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Marriage and Family Therapist Requirements in Washington

Washington marriage and family therapists are licensed by the Washington State Department of Health, often abbreviated DOH.

There are two licensure levels. A professional becomes eligible for credentialing as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate after they completes a graduate program. The candidate becomes eligible for credentialing as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist after completing two years of post-graduate practice and passing a national board examination.

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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LMFTA/LMFT Requirements: Education

Educational requirements can be met in either of two ways. A student can enroll in a master’s or doctoral program in marriage and family therapy through a nationally or regionally accredited institution. If the student already has a master’s in a mental health field, the student can take additional coursework to establish equivalency.

The following are the minimum requirements in the nine essential content areas:

  • Marital and family systems (6 semester hours)
  • Marital and family therapy (6 semester hours)
  • Individual development (2 semester hours)
  • Psychopathology (2 semester hours)
  • Human sexuality (2 semester hours)
  • Research methods (3 semester hours)
  • Professional ethics and law (3 semester hours)
  • Elective (2 semester hours)
  • Supervised practice

The student will need to take additional classes in some areas to meet credit hour requirements. He must have a total of at least 45 semester hours in the nine required content areas. At least 27 must be drawn from the following: marital and family systems, marital and family therapy, psychopathology, human sexuality, research, and individual development.

Nine semester hours of practicum or internship may be applied to the 45 credit requirement. Although recent graduates are required to have supervised experience as part of their academic requirement, those who graduated before 1997 may substitute post-graduate practice.

Although Washington does not require marriage and family therapists to do their coursework through COAMFTE-accredited programs, those who hold COAMFTE-accredited master’s degrees will have a slightly reduced post-graduate supervised practice requirement.

AIDS Training

In addition to the required academic coursework, four hours of AIDS training is mandated. This may be part of the school curriculum or separate.


LMFT Requirement: Supervised Practice

The associate must practice under supervision for at least two calendar years. During this time, the associate must accrue at least 3,000 hours of total work experience. At least 1,000 client contact hours will be required; a minimum of 500 must be spent providing therapy and diagnosis to couples and families.

An associate may have one or more supervisors monitoring their practice. The associate will need at least 200 hours of direct supervision during his time as an LMFTA. At least 100 hours of direct clinical supervision must be provided by a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who meets the Board’s experience requirements. The other 100 may be provided by another qualified professional. A supervision verification form is included in the LMFTA application form.

Graduates of COAMFTE-accredited programs will be considered to have earned 500 client contact hours and 100 supervision hours.

An associate will need to renew their license annually. The associate is allowed up to four renewals to meet experience and supervision requirements.


LMFT Requirement: Examination

The required exam is the National Examination in Marital and Family Therapy, developed by the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB) in cooperation with Professional Examination Service (PES).

There are four testing windows during the year. Dates for the current year and the following year can be found on the AMFTRB site (http://www.amftrb.org/exam.cfm).

Board permission is required for registration; candidates should submit their request for testing 45 days before a testing window commences. They will receive registration information upon approval. PES requires candidates to register a week before the testing window. Candidates should expect to pay $220 upon registration and $75 upon scheduling.

DOH will receive test scores approximately six to eight weeks after testing.


The Application Process

Application packets are available in Adobe form on the DOH site (http://www.doh.wa.gov/MarriageandFamilyTherapist/ApplicationsandForms.aspx) The candidate will need to attest to having read certain portions of the Washington code – links are found in the Adobe document.

The personal data questions assess professional, legal, and health issues. A candidate who has physical or mental conditions which could impair practice may be required to have an evaluation at their own expense; this would determine if conditions or restrictions were required.

Transcripts are to be sent directly from the school. In some cases, syllabi will be necessary to determine course content for equivalency. The application packet includes a course content worksheet, but graduates of COAMFTE-accredited programs will not need to fill it out.

An LMFTA applicant pays a $50 application fee and $40 for each subsequent renewal. An LMFT candidate pays a combined application and initial licensure fee of $241 (http://www.doh.wa.gov/MarriageandFamilyTherapist/Fees.aspx).

There are two different post office box addresses for application materials; an applicant will select one based on whether the particular correspondence includes fee payments.

Credentialing supervisors approve standard applications. Nonstandard applications (for example, those with ‘yes’ answers on personal data questions) must go through an exception application process.

Application status may be monitored online (http://www.doh.wa.gov/ApplicationStatus.aspx). Applications are reviewed in the order that applications arrive and checks clear. A quick check of the site will review which week DOH is currently processing. Various factors can affect how long an application takes. If there are missing documents, the candidate can expect notification.

LMFTs who are spouses or registered domestic partners of military personnel can expect expedited processing of application materials. They will need to provide evidence of military orders as well as marriage, registration, or declaration.

Criminal History Checks

Washington uses a state database to evaluate in-state candidates for possible criminal history. In-state candidates are not required to have a fingerprint-based check unless the in-state check indicates issues.

Out of-state candidates must have a national fingerprint-based criminal background check. There is a $32.50 fee for the national CBC.

Candidates will be issued a fingerprint card by Washington DOH; they may have the fingerprints made at whatever law enforcement agency is most convenient.


Out-of-State Marriage and Family Therapists

An out-of-state LMFT may be endorsed into Washington if they have met similar requirements in another jurisdiction. The out-of-state LMFT candidate will need to provide a license verification form to each state where they have held licensing. The verification form asks whether the license was issued on the basis of having passed the AMFTRB exam and having completed comparable experience and supervision requirements.

A therapist who earned their degree before 1997 will not be required to provide evidence of practicum if they have, in addition to the two years of required post-graduate supervised practice, three years of MFT practice.


Additional Information and Contacts

Washington State Department of Health, often abbreviated DOH (http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/MarriageandFamilyTherapist.aspx).

The licensing agency may be contacted by phone at 360-236-4700.

Candidates may wish to join a ListServ to stay apprised of meetings and rules (http://listserv.wa.gov/cgi-bin/wa?A0=LICENSED-COUNSELORS).

The Washington Association for Marriage and Family Therapy serves as an additional resource for MFT professionals (http://www.wamft.org/ohana/website/index.cfm?).

MFT Programs in Washington State

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