Online COAMFTE Accredited Programs To Consider

Editor's note: This article provides a brief but helpful overview of The Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), what it takes to become an LMFT, and various schools and programs students can consider as they begin their journey. Read on for more information about pursuing an online COAMFTE-accredited program in marriage and family therapy.

 Becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) can be a fulfilling career path for college graduates interested in counseling. However, students just beginning this process may be curious about their different learning options and what to look for during their search. The Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) is an accreditation agency that reviews marriage and family therapy degree programs.

COAMFTE-accredited MFT programs are found in both traditional and online environments. Online MFT programs are flexible alternatives for aspiring marriage and family therapists who have busy schedules or require distance education but still want to become LMFTs.

Throughout this guide, you can learn more about accredited marriage and family therapy programs and what it might take to become licensed as an LMFT in this field.

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What is COAMFTE?

COAMFTE is the leading agency for accredited marriage and family therapy programs. The goal of this organization is to provide a review and accreditation process for current MFT degree programs to ensure the quality and applicability of MFT programs offered across the U.S.

COAMFTE provides accreditation options for traditional and online degree marriage and family therapy programs. Students can earn accreditation through three types of programs at this organization: master's degrees, doctoral degrees, and postgraduate degree clinical training programs.

Since 1974, COAMFTE has worked to create a reliable set of standards for accredited marriage and family therapy programs in this field and has moved on to accredit only the most reliable degree options and programs for incoming learners. This guide will outline different options for in-person or online degree programs at multiple levels.

Students searching for accredited marriage and family therapy programs should familiarize themselves with COAMFTE and its review process. Each degree program that has received accreditation holds only the highest level of quality within its curriculum and instructional approach.

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☰ For detailed degree information, view the guides to:
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The COAMFTE Accreditation Process

The accreditation process for MFT programs is extensive, with seven essential steps. It's important to know that it takes a minimum of two years to complete the accreditation process, with some programs taking longer.

Programs must prepare for accreditation.

  • The first step in the process includes research and data collection.
  • Programs need to collect data two years before applying for accreditation.
  • Programs must implement program policies, processes, resources, outcome-based educational structures, and curricula aligned with COAMFTE's standards.
  • Interested programs must show achievement data consistent with COAMFTE's standards before moving to the next step.

Programs must submit a letter of intent.

  • Whether programs seek accreditation renewal or initial accreditation, a letter of intent is required.
  • The letter of intent should include the projected date for submission of the Eligibility Criteria or Self-Study materials.
  • Programs must study eligibility criteria and familiarize themselves with the accreditation standards, processes, policies, and procedures.
  • Interested programs must discuss the requirements and application deadlines with the Director of Accreditation.
  • Programs seeking initial accreditation must attend a COAMFTE accreditation training before submitting the Eligibility Criteria Report.

Programs seeking initial eligibility must submit eligibility criteria.

  • Programs must submit institutional accreditation for master's and doctoral degree programs.
  • They must also include state or charter licenses for degree authority.
  • Other required documents include a financial viability letter, documentation of a governance board, graduate achievement data, and a list of graduates and students.
  • Programs must also link to their program handbook and any published materials.
  • Programs can only begin the next step with the Commission inviting them to continue.

Programs must submit a self-study.

  • If the Commission invites the program to continue, programs will be asked to complete a self-study.
  • The self-study helps programs determine goals, assess achievements, identify problems, and implement needed changes.

Programs must prepare for a site visit.

  • Programs providing enough information to demonstrate compliance will be recommended for a site visit.
  • The program must pay for all costs related to the site visit.
  • The Site Visit Team will prepare a preliminary written report, and programs must respond to it after it's submitted to the institution's CEO and the program director.

The Commission reviews all information and makes a decision.

  • The Commission will review all information, including the self-study, the site visit report, and the program's response to the report.
  • If the program is approved, initial accreditation is granted for a maximum period of six years.
  • The Commission may give some programs a chance to be accredited with stipulations that they correct any issues within two years.
  • If the program is denied accreditation, it must wait a year before reapplying.

Programs must maintain accreditation.

  • Programs must demonstrate continuous compliance by submitting an annual report, noting any changes since the previous year.
  • A self-study may also be required to maintain accreditation.

Why Consider an Online COAMFTE Accredited MFT Program?

According to Megan Kelly, MA, LMHC in Indiana, “there are many branches of therapy and counseling careers to choose from, and marriage and family therapy is a much-needed and often fulfilling role for many prospective therapists. Choosing the right online MFT program can make all the difference in your future career, and a COAMFTE accredited program is a great place to start.”

COAMFTE Ensures the Quality of the MFT Program

When deciding to pursue an online degree program, students should also consider the quality of the degree program they are reviewing. One way to ensure that a degree program can provide students with opportunities for licensure is to check the program’s accreditation status. For example, COAMFTE-accredited MFT degree programs ensure that the curriculum meets the quality and content standards necessary to prepare students for future marriage and family therapy careers.

COAMFTE Ensures Course Material and Practicum Align with LMFT Licensure

COAMFTE reviews and approves degree programs in marriage and family therapy. If the program being reviewed holds this type of accreditation, learners can rest assured that their program contains the correct course materials and practicum experiences required for future licensing.

Choosing a COAMFTE-accredited MFT online program often means a high-quality education with the flexibility busy adult professionals looking to advance their careers need. COAMFTE accreditation standards are based on a program’s ability to prepare students to fulfill their roles in the community and professional climate. Current standards are based on a more inclusive definition of marriage and family to reflect changing societal values. COAMFTE also ensures that students are prepared to follow the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) Code of Ethics that MFT professionals must adhere to. In addition, COAMFTE is a Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognized accreditor.

Graduates of COAMFTE-Accredited Programs May Have a Faster Licensure Process

To be eligible for MFT licensure, many state licensing boards require accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy (COAMFTE). While some states will allow licensure with a non-accredited program, the program must prove that they have similar standards. With a recognized qualifying degree, graduates may be able to seek licensure faster.

In addition, if you move to another state, a COAMFTE-accredited program will be recognized and helpful when obtaining an MFT license.

Graduates of COAMFTE-Accredited Programs May Have Expanded Career Options

Employers in the MFT field are familiar with COAMFTE-accredited programs and are more likely to hire graduates from those programs. This gives you an advantage over other graduates who may not have chosen an accredited program. In addition, a COAMFTE-accredited program will provide you with ample preparation for state or national exams in marriage and family therapy.


The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is a CHEA-recognized accreditor for U.S. counseling programs.

CACREP was established in 1981 and set the standard for the content and quality that an online or a traditional counseling degree program would have to meet to be accredited. CACREP accreditation currently covers 880 specialty areas and programs at 406 colleges and universities.

When considering COAMFTE vs. CACREP, there are several factors to think about. While CACREP is an accreditor for all counseling degrees, it is not as specific as COAMFTE, which focuses solely on MFT degree programs. Those looking specifically to be MFTs should be able to decide between COAMFTE and CACREP without difficulty.

COAMFTE-accredited online programs can offer an education more specific to marriage and family therapy. However, students who need help deciding what specialization to pursue may also find CACREP-accredited programs helpful, as they can provide more generalized education in counseling.

Online COAMFTE MFT Master’s Degrees

Below are a number of Online MFT Master’s Degrees that have been accredited by COAMFTE.

Alliant International University’s Online MA MFT Program

Program: Online Master of Arts in Marital and Family Therapy

Alliant International University offers an online Master of Arts in Marital and Family Therapy for incoming students to pursue. In addition to the standard MFT track, students may pursue a specialization in Chemical Dependency as part of the degree program.

Courses in this program include the following:

  • Diversity and the Family
  • Couples Therapy
  • Preparing for Community Practice

Alliant International University offers additional degree programs in Clinical Counseling and School Counseling for interested learners. The Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) option of the MFT degree program is currently only available on select campuses through this university.

Capella University’s Online MS MFT

Program: Online Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy

Capella University offers an online Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy. This 16-course accredited online MFT program can be an excellent option for learners interested in helping clients in a therapeutic setting.

Courses in this program include the following:

  • Diversity and Social Justice in Systemic Family Therapy
  • Psychopathology
  • The Impact of Addiction and Addictive Behavior on Family Systems

Capella University also offers master’s degrees in alternative counseling fields, such as Clinical Mental Health Counseling, School Counseling, and Addiction Studies. Each degree option can put learners in touch with populations needing therapeutic guidance.

Syracuse University’s Online MA MFT

Program: Online Master of Arts in Marriage & Family Therapy

Syracuse University currently provides an online Master of Arts in Marriage & Family Therapy to incoming counseling prospects. This accredited MFT program consists of 60 required credit hours, with all coursework provided in the online setting. In addition, since this program can lead to licensing, it includes an in-person practicum requirement that provides guidance and learning opportunities for future professionals in the field.

Courses in this program include the following:

  • Family Therapy Across the Life Cycle
  • Introduction to Family Systems
  • Couples Therapy, Theory, and Techniques

Syracuse University offers dynamic online master’s programs in MFT and social work for students interested in providing therapeutic services to needy individuals. Certificate programs in Child Therapy and Trauma-Informed Practice may also be available after completing these master’s programs.

Online COAMFTE MFT Doctoral Degrees

There are also several COAMFTE-accredited MFT programs for students seeking a doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy. Like other online degrees, online doctoral degree programs can offer students the flexibility to maintain other careers or prior commitments.

Loma Linda University’s Online DMFT

Program: Online DMFT in Marital and Family Therapy

The Doctor of Marital and Family Therapy (DMFT) offered by Loma Linda University is currently the only online DMFT COAMFTE accredited program in the U.S. This doctoral program can provide students with a high-quality curriculum developed for leaders in the MFT field. This 3-year, 77-quarter unit program is offered online with synchronous and asynchronous courses.

Courses in this program may include the following:

  • Advanced Theory in Marital and Family Therapy
  • Program Development for Families and Communities
  • Wholeness and Health

Alternative online doctoral programs offered through Loma Linda University include the Ph.D. in Systems, Families, and Couples. This research-oriented degree program can allow learners to develop meaningful solutions and treatments for typical relationship struggles within the family network.

LMFT Licensure

Individuals interested in becoming LMFTs will be subject to licensing guidelines within their state. Each state has unique requirements for prospective licensees, most pulling from generalized educational and practical expectations.

View the full write-up on LMFT licensure.

The minimum degree requirement for LMFTs in most states is a master’s degree. A student’s master’s program should focus on marriage and family therapy and hold the correct type of accreditation for this program, such as accreditation from COAMFTE.

Why a Master’s in MFT for Licensure?

Earning a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy provides students with broad knowledge and skills to appropriately support their clients throughout their careers. Compared to bachelor’s programs, master’s programs are more specialized and provide students with more intensive learning experiences, usually with an in-person fieldwork component that bachelor programs don’t always require. Fieldwork options can give the learners the on-site expertise typically required to graduate, which they must have earned before engaging in later supervised experience requirements following graduation.

Expect Many Hours of Supervised Clinical Experience

Most states require MFT graduates to work for 1-3 years, or a certain number of hours, under the direct supervision of a qualified clinical supervisor. This work experience is often in addition to the supervised experience requirements that students must fulfill during their MFT master’s degree programs. Supervisors are generally required to have at least two years of experience in the MFT field or a 36-hour training in supervision. However, requirements to be a clinical supervisor will vary by state.

Supervised experience during your degree program and after graduation allows time for evaluation, feedback about performance, and suggestions for improvement in skills and treatment methods. It also helps protect against harm to clients.

Sitting for the AMFTRB MFT Exam

After completing all supervision requirements, candidates for licensure typically must sit for the MFT National Examination by the Association of Marital & Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB). This exam tests applicants on their knowledge of the field and common practice guidelines learned during field training.

Completing supervised experience and passing the board examination can lead to licensing within each state. Therefore, applicants are encouraged to review their state’s licensing requirements before submitting a final application.

What Career Options Are There for an MFT?

There are several career options for students graduating from an online COAMFTE-accredited MFT program. Here are some of the common career paths for LMFTs.

Family Behavioral Therapists

Some licensed MFTs pursue careers as family behavioral therapists. This career option can include identifying difficult, problematic, or troublesome behaviors within families or certain family members and providing treatment plans for alternative behaviors within the home environment.

School Counselors

School counselors may also be required to have MFT degrees since many of the duties of this position are completed with students and their families. In addition, some counseling positions outside education may also be occupied by MFT graduates.

MFT in Human Services

Human services facilities and institutions can also employ MFTs for positions of leadership and counseling. For example, employees may coordinate care for specific community groups or supervise case manager specialists in the field.

Other MFT Areas

Specific counseling career options like substance abuse counselors and child and family counselors may also be available to graduates of this field. In addition, having particular types of licensure in certain states could also lead to careers in independent practice.

Popular States for Marriage and Family Therapists

Find COAMFTE Accredited Online Programs

Becoming an MFT can be a fulfilling experience and offer a variety of career paths from which to choose. COAMFTE-accredited online programs can be a great stepping stone to beginning your career and deciding what type of MFT you would like to become. Explore some of the resources below to learn more about becoming an MFT and what areas you can work in.

Counseling Career Guide

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Here are some of the most popular online counseling programs. On each page you will find a detailed write-up of the program, specific courses, and schools that offer that program that are currently accepting applicants.

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