I have to admit… the title is misleading! I see all clients, inside and outside of the terms “marriage” and “family”. You may be someone who is looking to see a therapist by yourself, you may be someone who is not married but in a committed relationship, you may be someone who is wanting someone to help you and your partner end your marriage. These are all acceptable and normal. I say normal only to say that every version of a relationship is relatable, experienced by others, and something a marriage and family therapist (MFT) can help with.
MFTs are specifically trained in the realm of relationships. If you see someone who is a master of marriage and family therapy (MMFT) that means they have graduated from an accredited program (like mine at the University of Winnipeg). That also means that they have completed 500+ hours of therapy already! No other programs in this province, and I think I can be so bold to say the whole country, require that sort of rigorous training. So not only do they have a lot of experience before hitting the field, but those hours are also supervised by other MMFTs. So they’ve learned from all the experience and feedback given in the program.
Ok – enough about logistics. Why pick an MFT over counselors, social workers or life coaches? Aside from the miles of experiential training, our background in relationships aren’t only applicable to the relationships we form with others. It’s is also applicable – may even the most applicable – to the individual’s relationship to their self. My work in particular takes an internal family systems (IFS) approach which means I focus on the different parts of a person. Have you ever said “one part of me wants to do one thing, and another part of me wants to do another”? Those are the parts I’m talking about. I’ve never met a person who was bad, worthless or inadequate – but I’ve sure met a lot of people’s parts who have told them they are. Once we get those parts to quite down a bit we can let some other kinder parts have a voice.
When you are seeing an MFT for work within an intimate relationship (or set of relationships for those throuples and polyamorous folks out there) we come set with the training to find ways for the couples to deescalate the tension, miscommunications and disconnections. We know how to help couples bring up the tough emotions, regulate through them, support each other, and find space for reconnecting to each other. Whether issues are addictions, infidelity, sexual dysfunction, trust, or just general distance, we can help. Some MFTs specialize beyond the masters program into fields of interest so keep an eye out for someone who offers a particular area of experience. If you like someone’s site or profile, you can see if they have space in their calendar for an appointment, or they may know someone in the field who does!
Families are the cornerstone of all systems in our society. MFTs are trained to look at families as systems and all of the parts of a system. As a family, you are especially lucky to see an MFT – that is the bread and butter of the program! MFTs are looking at the hierarchies in the family that are in place, the role of each member, the rules of the family (explicit and implicit), the scapegoats and the structures. Family issues can range in severity, age, and duration. Families bring in very young children, tweens, teens, young adults, and sometimes it’s adults bringing in their parents. Sometimes we see siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. You name it, we work with it. Our family dynamics matter. We’re here to help.
So no matter what kind of stuff you’re working with – we’re working with it too! MFTs are here to help you with struggles we humans face on the daily – whether it’s an internal struggle or one with those around you. Let us help you grow out of the patterns you’ve grown into.
Natalie Koleric, MA, MMFT