What is COAMFTE?
AAMFT’s Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) is a specialized accrediting body that accredits master’s degree, doctoral degree, and post-graduate degree clinical training programs in marriage and family therapy throughout the United States and Canada. Since 1978, the COAMFTE has been recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) as the national accrediting body for the field of marriage and family therapy. In addition, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or (CHEA) officially recognizes the COAMFTE. CHEA is a non-governmental organization that works to foster and facilitate the role of accrediting bodies in promoting and insuring the quality and diversity of American post-secondary education. The USDE and CHEA regularly review the policies and practices of the COAMFTE for continued recognition.
The COAMFTE is made up of nine (9) Commissioners — seven (7) professional members and two (2) public members. Professional Commission members must be senior marriage and family therapy educators or clinicians. Public members represent the interests of the general public and are not professional marriage and family therapy educators, supervisors or practitioners. In selecting Commission members, every effort is made to maintain a balance with regard to race, ethnicity, gender, and geographic location. The Commission must also reflect a balance regarding academicians and practitioners as well as training contexts (master’s, doctoral, and post-degree).
Purpose of Accreditation
Specialized accreditation of marriage and family therapy programs is a public service that aims to: encourage programs to continue their own self-study and development; and indicate that programs are meeting established standards and their own stated objectives.
This specialized accreditation is both a process and a condition. The process, or the act of accrediting, entails assessing a program’s operations through compliance with specified professional standards developed by a national consensus of professionals in the field. The condition, or the state of being accredited, provides a credential to the public which attests that a program has accepted and is fulfilling its commitment to educational quality.
The COAMFTE works cooperatively with its parent organization, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), state licensing and certification boards, and the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB). The COAMFTE program educational standards often serve as the foundation for the development of individual credentialing requirements. 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. Once a program has become accredited, it is required to submit annual reports demonstrating continued compliance with standards. Accredited programs are reviewed at least every six years.
Benefits of Accreditation
In fostering quality assurance and program improvement, the COAMFTE’s accreditation process benefits the public, programs, students, and the profession.
To the public and consumers, accreditation provides assurance that the program has undertaken extensive external evaluation, and meets standards established by the profession.
Accreditation serves programs by providing a stimulus for self-evaluation and a cost-effective review mechanism which strengthens the reputation and credibility of a program because of the public regard for accreditation. Accredited programs become eligible for funding under several Federal grant programs. Click here for listing of current grant opportunities.
Students can be assured that the appropriate knowledge and skill areas will be included in the course of study that are necessary for entry into a chosen field and that the program demonstrates financial stability. An accredited degree assures a prospective employer that the student has undertaken a superior course of professional preparation. An accredited degree also allows students to apply for Clinical Membership in AAMFT through the accelerated Accredited Program Track in the absence of state licensure.
The MFT Profession benefits because specialized accreditation contributes to the unity of the profession. It brings together practitioners, teachers, and students in the vital activity of setting standards for the education of entry level professionals, and of continually improving professional preparation, education, research, scholarship, and clinical practice.
Scope of Accreditation
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.