Master of Arts in Marital and Family Therapy
Department of School, Family and Mental Health Professions
Program of Study
The Marital and Family Therapy program’s mission is to help lead the transformation of family therapy by creating, educating, and actively supporting a community of future professionals who embody the philosophy and practice of a biopsychosocial, systems approach to family-oriented mental health care.
The Master of Arts in Marital and Family Therapy (MFT) is a non-thesis degree program requiring 60 units of coursework (54 graduate units plus 6 units through USD’s Division of Professional and Continuing Education) and successful completion of a comprehensive written examination. As part of the program, students complete a 12-month clinical practicum where they accumulate 500 direct client contact hours of which at least 250 hours are with couples and families. Students also receive over 200 hours of supervision from both faculty and practicum site supervisors. The MFT program meets the guidelines for family therapy training set forth by the Board of Behavioral Sciences, which regulates licensure of marriage and family therapists in California. Additional requirements beyond the master's degree must be completed to obtain the license, primarily post-degree supervised clinical experience. The program has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) since 1992. The Commission on Accreditation is the standard setting organization for family therapy designated by the Department of Education. Ours is one of only ten master's programs in California recognized by the Commission.
The schedule of coursework may vary each semester, but most courses are offered at least twice a year. Students choose coursework for each semester with the help of their advisors.
The program emphasizes teaching students the clinical skills they need to be proficient marriage and family therapists. The program believes that all competent clinicians need to be able to utilize a biopsychosocial perspective. This perspective conceptualizes problems as the result of the complex interaction of biological, psychological, and social variables. Our students are taught the importance of considering possible biological factors in the etiology of presenting concerns and how to collaborate with the multiple professionals who come in contact with their clients.
Further, the biopsychosocial perspective emphasizes the importance of social systems as important contexts for consideration during assessment and treatment. Although primary emphasis is put on the family as the key social system, the program also considers the role that larger social systems have on individual and family functioning. Students are taught to consider, for example, the role of extended family, legal, medical and school systems. A course on gender issues examines how gender socialization impacts individuals, couples, families, and the therapeutic process. Issues of diversity, such as ethnicity and race, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation are also emphasized in the program.
At SOLES, all masters and doctoral students participate in an international experience designed to support the growth of cultural competency. Our goal is to inform best practices in working with culturally diverse populations locally, nationally and globally.
For many students, this experience will include a one- to two-week, faculty-led course abroad. For students who prefer to stay in southern California, this experience may be fulfilled through research or coursework on international issues. Service trips and site visits across the border in Tijuana are offered regularly.
MFT courses with an international component include
- Family Development in Turkey (Spring 2013)
- Human Diversity in Spain (Summer 2013)
Core Curriculum (52 units)
Electives (1-2 units)
Take 1 of the following 3 courses:
|COURSE NUMBER||COURSE TITLE||GRADUATE UNITS|
|MFTS 572||Gender Issues in Family Therapy||
|MFTS 573||Group Therapy||
|MFTS 576||Self of the Therapist||
Required Continuing Education Courses (6 CEUs)
|COURSE NUMBER||COURSE TITLE||CONTINUING EDUCATION UNITS|
|EDU 701I||Recovery-oriented Case Management||
|EDU 702I||Collaborative Care||
|EDU 703I||Individual, Family, & Community Trauma||
|EDU 704I||Treatment of Severe Mental Illness||
Frequently Asked Questions
How long will the program take me?
Full-time students complete their degree in 2 years, including summer and intersession coursework. Students who begin this program in the Spring semester will require a minimum of 2.5 years to complete it. Most students pursue this degree full-time.
Part-time students complete their degree in 2.5-3 years. Part-time students are required to take 6 units/semester and usually work in a related mental health profession.
How many units are included?
This program consists of 54 Graduate Units and 6 Continuing Education Units (CEUs), for a total of 60 units.
When are classes scheduled?
Each class typically meets once per week at 9:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., or 4:00 p.m. for 2 hours and 50 minutes. Most students take 3 classes per semester. Summer and intersession classes typically hold more frequent class meetings.
Can I work while completing this program?
It is difficult to work full-time while completing this program. Classes take place during the day and students also complete clinical experiences that are typically during the daytime hours.
Some students choose to hold part-time jobs on- or off-campus while completing the program, though this may be difficult during the practicum portion of the program.
Is this program offered online?
No, this program is offered on campus at the University of San Diego only. There is no online, hybrid, or distance learning option available.
Student Learning Outcomes
The educational goals of USD’s MFT program, which provide for and embody the program’s expectation of student learning outcomes, are as follows:
- Prepare future professionals who will identify as marriage and family therapists and practice a biopsychosocial, systems approach to family-oriented mental health care.
- Prepare future professionals who are ethical clinicians and sensitive to the diversity of their clients.
- Prepare future professionals who will draw upon knowledge from a variety of disciplines and integrate empirical based research into their clinical practice.
Regarding expected student learning outcomes, given the above listed educational goals of the MFT Program, it is expected that students will graduate from the program with the ability to do the following:
Student Learning Outcome 1: Graduates of the Marital and Family Therapy program are able to critically analyze field-related research and its applications to practice.Indicators assessed in the program assure that students:
- know the major concepts in research so that one can evaluate an empirical study.
- can identify the key strengths and limitations in an empirical study.
- know what are the key empirically supported treatments for a variety of issues that MFTs frequently encounter.
- know how to access and use information from research to inform one’s clinical work.
- value using research to inform one’s clinical work.
Student Learning Outcome 2: Graduates of the Marital and Family Therapy program conduct clinical assessment that is grounded in theory and integrates a biopsychosocial perspective. Indicators assessed in the program assure that students:
- know the key concepts used by major models of family therapy for understanding individual and relational well-being.
- can use theory to guide assessment.
- know the key DSM IV-TR disorders encountered by MFTs.
- can effectively assess and diagnosis DSM IV-TR disorders.
- can recognize the role that biology/physical illness may have on individual and relational well-being.
- are familiar with commonly used instruments in the MFT field.
- can conduct an assessment from a biopsychosocial perspective.
- value using a biopsychosocial perspective for assessment, with particular emphasis put on assessing conceptualizing from a systemic perspective.
Student Learning Outcome 3: Graduates of the Marital and Family Therapy program use theory and current treatments to develop effective treatment plans. Indicators assessed in the program assure that students:
- know the key concepts and interventions used by major models of family therapy.
- can develop an effective treatment plan or treatment focus.
- can use theory to guide treatment and development/use of interventions.
- know the current treatments used to treat DSM IV-TR disorders, including psychosocial and pharmacological treatments.
Student Learning Outcome 4: Graduates of the Marital and Family Therapy program apply individual and family development in the assessment and treatment of cases. Indicators assessed in the program assure that students:
- know the key life cycle issues that families face.
- are able to recognize the role of life cycle issues in the conceptualization and treatment of cases.
- know the key stages of individual development from childhood through adulthood.
- are able to effectively use knowledge of development in the assessment and treatment of cases.
Student Learning Outcome 5: Graduates of the Marital and Family Therapy program demonstrate commitment to the legal, ethical, and professional standards of the MFT profession. Indicators assessed in the program assure that students:
- know the key ethical principles and laws relating to the practice of MFT.
- are able to recognize when a legal or ethical issue exists.
- are able to effectively respond to when an ethical or legal issue exists.
- are committed to following the legal, ethical, and professional standards of the MFT profession.
Student Learning Outcome 6: Graduates of the Marital and Family Therapy program demonstrate competence working with clients from diverse backgrounds. Indicators assessed in the program assure that students:
- know the key concepts and idea that are necessary when working with clients from diverse backgrounds (e.g., race/ethnicity, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation).
- observed competence in working with clients from diverse backgrounds.
- value looking at contextual factors to understand individuals and relational systems
In addition to the central student learning outcomes, the Marital and Family Therapy program expects graduates who:
- are able to develop an effective client-therapist relationship.
- are able to effectively structure therapy, including setting appropriate boundaries.
- recognize when and how to make appropriate referrals for assessment and/or treatment.
- are able to identify when self of the therapist issues arise in therapy.
- are committed to examining and addressing self of the therapist issues as they arise.
- demonstrate an ability to learn and enhance their skills through reading, workshops, supervision, etc.
These expected student outcomes are facilitated by the program’s educational goals, which are ultimately aimed towards achieving the mission and visions of the Program, SOLES, and USD, creating post-graduates who are highly competent, curious, ethical, and prepared to serve diverse communities.
MFT Licensure in California
California is one of more than 40 states that regulates the practice of marriage and family therapy through either certification or licensure. Requirements for obtaining the MFT license are decided by the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) in Sacramento. The BBS also issues the license to practice. Requirements for licensing often change at the BBS's discretion. Students in the MFT program at USD are kept informed of changes as they are published by the BBS. However, students are ultimately responsible for this information. The easiest way to keep informed of these changes is to join the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT), which regularly publishes and keeps their members up to date on all BBS activity. The faculty also strongly encourages students to join the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), the national professional organizations for family therapists.
Current requirements for licensing include:
- A Master's or Doctorate with a specialization in Marital and Family Therapy. The MFT degree from USD meets the current educational requirements for California licensure.
- 3,000 hours of supervised experience. The supervisor must be a licensed MFT, a licensed psychologist, a licensed clinical social worker, or a psychiatrist. At the present time, 750 direct client contact and supervision hours can be completed by a candidate before the graduate degree is completed. The 500 hours of client contact needed for graduation from the USD program and the supervision received at practicum placements count toward this requirement. Pre-graduate degree hours must be done in an agency setting. Post-degree hours can be done with a supervisor in a private practice setting if desired.
- When the graduate degree and the supervised experience hours are completed, the candidate for licensing must pass a written and oral examination given by the BBS and pay appropriate fees.