Frequently Asked Questions

Questions from Students

What does it mean that a program is ‘COAMFTE accredited’?

Programs accredited by COAMFTE have completed a multi-year application and review process to demonstrate their compliance with COAMFTE Standards. Successfully completing this process demonstrates that the program has met a minimum set of standards set by the subject matter experts in the MFT field.

Is it a requirement that a program in marriage and family therapy be accredited by COAMFTE?

No, but there are many benefits to both the program and its students for the program to be accredited by COAMFTE. Some benefits include graduates meeting licensure requirements with more ease, eligibility to be hired by such employers as the Veterans Administration and accreditation providing the structure for continuous self-evaluation, peer review, and quality improvement for programs.

Why should I attend an accredited MFT program?

Earning a degree from a COAMFTE accredited program will:

  • Ensure you will receive, a quality education in marriage and family therapy that has been evaluated and has met accepted standards established by the profession.
  • Ensure that your program faculty will be active participants in contributing to the body of knowledge for the field of marriage and family therapy.
  • Ensure that your program does what it promises on its website and promotional materials.
  • Prepare you for licensure as a marriage and family therapist.
  • Allow for ease of transferability of coursework, clinical hours, and credits completed among COAMFTE-accredited programs.
  • Ensure you will be prepared for the national and/or state examination in marriage and family therapy.
  • Facilitate your attainment of a state license as a marriage and family therapist by providing a recognized qualifying degree.
  • Facilitate obtaining a MFT license when you move from one state to another by providing a recognized qualifying degree.
  • Give you an advantage in obtaining employment as a marriage and family therapist.

How do I find out if the MFT program that I am attending is accredited?

You can search for your program in the COMFTE Accredited Program Directory on the COAMFTE website. 

What if my program is not on the list of accredited programs?

You can contact coa@aamft.org to see if your program is currently seeking accreditation or if your program was accredited in the past.

If I attended a program that is not COAMFTE-accredited, will I still be eligible to become licensed as a marriage and family therapist?

Licensure is regulated at a state level and licensure requirements vary from state to state. We recommend that you contact the licensing board in the state you would like to seek licensure.  Please find a listing of State Licensure Boards at https://www.amftrb.org/stateboards.cfm.  

Where can I get the information on the MFT National Exam for licensure?

For questions regarding the MFT National Exam, please contact the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards.  For specific questions and information about the MFT National Exam, please visit https://www.amftrb.org/exam.cfm.  Some other resources that may be helpful on the AMFTRB website are the FAQ section and the Candidate Handbook.

If my program is seeking accreditation, will I be a graduate of a COAMFTE-accredited program?

Each licensure board and employer uses a different definition to determine if an individual is considered a graduate of a COAMFTE accredited program. We would encourage you to contact relevant licensure boards and employers to clarify their definition and requirements.

If I transfer from a non-accredited program to a COAMFTE-accredited program, will my courses be accepted for transfer?

Transfer credit approval is determined by each institution’s policies and procedures. Individuals interested in transferring should review the new program’s website, published policies, and contact core program faculty and administrators.

If I graduated from a COAMFTE-accredited program, will I meet the licensure requirements in a different state from the program I graduated from?

Programs often develop their degree requirements to satisfy the licensure requirements of their state. Additionally, graduating from a COAMFTE-accredited program often helps meet the licensure requirements in many states besides the one the program resides in. However, requirements vary from state to state and you should review the requirements in any potential state you would like to seek licensure in.

Is a program still accredited if it has stipulations?  Or on probation?

Yes, programs with stipulations and on probation are still accredited. Programs with stipulations or on probation have deficiencies in their compliance with the Accreditation Standards and must submit reports to COAMFTE to demonstrate their compliance. Programs on probation may lose their accreditation if the stipulations are not removed in a certain timeframe. Individuals should contact COAMFTE staff and the program if they have a question about their accreditation status.

How do I bring a complaint about a program to the attention of COAMFTE?

Students who wish to submit a complaint about a COAMFTE accredited program need to follow the COAMFTE Compliant Procedure by using this form.

 

Questions from Programs

Why does a program need to be COAMFTE-accredited?

There are many benefits to becoming a COAMFTE-accredited program. Attaining COAMFTE accreditation will:

  • Enable your program to continuously self-evaluate and improve the teaching/learning practices and their subsequent outcomes in your program.
  • Publicly acknowledge your program on the AAMFT/COAMFTE website for accredited programs as one that has demonstrated compliance with nationally developed standards.
  • Enhance your program’s national reputation and represent peer recognition.
  • Ensure that your program prepares students for licensure in relation to the emerging needs of the field of marriage and family therapy.
  • Assure, through peer review, that your program is preparing competent marriage and family therapists.
  • Provide access to federal and non-federally funded grant and scholarship programs.
  • Assist your program in determining the acceptability of transfer credits and coursework from other COAMFTE-accredited programs
  • Serve as a recruiting tool, attracting expert faculty and highly qualified students.

How long does it take to complete the COAMFTE accreditation process?

There are many steps in the accreditation process.  The accreditation process usually takes about two years.

How much does it cost?

Application fees vary depending upon the number of programs applying from the same institution and the status of the applicant program(s).  Programs may submit fees via check (made payable to AAMFT), or via credit card.   Please click here to see the fee schedule.

Does accreditation expire?  How do I maintain accreditation?

Yes.  The self-study process is continuous and requires maintenance of accreditation. Each accredited program must demonstrate its continuing compliance with COAMFTE standards through the submission of an annual report.  Also, programs wishing to renew their accreditation must prepare a new Self-Study to continue accreditation before their accreditation expires.

What are the steps to earn COAMFTE accreditation?

The accreditation process is a voluntary process that requires self-study by the program, an on-site review by a selected group of peers, and a review and decision by the COAMFTE to determine compliance with accreditation standards.  To preview the steps of COAMFTE accreditation, please click on Accreditation Process at a Glance.

I am interested in seeking accreditation.  Where do I begin?

A program wishing to make formal application for accreditation should do so only after studying the eligibility criterion, accreditation standards, accreditation process, policies and procedures, and having discussion with the chief accreditation officer regarding requirements and application deadlines. All programs applying for initial accreditation are required to have a representative attend a COAMFTE accreditation training prior to the submission of a Self-Study. Programs must submit a letter of intent specifying its intent to seek accreditation (initial or renewal) six months prior to the submission of the Self-Study. The letter of intent must include a projected date for submission of the Eligibility Criteria and Self-Study consistent with the schedule of the submission deadlines; provide evidence of support from the institutional administration and program faculty; be on institution letterhead; and be signed by the Program Director. The letter of intent does not need to include any evidence of program compliance with Accreditation Standards.

My program would like to hire an accreditation consultant.  Can I contact one of the Commissioners for their recommendation?

A list of consultants is available from the Accreditation Office. Consultants do not represent the Commission and the use of their services does not guarantee accreditation of the program. Consultants may not serve as members of a Site Visit Team to a program for which they have acted previously as consultants. Commission members cannot serve as consultants while on the Commission. All arrangements, including fees, must be made between the consultant and the program. Programs shall not contact individual Commissioners with questions regarding accreditation standards, policies and procedures, or other accreditation related activities.

When and how does my program submit the Self-Study?

Programs submitting a Self-Study must refer to the Accreditation Process for instructions. All Self-Study components must be combined in one PDF document in the order noted in ‘Contents’ with bookmarks linking to each individual component.  The Self-Study submission cannot exceed 20 MB. Self-Study submissions that exceed 20 MB will not be accepted and will be returned to the program.  The PDF Document needs to be in electronic format, read only, and on (1) one USB Flash Drive that must be mailed to COAMFTE/AAMFT, 112 S. Alfred Street, Alexandria, VA  22314.  Programs applying for initial accreditation need to apply before the April 1st or October 1st submission deadline.

When does my program receive notice of the Self-Study Review results from COAMFTE?

If your program submitted the Self-Study by the Fall deadline, your program will receive the results of the Commission’s review of your Self-Study in late January.  If your program submitted the Self-Study by the Spring deadline, your program will receive the results of the Commission’s review of your Self-Study in late June-Early July.    This letter will contain a notice regarding if a Site Visit has been recommended or not and a Key-Element by Key-Element breakdown of the Commission’s review.

When does my program get notified of accreditation status?

The Commission meets two times a year for review of programs. The COMFTE Accredited Program Directory is updated after every Commission meeting. Those meetings are typically held in April and November. You should check back to the website after those meetings to see if the school/program status has changed.

How and when do I report changes in our program?

Accredited programs are required to notify the Commission (in writing) of any substantive change and receive COAMFTE approval prior to including that change in the accredited program. Programs submitting a Substantive Change must follow the format and submission requirements outlined in the Substantive Change Form posted on the COAMFTE website.

Where should I direct my questions about the new Standards Version 12?

Questions about the new Standards Version 12 can be sent to coa@aamft.org .


General Questions about Accreditation

Who ‘accredits’ COAMFTE?

Accrediting organizations can elect to be ‘recognized’ by the US Department of Education and/or Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

COAMFTE is recognized as the provider of quality assurance of higher education in marriage and family therapy. The Commission on Recognition of Postsecondary Accreditation (CORPA), the successor to the Council on Postsecondary Accreditation (COPA), officially granted recognition to the COAMFTE in 1994. In 1997, CORPA was dissolved and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) was created. CHEA is a non-governmental organization that recognizes accrediting bodies and works to foster and facilitate the role of accrediting bodies in promoting and ensuring the quality and diversity of American postsecondary education. CHEA has recognized COAMFTE since its inception. With the mission that aligns with the purpose and focus of accreditation, CHEA provides accrediting agencies with a system of checks and balances, and creates a process parallel to accreditation that requires accrediting agencies to self-evaluate and improve. COAMFTE benefits from CHEA recognition because it provides external validation and appropriate recognition for COAMFTE as a specialized professional accreditation and agency.  At the November 2012 meeting, COAMFTE determined that the cost of maintaining USDE recognition outweighs the benefits and voted not to pursue renewal of recognition by the USDE, effective April 15, 2013. In making this decision, COAMFTE also determined that such a course of action at that time would not prevent COAMFTE from pursuing such recognition in the future if things changed, such that USDE recognition was determined to be relevant and vital for COAMFTE and its accredited programs. COAMFTE has prepared and published a white paper that puts forth the rationale for this decision.

How is a complaint about a program brought to the attention of COAMFTE?

If you wish to submit a complaint about a COAMFTE accredited program, please follow the COAMFTE Compliant Procedure by using this form.  

What types of programs can be COAMFTE-accredited? The COAMFTE's scope of accreditation includes three types of programs:

  • Master's Degree Programs provide students with broad areas of theory and practice in marriage and family therapy. These programs provide entry level educational requirements for independent clinical practice in the profession. They are designed to prepare individuals for beginning a career in marriage and family therapy by providing basic didactic and clinical skills, as well as professional development and socialization.

  • Doctoral Degree Programs prepare students for academic careers, research, advanced clinical practice and supervision. The doctoral curriculum includes advanced instruction in marriage and family therapy research, theory construction and supervision.

  • Post-Graduate Degree Clinical Training Programs provide clinical education in marriage and family therapy to trainees with a master's or doctoral degree in MFT, or in a closely related field. A program may allow for specialized training in a particular modality or treatment population.

Can online MFT programs be COAMFTE-accredited?

Some of the COAMFTE-accredited programs have “Distance Learning”.  Distance education is defined as a method of instruction where the faculty and/or supervisors and the student engage in the teaching/learning process without being in the same physical location. Accredited programs cannot have distance education as the program’s sole method of teaching. The Commission may determine whether any program utilizes distance education.

What is the difference between accreditation and certification?

Accreditation is the process whereby a program providing the education and training is reviewed against quality standards and fulfills the requirements designated by the accreditation organization.  Certification is the process by which a non-governmental association or agency grants recognition to an individual who has met certain predetermined qualifications specified by that association or agency.

How does a stakeholder provide input to the Commission?

Questions and comments can be sent to coa@aamft.org. COAMFTE holds a public comment period and public hearing during its standards revision process. Additional information on these will be published during the revision process.

Does COAMFTE accredit programs outside of the United States?

COAMFTE has accredited programs in Canada.  Please see the interactive directory to locate those programs.

 

Questions about Accreditation Standards Version 12

If our program used State Approved Supervisors to provide practicum and internship supervision in the past, can we continue to do that under Version 12 or are we required to use AAMFT Approved Supervisors? Is there a grandfathering clause?

All programs applying for accreditation after January 1, 2016, must demonstrate compliance with all Version 12 requirements in order to receive accreditation.  There is no option for grandfathering any detail from the previous Version 11 framework. This applies to the specific foundational requirement defined in Eligibility Criterion C: Program Leadership, which states that in master’s and doctoral programs, the Program Director must be either an AAMFT Approved Supervisor or an AAMFT Supervisor Candidate. The Program Director must verify one of these credentials at the time the program submits its Eligibility Review documents to the Commission.  Regarding supervision by the AAMFT Approved Supervisor during the practicum and internship, Key Element IV-C, Foundational Practice Component, describes two requirements that must be met:  (1) Students must receive supervision from an AAMFT Approved Supervisor or Supervisor Candidate for at least one hour each week, individual or group, in which they are seeing clients; and (2) Additional supervision may be provided by AAMFT Approved Supervisors, Supervisor Candidates, Supervisor Equivalents, or State Approved Supervisors.  Additionally, the program’s ability to meet these supervisor requirements may also relate to Key Element III-I, Supervisor Sufficiency.

Related to Key Element IV-C, is the interpretation of “physically present in the same location" different when applied to online programs?

The application of Key Element IV-C’s requirement that the majority of supervision must occur with supervisor and supervisee physically present in the same location is the same for all programs whether on-ground or online.

If the majority of the supervision is to be provided by the site supervisor, does it mean that it requires 36 hours of supervision, three years of supervision of MFTs and 30 hours of documented MFT supervision coursework or CEUs and does this definition apply to the site supervisors?

Standard IV-C requires that program supervision in the Foundational Practice Component must meet three specific criteria:  (a) Students must receive at least 100 hours of supervision from AAMFT Approved Supervisors, Supervisor Candidates, Supervisor Equivalents, or State Approved Supervisors, (b) Students must receive a minimum of one hour of supervision, individual or group, from an AAMFT Approved Supervisor or Supervisor Candidate each week they are seeing clients, and (c) for programs that utilize secured digital technology for a portion of supervision, the majority of supervision must be with supervisor and supervisee physically present in the same location. In meeting these requirements, programs may choose how they use Approved Supervisors, Supervisor Candidates, Supervisor Equivalents, and State Approved Supervisors. Key Element IV-C does not require that the majority of supervision must occur in the same placement site. It may be necessary to exceed the 100-hour minimum of supervision in order to assure that the requirements of Key Element IV-C are met.

If a program is choosing to use “Supervisor Equivalency” to meet the Supervisor Requirements in Standards Version 12, are there specific requirements that must be covered in the 30 hours of coursework of Supervision education that is indicated in the Supervisor Equivalency (Item 2d) definition - Supervision education may be demonstrated by completing 30 hours of coursework or continuing education in MFT supervision -on page 39 in the Standards V12 Manual? 

If an educational experience other than MFT supervision is presented, such as supervision training in a related mental health profession, that educational experience must clearly demonstrate systemic/relational supervision.

If one member of the family is in the room with the student therapist and another family member is connecting via Skype (or another video option), can a student count the hours while engaging in teletherapy with one family member and face to face with another as relational hours?

No.  However, a student will be able to count these hours as ‘direct client contact hours’.  According to Standards Version 12, Key Element IV-C and the Glossary Definition on Clinical Contact Hours, 'direct client contact hours' must occur face to face in the same physical location.

How does COAMFTE define ‘facilities and services’?

Eligibility Criterion C, bullet four, states that the Program Director is “vested with responsibility for oversight of the curriculum, clinical training program, facilities, services, and the maintenance and enhancement of the program’s quality”.  In this context, the Program Director is expected to evaluate and advocate for classroom and clinic physical spaces (if applicable) as well as faculty and student services that support curriculum and clinical training activities, for the purpose of maintaining and enhancing the program’s quality.  This foundation expectation within the Eligibility Review is related to Standard III: Infrastructure and Environmental Supports, specifically Key Elements III-A, III-B, III-C, and III-D, and also to Maintenance Criterion A. 

What is the difference between a benchmark and a target as defined in Standards Version 12?

As noted in the Version 12 Glossary, “Targets and Benchmarks refer to the reference points by which performance is measured. The term “benchmarking” refers to an ongoing and systemic process of the actual activity of establishing benchmarks and 'best' practices. Targets are specified levels of performance for a measure (indicator) at a pre-determined point in time (achieve target X by Y [date]). Programs are expected to have program-level benchmarks for their Student Learning Outcomes, including measures of student/graduate achievement.”

In the following example, the entire statement is the benchmark, based on the specific assessment measure used, the identified data targets, accomplished by the specific date.

80% of students will score a 4 or higher on items 5, 6, & 7 of the clinical competency rubric by the end of the program.

In this example, “items 5, 6, & 7 of the clinical competency rubric” is the assessment measure, and “80% of students will score a 4 or higher”, “by the end of the program”, are all targets found within the program’s benchmark for the Student Learning Outcome achievement.

What type of activity qualifies as an alternative hour? What does not qualify?

Alternative hours have included behind-the-mirror observation of clinical cases as part of a therapy team. Often programs will have students assigned to specific teams to observe cases over the course of therapy as part of the therapeutic team, contributing case notes and clinical observations. Other alternative hours might include telephone contact with clients (for intake assessments or other extended contact) as well as intakes with clients who might be then assigned to other therapists. Psychoeducational groups or other similar contact with clients might also count.

With the increase of required clinical hours, and the Standards Version 12 taking effect on January 1, 2016, does this mean students who begin/enter the program prior to January 2016 fall under the requirements of Standards 11, or regardless of when someone entered the program they will have the Standards 12 requirement?

In order to demonstrate on-going compliance with Accreditation Standards Version 12, once they go into effect, each program will need to start making the necessary changes. Students who enter the program after a program implements a particular change will need to meet the new program requirements. Since programs may have students who will be completing their training under different program requirements (i.e., some under Version 11 and others under requirements of Version 12), it is recommended that programs maintain clear and precise records to help facilitate future inquiries from state licensure boards, potential employees, etc., related to the training of their student.

Although Standards Version 12 removed the requirement to complete 1000 client contact hours, did it also remove the requirement to have a practicum course as well? Although a 9 month internship is still required, is a practicum course not required?

Accreditation Standards Version 11 did not have a prescribed requirement for practicum, nor did it have a requirement for 1000 client contact hours. The 1000 hour requirement comes from the Educational Guidelines (EG). Programs that chose to adopt the EG, as one of their Professional Marriage and Family Therapy Principles (PMFTPs) required by Version 11, were required to demonstrate that students complete 1000 client contact hours or meet competencies defined by their respective training programs. In Version 12, the requirement for Master’s degree programs and Post-degree programs that teach the foundational curriculum is to offer the foundational practice component: practicum and/or internship. Each program uses different language for how they refer to their clinical component. Some programs offer “practicum” followed by “internship”; others call the entire clinical component an “internship.”
Practicum and/or Internship may not be required in a doctoral degree program, if its mission does not support the requirement for a clinical component. However, programs should be attentive to their mission and to their communities of interest. For example, if programs want to help doctoral students get licensed, then they will need to provide clinical practicum or clinical internship that meets state licensure requirements. Doctoral programs also have to decide how to address the advanced curriculum components related to clinical theory and applications, and a practicum may be one way of addressing these. The 9-month advanced practical experience component for doctoral programs may or may not be called an internship.

Are doctoral programs not required to provide any clinical training?

Programs must ensure that students meet the requirements of the foundational practice component. As described in the Advanced Practice Component, the advanced experiences offered by the doctoral degree programs must address a minimum of two of the areas noted. The program selects these areas based on the mission, goals, and outcomes expected of the program. Therefore, if the program’s focus is research and grant-writing and those are the two areas the program determines are appropriate for the advanced practical experience, then clinical training would not be required. Doctoral programs also have to decide how to address the advanced curriculum components related to clinical theory and applications, and clinical training may be one way of meeting these requirements. Programs should be attentive to their mission and to their communities of interest. For example, if programs want to help doctoral students get licensed, then they will need to provide clinical practicum or clinical internship that meets state licensure requirements.

Is there a standard requiring a certain number of faculty?

There is no Key Element that specifies a minimum number of faculty for the program. However, Key Element III-F states that, “The faculty must be sufficient in number with a faculty-student ratio that permits the achievement of the program’s mission, goals, and outcomes and ensures that student educational needs are met.” Additionally, it states, “The program is permitted to use a combination of full-time, part-time and/or multiple adjuncts.” Therefore, the burden is on the program to demonstrate to the Commission that the number of faculty is sufficient to meet the program’s mission.

Do I understand the Standards Version 12 correctly to say that 40% (200 hours) of the 500 hours must be relational - as opposed to 250 in Version 11?

There was no hours requirement in the Standards Version 11 (250 relational hours are required in the MFT Educational Guidelines). Programs were allowed to choose the number of client contact and relational hours required in their programs if they could demonstrate that they were graduating students at a competency level equivalent to the 500 client contact hours. Standards Version 12 state that at least 40% (200 hours) of the 500 clinical contact hours must be relational.

We are in the process of reviewing our curriculum for alignment with Standards Version 12 and have a question about the Foundational Practice Component which requires the fieldwork experience to cover 12 months. Right now our fieldwork experience is divided into three quarters or 9 months. We will need to add an additional quarter of fieldwork and have a question about which students this applies to -- is it applicable to all students who enter the program as of 2016 or does it apply to those learners who will be in the program (at any point, even in fieldwork) as of 2016?

In order to demonstrate on-going compliance with Accreditation Standards Version 12, once they go into effect, each program will need to start making the necessary changes. Students who enter the program after a program implements a particular change will need to meet the new program requirements. Since programs may have students who will be completing their training under different program requirements, it is recommended that programs maintain clear and precise records to help facilitate future inquiries from state licensure boards, potential employees, etc., related to the training of their students. At the time of program’s application for accreditation/renewal of accreditation, the program will need to demonstrate that it implemented all changes consistent with Version 12 requirements and produce evidence showing that the program is in compliance with the Accreditation Standards Version 12.

Will Version 12 support a state's licensure requirements or insist on their own requirements?

In providing quality assurance for marriage and family therapy education through accreditation, COAMFTE ensures that states have a model for the educational requirement when granting licensure to individuals. In developing Accreditation Standards Version 12, the Standards Review Committee (SRC) and the Commission sought feedback from all State Licensure Boards and the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards, among its other communities of interest, and the public.
State regulations are addressed throughout Standards Version 12. Programs are required to incorporate in their curriculum the Professional Marriage and Family Therapy Principles (PMFTPs) that include relevant state licensure laws. Further, Key Element IV-D: Program and Regulatory Alignment requires the program to demonstrate that graduates have met educational and clinical practice requirements (e.g., coursework, clinical experience, and supervision) that satisfy the regulatory requirements for entry-level practice in the state, province, or location in which the program physically resides or in which the student intends to practice. Programs must also document that students are informed (e.g., demonstrate review of appropriate regulatory sites or licensing laws) about the educational, clinical, and regulatory requirements for entry-level practice in the state, province, or location in which each student resides or intends to practice.
The Foundational Practice Component has specific requirements for clinical hours and supervision, but also has provisions for alternative ways of demonstrating competence of students. In general, programs should expect to meet the most stringent requirements (which may be either COAMFTE accreditation standards or local regulatory laws/rules).

Is there now no requirement for the amount of individual supervision?

As part of the Foundational Practice Component, students must receive a 100 hours of supervision; individual supervision and group supervision may count toward these 100 hours. There is no requirement for a minimum number of individual supervision hours. Programs must also be aware of relevant licensure laws applicable to the program, and some states have specific requirements for individual supervision hours.

Does my program need to submit the Eligibility Criteria Response before the Self-Study for Standards Version 12?

Programs submitting a Self-Study in 2016 will submit their response to the Eligibility Criteria with their Self-Study. Starting with programs submitting their Self-Study in 2017, programs will submit their response to the Eligibility Criteria six (6) months prior to the submission of their Self-Study.