MFT License Requirements in Iowa

The Board of Behavioral Science regulates Iowa’s marriage and family therapists. Permanent licensure as an LMFT requires a master’s or doctoral degree, passing scores on national licensing exam, and a period of supervised work experience. Graduates are issued temporary licenses which allow them to complete their supervise practice requirement.

Although the basics are similar to those in other states, some requirements have gotten more stringent in recent years. However, not all requirements apply to those who did their education in the past. Candidates who apply on the basis of endorsement will be held to varying standards depending on when they were educated.

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MFT Education Requirements for LMFT in Iowa

There is more than one path to becoming a marriage and family therapist in Iowa, but the most direct and sure way is to do a graduate program in MFT that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education. Candidates who graduated from other marriage and family therapy programs will need to have their education professionally evaluated for equivalency.

In order to be deemed equivalent, the program must include at least 9 semester hours in theoretical foundations. Courses in this content area include concepts like the following: the family life cycle, families under stress, and sociology of the family.

Another 9 semester hours must be in MFT assessment and treatment. Another nine will be in human development. At least one of the courses under the human development banner will be psychopathology. Other concepts could be personality development and human sexuality.

There must be at least three semester hours each in professional studies and ethics and in research.

Additionally, there must be a practicum of a minimum 300 hours.

If the program does not have COAMFTE accreditation, there must still be appropriate accreditation at the school level. Programs are to be 60 semester hours long (at least in the case of applicants who entered programs in July of 2010 or later). Those who began their education sooner may have as little as 45 semester hours. The Board considers 80 quarter hours to be the equivalent of 60 semester hours.

MFT Licensing Exam

Iowa candidates take the AMFTRB’s Marriage & Family Therapist exam. A graduate may begin work under a temporary license without having passed the exam. They will need to pass the exam before their temporary license expires.

The exam is computerized and is offered at sites around the country. However, it is only available during scheduled testing windows. The AMFTRB site includes testing windows through the end of 2014 ( There is a candidate handbook available as well.

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Candidates should be aware that they will need to register in advance. (It is not possible to register until one has applied to the board and been made eligible, however.)

It is permissible to retake the examination.

Supervised Experience

The candidate will work under supervision at least two years (more if the candidate is working part-time). Board rules state that the candidate must be finished with all graduate coursework, with the possible exception of a thesis, before beginning.

The graduate must apply for a temporary license. It will be issued for three years; the board may choose to renew it for a candidate who needs more time. The MFT candidate will need to have their supervision approved at the onset. If the candidate needs to change supervision at some point along the way, they will submit additional paperwork.

The supervisor is to be an Iowa LMFT with at least three years’ experience or another professional who has been approved as a supervisor by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. In addition to making sure that the candidate performs only therapy that he or she is capable of performing competently, the supervisor will guide their professional development.

Again, the supervised practice requirement will depend on when the candidate began their studies. Recent graduates will need a total of 3,000 hours of work experience, with 1,500 involving direct client contact. 200 hours of supervision are required; the supervision must be focused on the time spent with clients in clinical care.

At least half the supervision hours must be in-person. At least half must be individual. Group supervision sessions of up to ten may be counted toward the requirement, but they can’t consist of primarily didactic classroom-type activity.

Candidates who began their programs before July of 2010 must document 1,000 hours of in-person therapy. They are still expected to have had 200 hours of supervision.

At the end of the supervisory period, an attestation must be submitted to the Board.

Applying for an MFT License

Application forms and directions can be downloaded from the site ( A licensing fee must accompany the application. Currently, the fee is $120.

Candidates will need to have one of two documents sent to the licensing agency: official transcripts (in the case of COAMFTE-accredited programs) or an evaluation from the Center for Credentialing and Education. Transcripts must indicate conferral of a degree.

Candidates who are not sure if they have all the coursework required for licensure may want to have their education evaluated by the CCE before applying to Iowa ( Equivalency will be established through course descriptions and syllabi as well as transcripts. The CCE may be reached at 888-817-8283.

Credential evaluation will result in additional fees.

MFT License by Endorsement

Out-of-state LMFTs will not be expected to redo the examination or repeat other requirements that they have already met, but they will be expected to meet similar requirements.

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License verification is required from each state where the applicant has held licensing. Official transcripts must also be received.

If an MFT is a clinical member of the AAMFT, evidence of standing will be accepted in lieu of documentation of supervised experience.

International MFTs

International MFTs may also be found eligible for licensure following a credential evaluation process. They may call (515) 281-4422 for instructions.

Additional Information

The Board of Behavioral Science regulates Iowa’s marriage and family therapists (

The Board can be contacted at the above number (515-281-4422). Laws and rules are available online. Individuals can request a hard copy; they will need to pay a $5 fee.

The Iowa Division of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy is an additional professional resource (

Marriage and Family Therapy Programs in Iowa

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