Theories: Top 7 Tips for Studying for the MFT Licensing Exam

Congratulations! You are close to taking your state’s MFT exam! Starting to study for the exam may be daunting to think about. It does not have to be though. Having a plan in place for yourself will help ease you into the mindset you need during your study time and test day.

First, I would suggest scheduling your exam 3 months after you begin to study. Scheduling your exam on the PSI system makes it more real. You will feel committed to studying. I rescheduled my exam 5 times; I was given 2 days prior to my scheduled day to reschedule or cancel. I kept pushing it because I knew I was not ready. My results? I passed on my first try in February 2017! I used TDC (Therapist Development Center) and went over their lectures twice, if I felt confused. I also reached out to their coaches, at no extra cost, in which I highly recommend if using TDC. 

Secondly, keep these tips in mind when studying the material:

  1. Regardless of which study prep course company you are using, the first thing that helped me was to memorize the categories of different theories and their associated theories (e.g. These are the categories:  Cognitive, Psychodynamic, Modern, Structural, Humanistic/Client Centered).
  2. I read all the theories under each category and created one sentence that would sum up the idea of all theories as if I was going to explain it to another MFT. For example, for Cognitive theories, I kept in mind that this was the theory where there was a lot of thinking, psychodynamic, skills building and homework.
  3. I moved on to organizing all the interventions under each theory and alphabetized them in this way, as an example:

A- avoid past problems/symptoms discussion

C-challenge clt to examine and evaluate own beliefs

D^2- Direct & Doing- focus on what clt is doing/thinking currently

E- examine needs, wants, perceptions

F- focus on where the clts have choices in the moment

F- formulate action plan for thoughts/ behaviors

H- humor

R-review results, adjust accordingly

T- teach self-evaluation

This method helped me keep in mind the order of the letters. I recall information easier this way. I know it isn’t for everyone. Rephrase the above as you need.

  1. I moved on to breaking down each theory and defining it. Keep it simple but bring in key words from the interventions.
    1. Ex) Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy- irrational beliefs to rational to overcome psychological distress
    2. Ex) Existential Therapy- recognizing pain (and other symptoms) by living through it in the moment because one who exists is responsible for all human conditions
  2. Studies show that color coded words are recalled easier by the brain. I used brown for modern, green for humanistic/CC, blue for structural, orange for psychodynamic and grey for cognitive). The colors for myself were not random. I focused on the theme of each theory category and applied the color that could captured that in one color.
  3. I created flashcards at the very end once I had basic knowledge of the theories. The traditional way I learned to create flashcards was to put the term in the front and memorize the definition. I did it backwards for this test.

I opted for putting the intervention definition in the front of the card, with its designated color, and learning the term it belonged to in random order from the start. The ones that were too easy for you, just note them on a document and highlight them as “Mastered.” Relaxation training, homework, beliefs, mindfulness, etc. were too easy for me.

  1. I repeated step 6 for all phases of each theory. I felt that this step benefited me most on my test.

Keep in mind that the test will not be asking for all of this. I needed this much structure for theories because it was the most difficult section for me to learn. You can apply these tips to other sections of the test. Best of luck to all of you! 

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

Mnemonics for Theories: LMFT Clinical Exam


While I was studying for the Clinical Exam using Amanda Rowan’s TDC prep, I often wondered if there was an easier way to learn the theories. It is not an easy section for most, but there are strategies you can use to make it a little better. Others have asked me for help with this section, so I am providing my strategies here to help you in your journey towards the clinical exam.

The following are acronyms that I came up with based on interventions per theory. I did not include the intervention terms due to copyright laws. I will provide an acronym of initials, and a sentence (with no acronym) to help you recall. When you personalize each letter and sentence, it makes it easier to memorize and learn the concept of the theory. CBT, Attachment acronyms and sentences are not included. If you do not find a sentence under a theory below, it is because the term had many interventions and the sentence would be too long, making it more difficult to study the information. TDC seperates concepts and interventions, I did too here. If TDC labeled the term as a "concept," it will not be included. These are interventions only. 

These are strategies that can spark ideas and other methods that can help you learn in your own style while studying with TDC. Remember, we are only limited by the restrictions we place on our own creativity.

Best of luck Future LMFT’s!


Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

  • Acting selfishly bombards other life consequences constantly
    • To clarify how I am using these sentences, here are what the letters stand for:

                 Activating event, Self-Acceptance, Beliefs, Other-Acceptance, Life-Acceptance, Consequences, Common irrational beliefs

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

  • IM DEH
  • I mostly don’t erroneously hypothesize
  • Mindfully intriguing homework de-stresses emotions

Reality Therapy

This one was tough, but using your imagination helps.

  • Avoiding challenges directly doesn’t help escape from really hurtful teachings


Object Relations

  • I evade stupid internet stuff purposefully on platforms

Self Psychology

  • For all the transference terms (adversarial, idealizing, mirroring, twinship): Add Income To Me
  • For experience-near empathy, mirroring, optimal frustration, self-objects and self-object needs:
    • SOS ME
    • Enjoy many seasons of strawberries

Depth Psychology

  • Auntie Anne makes perfect soul chicken




Narrative Therapy

  • Doctor Eli misses weightlifting sixty infant monkeys   

Solution –Focused






I think the sentence here helps most than the acronyms. 

  • Prescribing powerful homework pleasantly organizes readiness


  • Uncle Mike joyfully buys refrigerated eggs

Satir Communications

  • Is MFT MFT? Pretty simple to recall this one without creating a sentence.


Client/Person-Centered Therapy

  • Cats usually love every Saturday nap

Gestalt Therapy

  • BEEP H
  • Perls, being here ensures emotion.
  • Eddie buys pickles, ham, eggs.

Existential Therapy

  • MET HM

Experiential/ Symbolic Therapy

  • TAP BB
    • Each “B” here stands for Battle for Structure, or Battle for Initiative
  • Taking initiative perpetuates active structure

10 Networking Tips for Pre-Licensed & Licensed Therapists

Building your professional networking circle and marketing can start at any point of your career. Starting sooner rather than later will help make your career in your future much easier. I know this can be intimidating for the shy and introverted MFT's. You are not alone. What drives you to be in the profession? For me, it is my future, and my family. You accomplished graduate school and have the training and skills. You are ready for this step in your life! All you need is to believe in yourself. 

So how do you do it?

  1. Where you start is not meaningless. The supervisors,teacherscolleagues and friends of family members you currently have are connected with people. For anyone in the field that you want to connect with, invite them to coffee and ask them about their achievements, how they decided on what to specialize in, what they did/do for self-care. Make it about them, because you want to learn how they got to where they are. Leave them an MFT seed of yourself to remember you by. Most importantly, be genuine, authentic and professional.
  2. If you are looking for a private practice internship site, contact licensed clinicians and psychologists on PsychologyToday and ask if they are seeking for an intern at their practice.
  3. Create business cards. This can be ANY simple business card. I once went to a networking meeting and we had the opportunity at the end to pass our business card around. Those that did not come prepared had to write down their info on torn pieces of printer paper. A simple business card is much more professional than this. Always carry them with you! Please keep in mind your state’s ethics code for advertising.
  4. Attend association meetings, conferences, symposiums, trainings at mental health agencies or with organizations.  These are great opportunities to learn from professionals about their careers and knowledge in the field. Speak to these professionals and share your name and interests with them. Also, participate in webinars. Sovereign Health, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and Center for Healthy Sex are great places for interactive webinars!
  5. Join the LinkedIn, Alignable, Facebook MFT Network or MFT Interns Support & Study Group pages to also stay in touch with opportunities and future clinicians. Post what kind of jobs you are looking for, services you provide and you’ll be surprised with the leads you’ll receive.
  6. This cherished piece of advice (from my amazing former supervisor, Dr. Wiig) is best once you have secured a private practice internship. Go to local businesses (e.g. hospitals, holistic clinics, nutritionists, etc) and introduce yourself-- take some goodies if you can. As an intern, this was intimidating because I believed that professionals would prefer licensed clinicians. I was wrong. Many licensed clinicians in private practice do not always do this so you will benefit from making yourself known in the community. Talk about what you specialize in and ask about their services. They will keep you in mind! 
  7. Get to know the needs of your community. With the approval of your supervisor, create workshops to present for FREE at local schools (e.g. parent center) or for employees at local businesses (e.g. stress or anxiety management, anger management, relaxation).
  8. Create a free website. Once you start getting referrals, some clients may ask to see your website and may turn you away because you do not have one. Advertise your specialties, services, events, and blogs.
  9. Consider taking professional headshots to post on all social medias and your website. As fun as they are, selfies are not professional.
  10. Always send a thank you note or email to those you invited out for coffee or spoke to virtually or in-person.