Frequently Asked Questions About Therapists


What is a Marriage and Family Therapist?

Marriage and family therapists are relationship specialists who treat persons involved in interpersonal relationships. They are trained to assess, diagnose, and treat individuals, couples, families and groups to help them achieve more adequate, satisfying and productive marriage, family and social adjustment. The practice also includes premarital counseling, child counseling, and divorce or separation counseling. Marriage and family therapists are psychotherapists and healing arts practitioners ¬†licensed by the State of California. Required for licensure are a related doctoral or two-year master’s degree, comprehensive written examinations and at least 3,000 hours of supervised experience.

Psychotherapy services of licensed marriage, family and child counselors are, in most instances, eligible for insurance reimbursement.

When is Referral to a Marriage and Family Therapist Appropriate?

Knowing when an individual, couple or family needs professional help with a problem or life transition is not always easy. Marriage and Family Therapists can help when people are exhibiting symptoms or conditions such as:

Emotional stress or anxiety Child behavior problems
Feelings of loneliness, isolation, depression, moodiness Unexplained fatigue
Sexual disturbances Unusual eating patterns
Unexplained injuries to family members Excessive alcohol or drug use
Family conflict or tension Divorce or separation
Difficulty coping with changing lifestyles Fear, anger or guilt
Grief or emotional pain. 

What are the Ethics of a Marriage and Family Therapist?

The Marriage and Family Therapist recognizes the limitations of his/her competence and techniques. The MFT assists clients in obtaining appropriate professional help for aspects of their problems that fall outside his/her individual training or expertise.

Safeguarding information about an individual or family client is a primary obligation of the MFT. Information is not communicated without client permission, except when there is a clear or immediate danger to an individual or society, as designated by law. In all other cases written permission shall be granted by clients before information may be divulged. The MFT is responsible for informing the client of the limits of confidentiality.

The Marriage and Family Therapist terminates or transfers a client when it is reasonably clear to the MFT that the client is not benefiting from their therapeutic relationship. Any sexual contact with a client or client’s spouse is unethical. It is also illegal and may be grounds for loss of license.

The MFT informs prospective clients about any aspects of the counseling situation which might affect the client’s decision to enter the relationship, such as the recording of an interview, use of interview material for training purposes, or observation of the interview by other persons.

How Does One Choose a Marriage & Family Therapist?

Choosing the right therapist is a personal process. Clients should be encouraged to shop, ask questions and listen to their feelings when making this decision. The best therapist will be the one who offers a client both professional expertise and personal warmth. He or she will demonstrate that they are involved in continuing education and are members of professional organizations, such as the Ventura County and California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists.

What is a MFT Registered Associate?

An MFT Registered Associate is a person who possesses a BBS approved Master’s degree and is registered with the Board of Behavioral Science (BBS) of the State of California. This registration permits the person to do counseling with clientswhile under the direct weekly supervision of a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Licensed Psychologist, or Board Certified Psychiatrist.

A Registered Associate is in the process of gaining 3000 hours of experience, which, when approved by the BBS and coupled with the Master’s degree training, will allow that person to sit for the MFT licensing exams. A Registered Associate is not a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist yet.

Registered Associates may work with clients to the level of their experience and within the scope of the MFT license. A Registered Associate will have a registration number that looks like this example: I.R.AB999999 (I.R. 2 letters followed by 6 digits).

MFT Registered Associates may not:

  • Be paid by the client. All monies must be paid to the employer whether and agency or a licensed practitioner. The Registered Associate receives wages, if any, only from the employer, not from the client.
  • Maintain an office separate from their employer, i.e.; must see clients and receive telephone calls at the same location as their employer does.
  • Advertise themselves without clearly indicating that they are working as an employee of a licensed practitioner or an approved agency.

A trainee is a person who is in the process of obtaining a Master’s degree and is a member of the State and local CAMFT organizations.