JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — In a move that is being touted as granting Missouri families greater access to mental health services, licensed marital and family therapists are now eligible to become Medicaid providers.  

In November, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approved Missouri’s State Plan Amendment (SPA) Transmittal #18-0009, which allows the state to cover services provided by licensed marital and family therapists for both children and adults.

“Missouri families will benefit greatly from this news as LMFTs will now be able to help more people including U.S. veterans, their children, and many others that need help,” said Adriatik Likcani, President of the Missouri Chapter of American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy.

Licensed marital and family therapists (LMFTs) must have a minimum of a master’s degree and at least two years of post-graduate supervised clinical experience. Their training is based on research on the theory that mental illness and family problems are best treated in a family context.

Like members of the other mental health professions, LMFTs are trained to assess, diagnose, and treat an array of conditions including depressive and anxiety disorders, trauma and stressor related disorders, substance-related and addictive disorders, disruptive and conduct disorders, and other mental disorders.

Some of the therapy topics that LMFTs are trained to address include: childhood and adolescent behavioral challenges; depression, anxiety, and eating disorders; opioid and other substance use disorders; PTSD, head trauma for sports activities; domestic violence; and family and marital issues. There are LMFTs licensed in all 50 states.

“We are fortunate to have a number of robust marriage and family therapy academic programs in our state including the University of Central Missouri and Saint Louis University. These students, upon graduation, will have a much greater opportunity to stay in Missouri, help reduce the critical shortage of mental health workers in our state, particularly in rural areas, and increase access to therapy services for individuals, couples, and families. Therapy is a privilege and this ruling extends that privilege to more Missourians in need. A true win-win for Missouri,” said Likcani.

State Senator Denny Hoskins, a longtime supporter of LMFTs, whose district includes UCM stated that “Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists provide much-needed services for those in need of counseling. I’m excited their professional services will now be covered under MOHealthNet. This is a win-win for patients and also the students at UCM who are earning their degree in this field to become LMFTs.”

Advocates of the issue claim that more LMFTs helping Missourians can help drive down th cost of healthcare as therapy often times reduces over-utilization of other services, including emergency room visits. They are also able to treat a family unit instead of just individuals, which is a big saving to families who are in need of help but fear the cost associated with treatment.