The following information, which is meant to help you in the decision making process, is based on the questions most commonly asked about these two areas of clinical practice. Please note that students accepted into these two programs have until the end of their first quarter to declare their choice between the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program (CMHC) and the Couple, and Family Therapy Program (CFT).
What are the differences between CFT and CMHC?
By design, both the CFT and CMHC programs are grounded in a curriculum that is intended to provide the basic competencies needed for effective clinical practice. Thus, many of the core required courses are the same for both CFT and CMHC students.
The focus of the CMHC Program is to prepare students for the practice of mental health counseling and to meet Washington State licensure requirements as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC). Mental health counselors primarily work with clients from theoretical perspectives that are more individually oriented. In this sense, CMHC practitioners focus more on the inner experience of their clients while taking into account the context of their relational, social, and cultural worlds.
The focus of the CFT Program is to prepare students for the practice of individual, couple, and family therapy and to meet Washington State licensure requirements as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). Couple and family therapists primarily work with clients from theoretical perspectives that are more interpersonally and systemically oriented. In this sense, CFT practitioners concentrate more on the relational, social, and cultural experiences of their clients while taking into account the context of their inner world.
Which program is accredited?
Both the CFT Program and the CMHC Program are professionally accredited by their respective professional associations. The CFT Program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), and the CMHC Program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP). Which program is more likely to get me a job? Both the CFT graduates and the CMHC graduates have high rates of employment after graduation.
Which program takes longer to graduate?
For CFT students, the program can be completed in 2.0 years and the average time to graduation is 3.0 years. For CMHC students, the program can be complete in 3.0 years and the average time to graduation is 3.5 years.
Which is more marketable?
Depending on who you consult, you may be told that one or the other of these options is the “best.” In actuality (and based on several job market research studies), neither CFT nor CMHC is the “best” per se.In fact, you are just as likely to secure employment and remain successfully employed with credentials and experience in either one of these fields. Moreover, regardless of whether you become licensed in CFT or CMHC, as long as you become licensed as a clinician, you can generally expect insurance companies to reimburse you for your services on an equal basis with other master’s-‐level providers.
What will my work be like?
Generally speaking, both CFT and CMHC students have similar job options after graduation, particularly as one gains specialized clinical experience. For example, both CFT and CMHC graduates may choose to become specialized in eating disorders or both may choose to work specifically with individual adults.
Which program works with children?
Although CFT students receive more clinical training in working with children and their families, both CFT and CMHC students can work with children. Although, both CFT and CMHC students can also choose to not work with children.
What if I want to work with children or adolescents or in schools?
If you are planning to work with children or adolescents in a child and family agency, the CFT program is probably the most sensible because these agencies usually will be looking for practitioners licensed as Marriage and Family Therapists. If you see yourself working with children or adolescents in other environments, then either CFT or CMHC may be workable. If you are interested in working as a school counselor, you will most likely need to supplement your work with specific school counseling courses (not currently offered in our programs). Either the CMHC or CFT curriculum may work well as the base for additional studies. Either way, if you plan on working with children or adolescents or in schools, it certainly would be to your advantage to take some CFT courses even if you choose not to complete the CFT Program since the CFT program has more courses specifically designed for working with children and adolescents.
I am interested in Art Therapy or Drama Therapy, should I choose CFT of CMHC?
Art therapists and drama therapists are free to choose either CFT or CMHC, and both programs will provide the necessary education for licensure and post-‐grad practice.
What criteria should I use in making my decision?
Instead of weighing such factors as marketability, we recommend that you strongly consider choosing the option that best fits your own theoretical perspective and/or individual temperament. Theoretical perspective is important because it provides the basic framework for understanding and resolving clinical issues. The more individually oriented perspective of CMHC takes you in one direction, while the more relationally oriented perspective of CFT takes you in another. Both are vital and need to be considered when working with clients, but one may involve a domain of experience that may be more fundamentally appealing to you. In addition, temperament is important because it defines the level of comfort you have in working in different therapeutic contexts. For example, are you more comfortable working in both one-‐on-one and multi-‐client therapeutic environments, or are you comfortable working in a primarily one-‐on-‐one therapeutic environment? Your answer to this question, along with your theoretical interests, may provide you with some helpful guidance as to which clinical program is best for you.