What is a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) and how is it different from a psychologist?
A Marriage and Family Therapist is a mental health professional that’s trained in psychotherapy and family systems. Those with this licensure have had special training in couples and family therapy in addition with the traditional clinical psychology coursework. In the state of California, it is the main license that is given to those with a Masters-level education in clinical psychology and/or counseling. In California, MFTs are regulated by the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS).
A psychologist, on the other hand, has a Doctoral-level education. They practice psychotherapy as an MFT does, however, they are also able to conduct psychological testing. In addition, if the individual has a PhD (versus a PsyD) they have training to conduct research and teach at a university level.
Many MFTs also have their PhD or are working towards one. Often times, they have the PhD so they can teach at a university level, do research, write publications or do psychological testing.
What is a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern?
In the state of California, an MFT Intern is an individual who has earned their Masters degree and met the practicum requirement of at least 225 hours, but still needs to complete all the state requirements for licensure. To earn licensure, applicants need to earn at least 3,000 hours (of client hours, trainings, supervision, client advocacy, notes, assessments, etc.) and pass two state examinations. This is generally a rigorous process that, on average, takes about 3 to 4 years. While they are collecting hours, an MFT Intern meets with a licensed supervisor weekly to support them in developing their clinical skills.
In the state of California, the term “intern” will be exchanged with “associate” as of January 1, 2018. This is so that MFTs acquiring hours will use the same terminology as Social Workers already do in California.
What does “MFT Trainee, Registration Pending” mean?
This is what individuals put if they have graduated and applied for their Intern registration number, but have not yet received the number by the BBS.
How is therapy different from talking with a friend about my problems?
This is a common remark that people say and the answer is: It’s very different. While a friend may be there to support you, they may not be able to be present and available to you at all times. A friend is also going to be subjective, because they haven’t been trained to be mindful about their own “stuff” that comes up in reaction to yours like a trained psychotherapist is. And, even if this friend is trained, a friendship is supposed to have a relatively equal give and take like most all relationships in our lives.
That is the key with psychotherapy: It’s developed, by design, to be a one-sided relationship. A psychotherapist isn’t going to tell you very much about their lives unless it is somehow relevant to your therapy and it is going to be helpful in your healing.
In psychotherapy the therapist’s job is to be both a mirror and a guide. A mirror by reflecting back to you our observations, and a guide by helping you to discover a new path for yourself, both internally and externally.
What kind of therapy do you practice?
In my work, I take a holistic perspective, which is what I specialized in for my Masters. In taking a holistic perspective, I believe that we all have within us an internal wisdom that makes us whole. Therefore, my process, as your therapist, is to be a guide. I’m here to help you make connections, become more aware of your own patterns and uncover your own internal resources.
I do traditional talk therapy and work mostly psychodynamic. In addition to traditional talk therapy, I like to integrate guided imagery, mindfulness, dream work, psycho-education and body-based therapies into therapy as well when its appropriate.
How long are our sessions?
Sessions are typically 50 minutes, though other arrangements can be made if discussed in advance.
How much does each session cost?
Please contact me to discuss the fee. I have a full fee and then offer a sliding scale for students and those in financial hardship. What I rates I have available within my sliding scale can vary. If for whatever reason you cannot afford my fee right now, I can also provide you with resources of places who can. I can assure you: If you really want therapy, you will get it.
How often are therapy sessions? Can I have therapy every other week?
I’ve found that therapy is most effective when sessions are weekly. In some cases, I’ve met with clients twice a week when the client was in a period where they needed extra support.
While I do allow some clients to have therapy every other week, I give a warning that doing so isn’t as effective. The longer breaks in between sessions makes it difficult to go deep and really work on issues because the longer breaks often bring up more things that the client wants to discuss in sessions. The result simply isn’t as impactful.
Is everything said in therapy confidential?
The law protects the confidentiality of communications between client and therapist. Information cannot be disclosed without written permission from the client. In other words, if someone calls me wanting your information then I cannot even tell them that I know you unless you’ve given me written permission. That being said, there are a few exceptions to this rule:
As a therapist, I am a mandated reporter, so if I suspect any child, elder or disabled adult abuse then I am required by law to report it.
If a client is threatening serious bodily harm to another person, then I am required to notify the police and inform the intended victim.
If a client intends to harm himself or herself, I will make every effort to work with them to insure their safety. However, if they do not cooperate I will take further actions, which I am allowed to by law, without their permission to ensure safety.
Can we do therapy sessions online via video conferencing or phone?
While this can be a good resource to utilize at times, I generally don’t recommend it for long-term weekly therapy because I’ve found it to not be as effective due to the therapeutic methods I use. Therefore, I generally recommend all of my clients to see me weekly in my Oakland office. Of course, sometimes schedules change and life happens, so this can be a resource that can be used once in a while. However, it is not something that I recommend to use consistently.
Whether I use these resources depends on a case by case basis, so once we are in therapy together we would discuss if this is something that could work for us at that moment in time.
Please note that I can only do this for those who are physically in the state of California. So, for instance, if you take a vacation out of state and want therapy while there, then I cannot provide the service to you until you come back to California.