See below the requirements for licensure as an MFT in North Carolina and the process for all current or future applicants.
Choose a link(s) below to view specific licensure topics.
- Aspiring Students of Marriage & Family Therapy
- Exam Applicants
- Requirements for Licensure
- Types of Licensure in North Carolina
Aspiring Students of Marriage and Family Therapy
Marriage and family therapy (often abbreviated as MFT) is a fascinating field comprised of mental health professionals who have a passion for working with relationships. Within each of the mental health disciplines, there are differences in the type of training, the theories, the focus and treatment approach, along with distinct licensure requirements.
At the core of MFT is a focus on how things are connected and interrelated in mental health. Marriage and family therapists work with individuals, in addition to couples and families and what is referred to as “larger systems.” One important difference between MFT and other disciplines is the focus on how relationships and connections impact each other- even when working with an individual client. This core difference is emphasized during training and the licensure process.
Licensure for MFT is determined by each individual state. These licensure requirements are based on laws passed in each state. There are slight differences from one state to another.
Many graduate programs prepare you to be ready for initial licensure in that particular state where the program is housed. If you anticipate moving to a different state right after graduate school, or at any point in your career, take some time to look up the requirements for those states that you are considering. There are some states that require specific coursework on top of the typical courses required in MFT. It’s often much easier (and less expensive) to take the courses while you are enrolled in your graduate program.
Note: When looking for licensure requirements, there are many helpful resources on the internet. It may be difficult to tell if they are up to date with the latest licensing standards. The best place to check is each state’s licensure board website, as it will reflect the current statutes. Keep in mind that state MFT state associations are NOT the same as state licensure boards. State associations do not issue a license to practice. Associations advocate for the profession and keep professionals apprised of changes the field is facing (i.e. online service delivery, insurance changes, better practice management, new interventions and techniques). Licensure is governed by state laws, and they vary from state to state because each legislative body adopted differences in their laws when they were passed. The task of each licensure board is to ensure that all licensees meet the required standards in order to protect the public from those who don’t meet those standards.
Applying to MFT Programs
Over the years, the number of MFT programs across the United States has grown. In the 1990’s, there were approximately two dozen programs throughout North America. Now, there is access to multiple programs in nearly every state. Some have a focus on working with certain populations or issues, and others are unique by offering the entire program online.
When you are choosing a graduate program, look to see if their course offerings and graduation requirements line up with the state or states where you plan to apply for licensure. If there are any areas that do not match up from the program to the state where you would like to be licensed, you can often make sure you incorporate those requirements in your course of study to help you later in the licensure process. Some areas to take a closer look at include the required courses, the number of practicum hours (NC requires a minimum of 3 semesters or 14 quarter hours which must be reflected on your official transcript to satisfy the academic requirement for licensure), necessary hours for graduation, initial licensure, supervisor requirements, and regional accreditation.
Prior to submitting your license application, you must pass the National Marital and Family Therapy Examination. Applicants who have not passed the exam will not be considered for licensure and cannot submit a license application until the National MFT Exam is passed.
The exam cannot be taken until after you have completed your graduate program, per the NC MFT Licensure Board contractual agreement with the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB). Even if you have completed all of your core coursework, you must wait until after the degree has been conferred before applying to take the examination. Your conferred degree is reflected on your final transcripts, listing all of your completed coursework, the date your degree was awarded, and citing your program of study.
You must apply to a state licensure board for approval to take the examination. The AMFTRB has delegated the responsibility to state licensure boards to determine an applicant’s eligibility to take the exam. If you take and pass the examination in another state, you may contact the testing company to request that they send an official copy of your scores to the board’s office. They may charge an additional fee for this service.
If you have not taken the exam, you may submit your application to take the exam. Your complete application must be sent to the Board, along with the $50 application fee and an official copy of your graduate transcripts once it shows that your degree has been conferred.
Please submit in your exam application with all of the required items as a complete application packet. This will include a copy of your official transcript verifying that your graduate degree has been conferred. The Board asks for you to include a copy of your transcript with the exam application as this enables the Board to issue approvals to take the exam quicker by having all of the necessary information as a complete packet. Should the Board deny a request to take the exam, this allows you to receive the response faster so you can address any deficits in order to meet other deadlines such as registering, once approved by the state to take the exam, with the exam service.
The Board reviews exam applications at least once per month. Exam applications received by the first of the month are generally reviewed and notification occurs by the 15th of the month or next business day. For the month of May, an additional deadline, review and notification date (generally last week of the month) may be added to accommodate the larger number of May graduates. Once approved, you will be notified by the Board with your registration code. You will receive this information via the email address you listed on the exam application form. The Board cannot send information to multiple email addresses. You must designate one email address (and check it) for receiving correspondence from the Board. The letter sent to your email address that grants your authorization will contain instructions on how to register with an examination site.
Note: Please list the email address on your exam application form that you use the most often and be sure to check it so you are able to meet the registration deadlines for the exam.
The licensure exam is administered monthly at approved testing locations. You must submit your complete application for approval to take the exam by the 1st of the month prior to your desired testing window.
For example, you graduate from your program in May. Your final transcripts, showing conferment of your degree, are ready from the university a few weeks later. Your complete application, including the transcripts, must arrive at the licensure board by May 26th in order to be reviewed and notified in time to register for the exam by June 1st to take the exam in July.
If your completed transcripts are ready after the stated deadline, then you would eligible to apply to take the exam in August, pending approval. Please do not contact the Board requesting exceptions to the schedule as those cannot be accommodated.
The Board makes an effort to schedule its meetings where licensure applications are reviewed in concert with graduations, and to allow for the exam to be taken and scored in time for the next meeting.
Additional information can be found on the Application for National Marriage and Family Therapy Examination form. The AMFTRB also produces a handbook for exam candidates.
Be sure to keep up with the testing dates and deadlines.
Note: As noted above when applying to take the exam, please include a copy of your official transcript with your application. Official transcripts are printed by the university and have some type of seal and signature to verify their authenticity. This is in an effort to help expedite the testing process for applicants. Later, when you apply for licensure, your official transcript must be sent to the Board office directly from the university or the university’s designated issuing service for transcripts. Effective April 1, 2020, the Board will accept electronic transcripts. If the name on your transcript is different than the name on your application for licensure, you must indicate this on the application for licensure AND provide documentation of an official name change (marriage certificate, divorce decree, court order).
Requirements for Licensure
Licensure in North Carolina, whether as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy Associate (LMFTA) or as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), requires a minimum of a master’s degree in MFT or a master’s degree in a related degree (provided the required coursework has been completed) from a REGIONALLY ACCREDITED UNIVERSITY, such as SACS (Southern Association… , check your university website to find accreditation information. If it is not there, that is a red flag – investigate further). A passing score on the National Marriage and Family Therapy Examination is also required, along with documented supervision under an approved supervisor or demonstration of intent to acquire the minimum 1500 clinical and 200 approved supervision hours (approved AAMFT Approved Supervisor or AAMFT Supervisory Candidate). Note: the Board reserves the right to require a fully approved supervisor instead of a supervisory candidate when an applicant has limited hours from their qualifying degree program (per board policy, fewer than 360 clinical hours, of which at least 120 of the 360 should be relational hours, and fewer than 72 approved supervisor hours).
Applications for either license will not be scheduled for Board review until all required documents have been received and confirmed [education, an official transcript with degree conferment posted (sent directly from the university or it’s designated transcript issuing service), National Marriage and Family Therapy Examination passing score verification, experience (clinical and supervision hours on the forms or in the manner proscribed by the Board)]. The Board requires unless otherwise noted, that copies of all course syllabi for all submitted ‘core’ courses be submitted with your application. All courses not listed on your application as electives are core courses. Syllabi is not required for electives. Syllabi must be from the period/date the course was taken. Do not submit generic syllabi as those cannot be accepted. For more information about required coursework categories, you should review the instruction for completing the application. The applicant, not the Board, is responsible for ensuring coursework is listed in the appropriate course category. A course cannot be duplicated or utilized for different sections of the required coursework. Your listed course numbers must ‘match’ the numbers listed on your transcript. If all required applications materials have not been received by the due date listed, then the application will be deferred until the next scheduled review by the Board (i.e. the next listed board meeting).
Note: Official transcripts must be received BEFORE a license can be issued.
Since MFT is a distinct mental health discipline, licensure applicants must show education and experience in those areas that make MFT unique. The Board carefully assesses each application to ensure that these requirements have been met, in accordance with its statutory mandate/ duty to protect the public from those who are unprofessional, unauthorized, or unqualified.
See TEMPORARY PDFs FOR AN INTERIM LICENSE APPLICATION AND INSTRUCTIONS
Educational requirements are the same for LMFTAs or LMFTs. Again, licensure in North Carolina, whether as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy Associate (LMFTA) or as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), requires a minimum of a master’s degree in MFT or a master’s degree or a related mental health degree (provided the required coursework has been completed) from a REGIONALLY ACCREDITED UNIVERSITY, such as SACS (Southern Association…, check your university website to find accreditation information. If it is not there, that is a red flag – investigate further) Accredited MFT programs from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs (CACREP) or the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) typically have these educational requirements built-in to their programs. However, that does not mean an application from a COAMFTE or CACREP program will be automatically approved. Syllabi, as required, must be still submitted in the manner noted above. Professional Identity and Ethics must include a strong emphasis on the Code of Ethics for MFTs. If the MFT Code of Ethics content cannot be demonstrated, then additional coursework may be required.
Educational requirements for those enrolled in their qualifying degree program (defined as the degree listed on your official transcript) on or after October 1, 2011 are:
- Assessment and Diagnosis (3 semester hours)
- Human Development and Family Relations (3 semester hours)
- Practice of MFT (6 semester hours)
- Professional Identity and Ethics (3 semester hours)
- Research in MFT (3 semester hours)
- Theoretical Foundation in MFT (6 semester hours)
- Clinical Practicum (9 semester hours)
- Additional Core Coursework (12 semester hours)
Educational requirements for those who were enrolled in their qualifying degree program (defined as the degree listed on your transcript) before October 1, 2011:
- General Family Studies (6 semester hours)
- Marriage and Family Therapy Theory (6 semester hours)
- Psychopathology (3 semester hours)
- Clinical Practicum (9 semester hours)
- Additional Core Coursework (12 semester hours)
Clinical experience towards licensure is acquired from practicums and internships during the graduate course of study, along with experience post-graduation. All documented hours of experience toward licensure hours must be supervised and signed-off by an AAMFT approved supervisor or accepted AAMFT supervisor candidate). No hours can be counted towards either license if this requirement is not met. AAMFT approved supervisors have completed specific training. Clinical and supervision hours while in your qualifying degree program that was not under approved supervisors as noted will not count toward licensure hours, but they count as having met the practicum requirement for the education component for licensure).
If you do not hold full licensure as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), then North Carolina statutes state that you must be under supervision if you are not at an exempt setting (defined below). This supervision must be by an AAMFT approved supervisor, even if your place of employment has another supervisor on-site who oversees your work.
A total of 1,500 hours of clinical experience must be completed in order to apply for the LMFT license. No more than 500 hours can count from your master’s program. A minimum of 500 relational hours must be completed.
Clinical experience: “Clinical experience” means face-to-face therapy between a therapist and a client, whether individuals, couples, families, or groups, conducted from a larger systems perspective that relates to client treatment plans, is goal-directed, and assists the client in affecting change in cognition, behavior, and affect.
Larger systems: “Larger systems” means any individual or group that is a part of the client’s environment and that potentially impacts the client’s functioning or well-being and potentially can assist in the development and implementation of a treatment plan.
Relational hours: “Relational hours” means therapeutic contact between a therapist and another person somehow connected to them, such as meeting with a couple, a family, an individual and an extended family member, or an individual and a member of their larger system, such as a student and a teacher.
Exempt setting: “Exempt setting” means
(1) The person is (i) enrolled in a master’s level program or higher in a recognized educational institution, (ii) under supervision as approved by the Board in a training institution approved by the Board, and (iii) designated by a title such as “marriage and family therapy intern.”
(2) The person is practicing marriage and family therapy as an employee of a recognized educational institution, or a governmental institution or agency and the practice is included in the duties for which the person was employed by the institution or agency.
(3) The person is practicing marriage and family therapy as an employee of a hospital licensed under Article 5 of Chapter 131E or Article 2 of Chapter 122C of the General Statutes. Provided, however, no such person shall hold himself out as a licensed marriage and family therapist.
(c) No such person practicing marriage and family therapy under the exemptions provided by this section shall hold himself or herself out as a licensed marriage and family therapist or licensed marriage and family therapy associate
At least 200 hours of on-going approved supervision (approved AAMFT Approved Supervisor or AAMFT Supervisory Candidate) completed concurrently while accruing the necessary 1,500 hours of clinical experience, are required for licensure as an LMFT.
If you received 200 hours of supervision while in your degree program, then you must have at least 25 additional hours of supervision (along with the required minimum of 1000 clinical post-degree hours between completion of your degree program and submitting your application licensure as an LMFT. There is a minimum of one hour per month of approved supervision while an LMFTA, working towards LMFT licensure.
Only supervision hours from an approved supervisor as defined above, who was overseeing your work at the time it was completed, are eligible to meet the supervision requirement. Your supervisor should have been licensed or authorized by the state where you were practicing while accruing your practicum hours. The same is true during your supervision as an LMFTA.
When selecting your supervisor to work with during your LMFTA designation, the Board recommends that you seek out someone with whom you have not had supervise your work previously. This can help you to be exposed to additional theoretical practices, backgrounds, experiences, and insight.
While you hold the LMFTA designation, your accepted AAMFT Approved Supervisor must in addition to being an AAMFT Approved Supervisor (accepted supervisory candidate) be a licensed mental health professional in the State of North Carolina.
The application fee is for evaluation of credentials and is non-refundable. Submitting an application and remitting the fee does not guarantee approval. Applicants must meet the requirements for licensure.
No credentials or coursework can be evaluated or considered prior to submitting the complete application and fee. This means that emails or calls to the Board office inquiring if certain courses fit the requirements or other similar questions will not receive an individual response. Applicants are reminded to review the requirements and information provided on the Board’s website. Only complete applications that have been submitted, along with the fee and all required documentation, can be reviewed by the Board. See the Board’s calendar (insert calendar link here) for submission deadlines and approval notifications.
The application fee is $200 for either the LMFTA or the LMFT application. Application files remain open for a maximum of two years from date of the first activity/submission of materials. If an applicant needs to submit additional information to supplement the original application, they may do so during this two year period without incurring additional fees.
The fee, effective July 1, 2020, in accordance with NC MFT Statutes, for applying for LMFTA or LMFT, including those transitioning from NC LMFTA to NC LMFT is $200 per application. As a reminder, incomplete applications may be returned to the applicant. If an application is returned to the applicant as incomplete and the Board may impose an additional processing fee in accordance with NC Statutes.
Types of Licensure in North Carolina
There are two licenses for MFT in North Carolina: the Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy Associate (LMFTA) and the Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).
For those who have completed a graduate course of study in MFT (or a related field, providing all of the educational requirements are met), who have passed the national exam, and who have the appropriate amount of experience and supervision, they may complete the application for LMFTA. LMFTAs practice under the supervision of an AAMFT approved supervisor until they become an LMFT. LMFTAs are still completing the required 1,500 hours of clinical experience (including the appropriate amount of relational hours) and 200 hours of supervision.
For those who have completed a graduate course of study in MFT (or a related field, providing all of the educational requirements are met), have passed the national exam, and who have completed 1,500 hours of direct clinical experience (including a minimum of 500 hours of relational hours), and 200 hours of supervision under the direction of an approved supervisor as defined by the Board, they may complete the application for LMFT.
If an applicant is moving to North Carolina and has been licensed as an unrestricted (defined as not required to practice under supervision) marriage and family therapist in their state for the five previous years, if their license is in good standing (no disciplinary action), if they have passed the National Marriage and Family Therapy Exam (required regardless of the length of licensure), a background check does not indicate issues that would result in denial of licensure and their state requirements are at least equivalent to North Carolina’s, they may complete the LMFT via Reciprocity application. License verification and official copies of the examination score will be required. Verification of clinical hours and supervision hours for applicants eligible for reciprocity consideration is not required. DO NOT apply for reciprocity consideration if you do not meet the minimum five year licensure period as defined above as the application will be denied and you are subject to forfeiture of the application fee.
Note: North Carolina does not have automatic reciprocity with any other state or jurisdiction.
Timeframe for Board Decision
All applications for licensure must be approved by the Board. Applications deadlines are set to allow enough time for processing and review so decisions can be made at designated board meetings. The Board may approve, defer, or deny an application.
All application materials must be received before the Board can review the application. Board meetings and application reviews are scheduled throughout the year. If all materials are not received by the deadline, then the application will be deferred until the next meeting.
Active duty military or legally recognized spouses/partners of active duty military applicants click here for application processing time for active duty military or military spouse applicants
Deadlines can impact your employment, as anyone practicing marriage and family therapy who is not in an exempt setting (as defined by statutes), is in violation of the law. A license is required to engage in marriage and family therapy in North Carolina unless otherwise exempt under NC Statute (INSERT LINK TO STATUTE HERE).
Please plan accordingly if you are moving to North Carolina (or if you are coming here temporarily for a time-limited program), to allow enough time for all application materials to be received and reviewed by the Board. Alert your new employer of the mandates and time frame to receive your license.
To review the deadlines and board meeting dates, please refer to the calendar. You may find a link to the calendar at the top of the sidebar.