Differences between Psychologists and Marriage and Family Therapists…Does it matter?

What is the difference between a Psychologist and a Marriage and Family Therapist?  Why does it matter?

I am always present in your care, creating competent, caring conversations for the change you would like to see. I help you build the life you want to live in.  You likely already know what part of your life needs a little loving kindness and care.  However, I am providing the following information so you can make a choice of whether you wish to work in individual psychotherapy with me as a Psychologist or in relationship therapy with me as a Marriage and Family Therapist.

First of all, Psychology and Marriage and Family Therapy are separate disciplines, each specializing in a certain type of work. Further, the licenses to practice are governed by two separate boards and two separate ethical standards. Psychologists are specialized in assessing and treating individual mental health and Marriage and Family Therapists are specialized in treating relationships.

A good analogy is that in building or repairing a house, people generally tend to hire specialists to complete specific work.  For example, you would hire an electrician for electrical work and a plumber for plumbing.  While each professional may know something of the other type of work and may have picked up some skills, they are specialized and highly qualified only in their own field. Though many of their standards of practice are the same, some are not. Psychology and Marriage and Family Therapy have a similar relationship. Each discipline focuses on a different aspect of your life and well-being.

A Psychologist’s training focuses on the diagnoses and treatment of mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, traumatic stress, chronic illness, and issues in adjustment.  According to the American Psychological Association:  Practicing psychologists have the professional training and clinical skills to help people learn to cope more effectively with life issues and mental health problems. Psychologists help by using a variety of techniques based on the best available research and consider someone’s unique values, characteristics, goals and circumstances…Most commonly, they use therapy (often referred to as psychotherapy or talk therapy). https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/about-psychologists

To be licensed as a Psychologist in AZ, you must have a doctorate in Psychology, have passed the national licensure examination and has had at least 3000 hours of supervised practice.  A Psychologist’s coursework includes classes in research, ethics and the cognitive, emotional, individual and social bases of behavior.  Clinical classes are focused on psychological assessment and interventions for the treatment of mental, emotional, psychological and behavioral disorders.  Psychologists adhere to the ethical practices that are provided by the American Psychological Association (APA). Through their training and professional practice, Psychologists gain an extensive understanding of many mental health problems and have the professional skills to assess, diagnose, and treat them effectively and successfully.

A Marriage and Family Therapist’s training focuses on analyzing and treating relationships. According to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists: The unique feature you will find during treatment with an MFT is the therapist will focus on understanding your symptoms…within interactions and relationships. The existing environment and context is given careful examination paying particular attention to the family system – as defined by you…While MFTs work with individuals, couples and families, they also have extensive training working with, and thinking about, problems in the context of our relationships. https://www.aamft.org/Consumer_Updates/MFT.aspx

An LMFT will usually have the equivalent of a master’s level degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, have passed the national licensure examination and has had at least 3200 hours of providing Relationship Therapy under supervision of an Approved Supervisor of Marriage and Family Therapy.  An LMFT’s coursework includes classes in research, ethics, marriage and family studies, and human development within family systems contexts.  Clinical classes are focused on marriage and family therapy treatment approaches. LMFTs adhere to the ethical practices that are provided by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT). Through their training and professional practice, LMFTs gain an extensive understanding of many relationship systems and have the professional skills to help relationships grow and resolve problems effectively and successfully.

Regardless of what type of work you need, I am happy to discuss my practices with you. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask them during your initial telephone consultation and/ or intake.



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