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Marriage Counseling Specialty Acronyms Translated

Third in a series of blogs about Marriage Counseling from Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates. The first two are: “Marriage Counseling: Does it Work?” and “Marriage Counseling: Which Therapist Suits Your Needs?

The PsychologyToday Therapist Search lists more than 60 Mental Health specialties. Among those of interest to troubled couples might be: Divorce; Domestic Abuse; Domestic Violence; Family Conflict; Parenting; Relationship Issues; Sex Therapy; and Women’s Issues or Men’s Issues.

Looking at a marriage-counseling specialty directory, there’s a bewildering stew of acronyms representing specialties and accreditations. Some definitions are intuitive. Many are not. Here’s a guide to some of the more common marriage counseling-related ones:

LMFT – Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

The LMFT specialist is licensed in Michigan by the Board of Marriage and Family Therapy. LMFTs have either a graduate or doctoral degree with classes specifically in Family Studies, Human Development and Family Therapy Methodology as well as Ethics and Research. In addition, to earn this certification, candidates must log supervised clinical hours and pass an exam and background check.

MFT – Marriage-Friendly Therapist

This is a category of marriage counseling that is specifically dedicated to “saving” the marriage if at all possible. “Most couples assume this is what all therapists believe. But it’s not so. Because of their professional training, many therapists hold a “neutral” value orientation towards whether a marriage survives or whether the couple divorces,” according to the National Registry of Marriage-Friendly Therapists, “In a national survey of over 1,000 marriage and family therapists, over 60 percent indicated that they are “neutral” on marriage versus divorce for their clients.” The Marriage-Friendly Therapists Registry provides a list of therapists in Southeast Michigan that subscribe to the philosophy of helping clients avoid divorce.

EFT – Emotionally Focused Therapy

Founded by Dr. Sue Johnson in 1998, EFT or Emotionally Focused Therapy, seeks to “create a shift in partners’ interactional positions and initiate new cycles of interaction.” EFT Therapy is a relatively short (8-20) series of sessions designed to help couples strengthen their emotional bonds. It is most helpful for couples trying to rediscover a valuable positive attachment with their partner that they may have lost through “negative cycles of criticism and anger,” writes Margarita Tartakovsky, an associate editor at PsychCentral.

Multiple studies report strong client satisfaction with both the EFT and Gottman Methods.

Gottman Method

The Gottman Method of Couples’ Counseling, founded by Drs. John and Julie Gottman, focuses on building nine basics for a healthy marriage. They include: learning about your partner’s desires and fears; affectionate admiration; seeking connection; positive problem solving; managing conflict; valuing each other’s dreams; creating shared meaning; trusting; and commitment. There are few Gottman-certified Couples’ Counselors in Michigan. To locate one, follow this link:

DBT – Dialectical Behavior Therapy

DBT can be helpful if either or both spouses suffer from anger issues. “Some couples experience high levels of conflict. Reactions are triggered, sometimes in an instant. They seem to move quickly to anger, harshness, blame, criticism and hostility,” according to Allan Pleaner of the Couples Training Institute. DBT therapy can help individuals or couples recognize that their harsh reactions to each other may be responses to prior trauma or stress. The DBT therapy re-trains them to recognize when they are feeling angry, then halt their instinctive defensive attacks and adopt less contentious, more loving interactions with a spouse.

When searching for a therapist, quite often directories such as PsychologyToday  or Network Therapy allow searches not only by location, insurance but by specialty as well.

Future blogs from Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates will provide more information about What to Expect from Couples’ Therapy.

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