships may result in lowered self-esteem. A licensed marriage and family therapist can help you discover issues that affect your family or marriage, and in turn raise your self-esteem. 

Getting Through Life Transitions

Life transitions can be challenging, regardless of whether the change is positive or negative. Complex changes such as losing a loved one, divorce, or an empty nest can affect family and relationship dynamics. During this time, seeing an LMFT for therapy can be beneficial.  

Regain Trust

If you or your partner has lost trust in the relationship, an LMFT can be a useful option. An LMFT can help you work on what’s broken, work toward forgiveness, and restore trust.

How to Find the Right LMFT For You

Finding an LMFT who meets your needs can be overwhelming and time-consuming. Yet, it’s important to conduct due diligence to ensure you find the right match for you and your family. 

Here are several tips to help find a suitable LMFT for you:

Recommendations and Reputation

One way to find the right LMFT for therapy is to ask for recommendations from those in a similar situation. If you have a friend who’s faced a similar concern and seems to have progressed well, you might consider trying their therapist. 

Read online reviews to see what others say about them, and browse through their website to check their qualifications and clinical experience.  

Matching Values

LMFTs draw their views of family and marriage from different sources. Having an LMFT with similar core values to yourself is vital for therapeutic success.

Treatment Approach

An LMFT should have clear treatment plans to help you overcome your marital and family issues. So, before you choose one, ask them how they intend to proceed with the therapy. If you are not comfortable with their strategies, look for another.

Get an LMFT Today

An LMFT is valuable for addressing marriage and family conflicts and promoting healthier relationships. Understanding what an LMFT is and how they differ from other therapists can help in finding a suitable therapist for you and your family.

So, if you want to improve your marriage and family dynamics, a licensed marriage and family therapy can help. At Grow Therapy, we make connecting with a therapist easier by bringing them closer to you — online, at their offices, or in person.

Frequently Asked Questions

About the author
isbell oliva garcia grow therapy Isbell Oliva-Garcia, LMHC

Isbell Oliva-Garcia is a licensed mental health counselor, bilingual in English and Spanish. Isbell specializes in women's issues during difficult times of transition and also works with front-line individuals struggling with PTSD or stressors created by the job.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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