A marriage and family therapist (MFT) works primarily with individuals, couples, families, and groups from a systemic perspective, one that requires expertise in interpersonal relationships, interaction dynamics, system theory and thinking, and special conceptualization and procedures that are distinct from individually oriented therapies. Marriage and family therapy is conducted from a systemic perspective regardless of how many clients attend therapy or the particular training degree of the therapist. This definition distinguishes marriage and family therapy from non-systemic therapy with couples or families.
Marriage and family therapy focuses on solving problems in relationships - between couples, parents and children, siblings, in-laws, grandparents and the rest of the extended family. The therapy works to improve the relationships between people and increase understanding of family roles, patterns, rules, goals and stages of development. The professional marriage and family therapist is trained to strengthen relationships, and thereby prevent problems from arising as well as increase the quality of marriage and family life and other relationships.
Marriage and family therapists are there to help with any kind of relationship that exists between individuals. This includes premarital, divorce, remarriage, blended families, parenting, and school related concerns. We also take a systems approach to substance abuse problems.
Problems such as parent-child conflicts require working with the entire family unit. As parents change kids develop. Parenting is a learned skilled. The goal of parenting is to work yourself out of a job and raise an emotionally self-reliant individual who has an interest in others. Children are frequently a focal point for a divorced or divorcing couple. We want to ensure that the couple does not use the children as a “weapon” to defeat or punish a former spouse.
Marriage and family therapy differs from individual or group therapy in that it focuses primarily on solving problems in relationships between people. We believe that an individual's problems including aches and pains, not sleeping, and other disturbances often reflect a troubled relationship. For example, a person may become depressed within a painful marital situation. A child may become overly anxious due to an excessive amount of external control. Generally, marriage and family therapy works to improve relationships between people, and increase understanding of self, others, patterns, goals, and stages of development. In contrast, traditional therapists most often focus on an individual’s personal problems due to internal feelings or past events through insight and reflection.
The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) is the professional organization representing more than 14,500 qualified marriage and family therapist in the United States, Canada, and abroad. AAMFT Clinical members are trained in diagnosis and treatment and are knowledgeable in such areas as human growth and development, behavioral patterns, marriage and family interactions, divorce, sexual dysfunction, parent-child relationships, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, alcohol and substance abuse, perfectionism, and the dynamics of family systems. They are trained to use a variety of therapeutic methods and processes.