September 24, 2008



Marital and Family Therapist Licensure


By: John Kasprak, Senior Attorney


You asked for information on the standards for licensure of marriage and family therapists around the country, with emphasis on a comparison of California’s and Connecticut’s requirements. (A previous OLR Report, 2008-R-0486, also provides information related to this report.)




While there is no clear consensus across the country on all aspects of licensure of marriage and family therapists (MFTs), there is a majority opinion on some issues. Forty-eight states currently license MFTs and all of them require a master’s degree for licensure.  Two-thirds (32) of these states require that the degree be from a Commission of Accreditation of Marriage and Family Therapy Education-accredited program.  Connecticut is one of these states; California is not.  


Thirty-eight states, including Connecticut, require individuals to pass the MFT national examination approved by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.   California requires passage of its own state exam.


As part of training required to become a licensed MFT, states require a certain amount of practicum time.  Again, this differs by state but generally ranges from 300 to 900 hours. The amount of direct client contact hours required for licensure also varies substantially from state to state, ranging generally  from 1,000 to 4,000 hours. 


state Regulation of marriage and Family therapists


Forty-eight states regulate the practice of marriage and family therapy and require practitioners to have a specific marriage and family therapy license.  (In Connecticut, the profession is known as marital and family therapist.)  Thirty-one states (including California) license marriage and family therapists (MFTs) through an umbrella board three states license MFTs through a state agency (Connecticut is one of these), one state licenses them through a licensing agency, and 13 states have stand alone MFT boards. An “umbrella board” refers to a board that licenses MFTs along with other professions, such as social workers, psychologists, or counselors.  There is no clear consensus on the structure of these boards or requirements for licensure (see Special Report: Marriage and Family Therapy, Audit Overview, West Virginia Legislative Auditor, Performance Evaluation and Research Division, August 2008;


In 2007, there were a total of over 51.000 licensed MFTs in the United States.  These ranged from a high of over 29,000 in California to a low of seven in Delaware.


Educational And Training Requirements For Licensure


Master’s Degree


The American Association For Marriage And Family Therapy (AAMFT) has established the Commission of Accreditation of Marriage And Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE).  The COAMFTE is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the accrediting agency for training programs in marriage and family therapy at the master’s, doctoral, and post-graduate levels. 


All 48 states that license MFTs require a Master’s degree for licensure.  Thirty-two of these states, including Connecticut, require the degree to be from COAMFTE- accredited program (CGS § 20-195c(a); DPH Regs. § 20-195a-2, attached).  California does not; it requires a Master’s degree in marriage and family therapy or its equivalent, such as marital, family, and child counseling; psychology; clinical psychology; counseling psychology; or counseling with an emphasis in either marital, family and child counseling, or marital and family therapy. According to the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH), California allows for but does not require, licensure based on graduation from a regionally accredited program.


 Pre-Graduate Practicum


Practicum time is also required throughout the nation as part of the training program to become a licensed MFT.  The amount of hours spent in practicum differs from state to state, ranging from 300 to 900 hours.  Connecticut requires a supervised practicum/internship (pre-graduation) of at least 500 hours of face-to-face client contact that includes 100 hours of clinical supervision (CGS § 20-195c (a)).


California requires a supervised practicum that includes 150 hours of face-to-face counseling experience.


Post-Graduate Experience-Direct Client Contact Hours


The number of direct client contact hours required for licensure also varies from state to state.  Some require as many as 4,000 hours (Kansas and Utah), while others range from 1,000 to 2,000 hours.  Connecticut requires a minimum of 12 months of post-graduate experience offering marital and family therapy services, including 1,000 hours of direct client contact and 100 hours of post-graduate clinical supervision provided by a licensed MFT.


California requires a minimum of 1,700 hours of supervised post-graduate experience, including an average of one hour of supervision for every 10 hours of client contact.  In comparing California’s requirements to Connecticut’s, DPH notes that in California, supervision may be provided by licensed social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists in addition to licensed MFTs.


licensure examination


All 48 states require individuals to pass an exam for licensure as MFTs.  Thirty-eight states, including Connecticut, require that this exam be the MFT National Exam approved by the AAMFT.  Seven other states, including California, create and administer their own exams. California requires the California Board of Behavioral Sciences Marriage and Family Therapist Standard Written Examination.  It has two parts -- a standard written exam and a written clinical vignette exam. Two states, according to the West Virginia survey, did not specify which exam they used, while North Dakota has not yet determined the exam it will use. 


The Connecticut DPH stated that it was unable to conduct a review to determine the equivalence of the California and Connecticut examinations. 


Table 1 provides recent California MFT exam statistics.


Examination Statistics for California MFTs (2005-2007)


MFT Standard Written Examination


Examination Date

Total Examinees

1st Time Takers

2nd Time Takers

3rd Time Takers

4th+ Time Takers


1/1/05 - 6/30/05

874 Part.
371 Passed

601 Part.
334 Passed

112 Part.
32 Passed

54 Part.
4 Passed

107 Part.
1 Passed

7/1/05 - 12/31/05

947 Part.
580 Passed

604 Part.
446 Passed

178 Part.
104 Passed

52 Part.
17 Passed

113 Part.
13 Passed

1/1/06 - 6/30/06

1173 Part.
801 Passed

707 Part.
574 Passed

230 Part.
154 Passed

82 Part.
41 Passed

154 Part.
32 Passed

7/1/06 - 12/31/06

1018 Part.
630 Passed

685 Part.
521 Passed

143 Part.
63 Passed

70 Part.
26 Passed

120 Part.
20 Passed

1/1/07 - 6/30/07

1046 Part.
591 Passed

700 Part.
507 Passed

131 Part.
54 Passed

73 Part.
13 Passed

142 Part.
17 Passed

7/1/07 - 12/31/07

1108 Part.
689 Passed

756 Part.
582 Passed

157 Part.
69 Passed

70 Part.
17 Passed

125 Part.
21 Passed

(Part. = Participants)


MFT Written Clinical Vignette Examination


Examination Date

Total Examinees

1st Time Takers

2nd Time Takers

3rd Time Takers

4th+ Time Takers

1/1/05 - 6/30/05

1289 Part.
678 Passed

781 Part.
409 Passed

487 Part.
260 Passed

21 Part.
9 Passed

0 Part.
0 Passed

7/1/05 - 12/31/05

932 Part.
553 Passed

554 Part.
355 Passed

263 Part.
130 Passed

115 Part.
61 Passed

10 Part.
7 Passed

1/1/06 - 6/30/06

1,304 Part.
683 Passed

711 Part.
445 Passed

353 Part.
150 Passed

197 Part.
72 Passed

43 Part.
16 Passed

7/1/06 - 12/31/06

971 Part.
793 Passed

612 Part.
521 Passed

207 Part.
164 Passed

95 Part.
67 Passed

57 Part.
41 Passed

1/1/07 - 6/30/07

1020 Part.
525 Passed

576 Part.
349 Passed

180 Part.
85 Passed

149 Part.
55 Passed

115 Part.
36 Passed

7/1/07 - 12/31/07

932 Part.
568 Passed

644 Part.
45 Passed

168 Part.
91 Passed

58 Part.
17 Passed

62 Part.
25 Passed

(Part. = Participants)

Source: California Board of Behavioral Sciences