MFT License Requirements in the District of Columbia

District of Columbia marriage and family therapists are licensed by the D.C. Board of Marriage and Family Therapy; licensing information is found on the site of the Department of Health, or DOH.

There is one level of credentialing, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). Licensure is dependent on education, examination, and supervised practice. An unlicensed graduate may practice under supervision provided she is in compliance with section 7712 of the municipal code (and with any additional rules set by the Board).

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Required Education for MFTs in D.C.

Candidates must have a total of at least 60 semester credits of graduate coursework. They may fulfill requirements by enrolling in a master’s program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). Other programs of study are acceptable if they are found to be substantially equivalent.

Degrees in allied fields are also license qualifying provided the graduate does additional coursework to establish equivalency. The Board defines allied fields as mental health disciplines such as psychology, psychiatry, social work, and professional counseling.

The candidate must have 39 semester hours of coursework in the areas outlined below. The program must include six semester hours, or the equivalent, of family studies. This content area has two components:

  • the theoretical foundations and contemporary direction of the discipline
  • MFT preventative measures

There must be three semester hours of family systems; course material should cover nontraditional, blended, and transitioning families as well as a range of presenting issues.

There must be nine semester hours of human development; courses should develop knowledge of individual development, couple and family life cycle development, and human sexuality, as well as substance abuse and violence within relational contexts.

Marriage and family therapy is another nine semester hour requirement. There are two required components:

  • interviewing, assessment, and intervention techniques
  • major models of practice.

There must be six semester hours in mental health and psychological issues. Content is to include psychopathology, diagnostic assessment, and psychotropic medication. The purpose of course material in the third area is to prepare therapists to make referrals, work cooperatively with other professionals, and effectively carry out case management.

There is a three semester hour research requirement. Research coursework should include research methodologies as well as application of MFT research to professional practice. Professional studies is another three semester hour requirement. Coursework should cover ethics and legalities, professional identity, and professional responsibility within a larger societal context.

A description of the expected content in each required area is found in the DC Municipal Regulations.

MFT Supervised Practice Requirements in D.C.

The graduate will need to work under supervision for at least two years. She will need to accrue a minimum 1,500 hours of clinical practice; a 50 minute session may be counted as a clinical hour.

It is expected that the candidate will accrue the required hours within five years of the time that she completes her educational requirements. The Board may grant an exception for extenuating circumstances (wartime deployment, death in the family, or prolonged illness on the part of the graduate or a close family member).

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The candidate will need a clinical supervisor who has been approved by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. She must have at least 300 hours of supervision. At least 150 of these hours must be individual; individual supervision may include observations and supervisory meetings where there is one other supervisee in attendance. The remaining hours may be earned in group supervision sessions with up to five supervisees.

At the end of the supervisory period, the supervisor will confirm the hours and state whether she believes the candidate is qualified to practice as an LMFT. If the answer is no, the Board will ask for an explanation of the issues and how they may be corrected. A first-time applicant is allowed to practice under supervision while her application is pending. General supervision is adequate at this stage, but must be provided by an LMFT or by a professional approved by the AAMFT or the DC Board.

Criminal Background Check

A candidate will need to have criminal background checks performed by the FBI and the Metropolitan Police Department. She will schedule an appointment with L-1 by visiting the website or calling (877) 783-4187 ( Appointments are scheduled seven days a week.

In most cases, fingerprinting is done via electronic methods. There are L-1 sites in Maryland and Virginia as well as in DC. Some other states have them as well. Candidates who are outside the L-1 service area may opt to have their fingerprints made on traditional cards and then scanned. These candidates should arrange to have their fingerprints processed by L-1.

National Board Examination

The candidate will need to pass the Examination in Marital and Family Therapy. DC will send examination information after determining eligibility. A candidate handbook is available on the site of the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards ( The candidate may also view sample questions. However, she must not attempt to register until such time as she has been approved by DC. The candidate will pay $295 in examination fees. She will remit $220 to Professional Examination Service upon registration; $75 will be due to Prometric later. The exam is offered during four 28-day windows each year.

The Application Process

Application materials can be downloaded from the DOH site. The applicant must provide two passport-sized, front-side photos as well as a copy of a driver’s license or other ID.

The application should be sent with a combined $262 application and licensing fee; all but $85 is refundable in the event that licensure is denied or the candidate decides to close the application.

The DOH prefers that official transcripts be included in the original application package in sealed envelopes. If all required materials are not received within 90 days, the application will be closed. A candidate who fails an examination attempt will need to reapply; this time, the fee will be $85.

Out-of-State and International LMFTs

An LMFT who holds a current credential in the U.S. or Canada may be licensed by endorsement provided the other jurisdiction has substantially equivalent licensing standards. The Department notes that, with regard to applicants who have taken only state constructed licensing exams, decisions are made on a case by case basis.

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An internationally educated candidate may also be eligible for licensure. She will need to have her credentials professionally evaluated. If documents are in a language other than English, they must be professionally translated; the translator will need to attest to their accuracy.

Additional Information

D.C. Department of Health, or DOH (

The DOH Health Professional Licensing Administration may be contacted at (202) 442-5955; the phone is answered between 8:15 and 4:45.

The Middle Atlantic Division of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy is an additional resource. The website includes information about the licensing process in DC.

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