Seeking Individual Therapy? Reasons MFTs are a good fit

I was given a referral to Emily Cook Therapy for individual therapy, but I see that the therapists in your practice are marriage and family therapists. Will one of your staff therapists be able to provide good individual therapy?


Marriage and Family Therapists, or MFTs, are therapists who are specially trained to work with couples, families, AND individuals. MFTs are able to diagnose and treat a range of mental health problems and can work effectively with clients with various presenting concerns. Like psychologists and social workers, MFTs are part of the “core” mental health professions in the United States, but our training is also distinct from that of other mental health professionals. Our training focuses on systems theory, which takes a holistic approach to examining the context in which problems occur. MFTs can help individuals examine the dynamics of all relationships in their lives, including relationships with family of origin, intimate relationships and friendships, your place in society, and even the relationship with yourself. If you struggle with one or more of these things, keep reading to find out how working with an MFT can be helpful to you!

Family of Origin

The family of origin refers to the family with which an individual was raised. This can be your biological parents and siblings, an adoptive family, or any other combination of people you grew up with. And as marriage and family therapists, we understand that those combinations are endless because no family is the same! Your family of origin and your experiences growing up are like the broth something is cooked in — even though you may be out of the soup now, those early experiences still “flavor” you. MFTs can help you sift through those experiences, whether they were pleasant or painful, and help you examine how they affect your current functioning, relationships, or mental health. MFTs can also teach you ways to “move differently” within your family of origin and within other relationships that are colored by your upbringing.

Intimate Relationships and Friendships

Sometimes, individuals seek therapy because they are struggling with important relationships in their lives. As relationship experts, MFTs draw from the tools of family systems theory, such as setting boundaries and promoting healthy communication of feelings, to help you navigate a variety of relationships. Whether your partner is not ready to commit to couples therapy or maybe you would like to focus on how you communicate with those you are closest to. Even if you’re the only person from the relationship attending therapy, the changes you make will ripple!

Your Relationship with Society

Marriage and family therapists are trained to practice cultural competency and we understand that the interplay of factors such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and culture of origin impact individuals. These factors can also impact your experiences in various systems that you interact with such as school, the workplace, or with the government. Many people value having a space in therapy to explore their experiences with these broader systems.

Your Relationship with Yourself

Marriage and family therapists understand that sometimes clients seek treatment for a specific mental health concerns or other struggles they face individually. MFTs are trained to diagnose mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, trauma, ADHD, eating disorders, and OCD, because we see the signs of these conditions so often in couples and families we work with. Many MFTs also have training in treatments for specific conditions and can help you learn coping strategies to alleviate symptoms and guide you toward reaching your mental health goals. As with any health professional you work with, it’s important to ask questions to be sure the clinician is a good fit and has the necessary expertise to meet your needs. MFTs can also help individuals improve their relationship with themselves, especially if they are dealing with issues such as low self-esteem, grief and loss, or life transitions. We do this by building a strong therapeutic relationship where individuals feel safe to explore and overcome any of life’s challenges.

If you’re seeking therapy by yourself, a marriage and family therapist can help. Give any of us a call today and we’ll tell you more! It’s so important to us that you feel you’re in the right place with the right help.

This post was written by Kaitlin Doyle, a marriage therapist at Emily Cook Therapy in Bethesda, MD who enjoys working with individuals in therapy and thinks MFTs are a great fit for people seeking therapy solo.