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Marriage and Family Therapist License Requirements in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania marriage and family therapists are licensed by the State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors.

There is one level of licensure, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, or LMFT. In order to become an LMFT, a person needs a degree at the master’s level or higher. One must work for at least two years under supervision and then take a board examination. At this point, the LMFT candidate is qualified for independent practice.

Regulations have changed and become somewhat more stringent in recent years. Candidates should make sure they have the current regulations and licensing applications.

Capella University, offers one of only two online Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) - accredited master's programs in Marriage and Family Therapy. This program prepares you for MFT state license eligibility. Click here to contact Capella University and request information about their program.

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MFT Education in Pennsylvania

An LMFT will need a graduate degree that includes at least 60 semester hours of coursework. It should be in marriage and family therapy. A degree in a related field may be accepted if extra courses were taken to meet content requirements. A degree of 48 to 59 semester hours may also be accepted if the deficit was made up through extra coursework.

The applicant will need to demonstrate that he has met the following content requirements:

  • Human development: 9 semester hours
  • Marriage and family studies: 9 semester hours
  • Marriage and family therapy: 9 semester hours
  • Research: 3 semester hours
  • Professional studies: 3 semester hours

There must be a minimum of one year or three semesters of practicum. The practicum is to include at least 300 hours of experience.


Supervised Practice: Master’s Graduates

A candidate with a master’s degree must work under supervision for a period of at least two years. The candidate may take up to six years to fulfill the requirement. At least 3,000 hours of total work experience will be required, all of it post-graduate.

The candidate may accrue 500 to 1,800 hours a year. The candidate will need to work at the same setting for at least three to six months in order to count the hours. (If the candidate works at least 30 hours a week, the candidate can count a three-month stint. The candidate can count a six-month stint with as little as 15 hours a week.)

At least 1,500 total hours must be direct service work. This includes therapy, assessment, consultation, and psychoeducation when used as a systems intervention. Therapy carried out with individuals can be applied toward the direct service requirement.

A variety of activities can be counted toward the remaining hours, for example, record keeping and advocacy. Pennsylvania does not allow administrative duties to be counted as experience, however. For example, one can't count time spent figuring budgets.

The MFT candidate may have one or more supervisors during this time. 1,500 hours must be under the supervision of an individual who has been approved by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) to act in this capacity (or is working toward such certification). The other hours may be supervised by a professional who is licensed in marriage and family or a related field and has at least five years of recent experience.

The candidate will need at least 150 hours of direct supervision during this time. Up to half the required hours can be group supervision; the rest must be individual. In most cases, group supervision can involve no more than six supervisees. A prospective MFT is to meet with a supervisor for at least two hours during every 40 hour period that the candidate works.

In the case of supervision that took place before 2010, the requirements for primary supervisor are slightly less stringent. Supervision would still need to be carried out by an experienced professional with training in MFT supervision.

Supervised Experience: Doctoral Graduates

If a graduate has a doctoral degree, only 2,400 hours of supervised experience will be required. At least half of the required hours must be post-doctoral.


The Application Process

A candidate will apply to the Board when the candidate has finished the supervision hours but still needs to take the exam. Official transcripts will be required, as will records of supervision. The candidate will need to provide two letters of reference and a curriculum vitae detailing their activities since degree conferral.

There is a $45 nonrefundable fee for candidates applying for license by examination. Forms are available on the Board site (http://www.portal.state.pa.us/marriage_and_family_therapists_and_professional_counselors/).


MFT License Examination

The Pennsylvania Board will send examination details after approving the application. The candidate will be able to register with Professional Examination Service (PES) at that time. Later the candidate will schedule the exam at a Prometric center. The candidate should be prepared to pay a total of $295 in testing fees.

Candidates should be aware that the exam is not offered on an ongoing basis; exams are scheduled during four months out of the year. A list of upcoming testing cycles is found on the site of the Association for Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (http://www.amftrb.org/examdate.cfm). It will be necessary to register at least a week before the start of a testing window.

A candidate bulletin and sample questions are available through the AMFTRB as well.


License by Endorsement

Out-of-state marriage and family therapists may be licensed without examination if they meet basic requirements and have been in active practice for at least five out of the prior seven years. Endorsement candidates must demonstrate that they have met Pennsylvania's degree and coursework requirements and have 3,000 hours of supervised experience. (Documentation of supervised experience can typically be provided by the licensing agency.)

The LMFT will need to provide documentation from all states where the LMFT is licensed or has held licensing in the past; the purpose is to verify whether the LMFT was in good standing. The candidate should be aware that a letter of good standing is only valid for six months. If an application is left open for an extended time, the LMFT may need to update or resubmit materials they have already submitted.

Endorsement candidates pay the same fee as those applying by examination: $45.


Additional Information and Contacts

State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors (http://www.dos.state.pa.us/marriage_and_family_therapists_and_professional_counselors/12524).

The State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors can be reached by telephone at 717-783-1389.

The Pennsylvania Association for Marriage and Family Therapy is the state division of the AAMFT and serves as an additional professional resource (http://pamft.com).

Marriage and Family Therapist Programs in Pennsylvania

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