Since Marriage (couple) & Family therapy is a relatively new field in the mental health services, people sometimes mistakenly think marriage & family therapists (MFTs) only work with couples and families. However, MFTs do commonly work with individuals, just as a Social worker or a counselor would do. One difference is that we approach individual/couple/family issues from a "family systems" lens. This means that when I meet with an individual, I keep in mind that he or she functions within the context of the family and various other relationships (school, work, peers etc.). Thus, there is a bidirectional influence between the individual and those he/she interacts with, which cannot be ignored in therapy.
For example, if I present to a therapist with depressive symptoms, a MFT would ask about my upbringing and the various relationships in my family. This is not to place blame on the family, but to tap into this highly influential system for its strengths and to identify existing patterns that I may be "reliving". Some of these existing patterns of interaction are thought to be transmitted from generation to generation (ex-my grandfather to my father to me) and may have either a positive or negative impact on an individual and his/her current relationships. For instance, I may be interacting the same way with my husband/partner that my mother did with my father (sometimes without recognizing it). As a therapist, my role would be to help uncover some of these dynamics in order to increase insight into how these may be impacting a client's individual symptoms (anxiety, depression etc.).
Sujata V, Ph.D, MFT
Always Learning..through the good AND not-so-good times!