California Marriage and Family Counseling Degrees and Programs

Marriage and Family Therapy Programs (or as they’re often called, MFT Programs) focus on the healthy functioning of family and romantic relationships. Potential course topics include frameworks for assessment, treatment models, counseling strategies, and more. Students might also examine the needs of families from different communities, religions, cultures and ethnicities. Some programs may even allow students to concentrate their studies on one specific patient population. In sum, marriage and family therapy graduate programs aim to foster skills to provide effective therapy to couples and families in any situation.

MFT Programs

Marriage and Family Therapy Programs: Varying Approaches

Marriage and family therapy graduate programs may adhere to a few different treatment models, philosophies, or ideological frameworks. Each of these could have a significant impact on the perspective taken in each course, or even on the design of the program as a whole.

Examples of treatment models you may encounter include:

  • Structural Strategic Family Therapy
  • Solution-Based Family Therapy
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Family Therapy

Reach out to your selected programs for more information on their preferred treatment models and how that might affect your education.

Example Curriculum in Graduate MFT Programs

While the specific curriculum different MFT programs may vary, each of them is likely to share a few distinct goals. For example, MFT graduate programs generally aim to provide a firm foundation of knowledge, which professional marriage and family therapists might use to help real families. What may differ is how those goals are addressed in an individual program’s curriculum.

Some examples of what marriage and family graduate programs might teach include the following.

  • Developmental Psychology
  • Psychological Assessment
  • Psychotherapy
  • Diverse or Multicultural Counseling
  • Human Sexuality
  • MFT Treatment Models
  • Marriage and Family Counseling Ethics

Certification or licensure may also be required to work as a marriage and family counselor in many states. As a result, schools may also design their curriculum to support licensure prerequisites in their region. It may be useful to familiarize yourself with the requirements wherever you plan to live and work, and make sure the programs you apply to align with those requirements.i

Some programs may also require practicum, internship, or other fieldwork experience. These types of experiences give students a chance to put theory into practice and gain hands on experience in a guided setting. The specific details may vary by program, concentration, and other factors. Contact your selected program to learn more.

EXPERT INSIGHT
We asked Dr. Paul Hokemeyer about how earning a  M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy helped his career:

"Earning a marriage and family therapist degree taught me to think systemically. No longer do I view things in isolation. I view them as interconnected to three levels of a persons existence: intrapersonal, interpersonal and social cultural." 
 

"My MFT degree has enabled me to address disorders in the fullness of their expression and impact." 

~Dr. Paul Hokemeyer   Click to Tweet

CACREP and COAMFTE Accredited Programsi

Many potential graduate students prefer only to consider MFT programs accredited by organizations within their target industries. In fact, some employers may even prefer to hire graduates of such programs. In marraige and family counseling, these organizations include the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy (COAMFTE).

Accreditation is a process by which a school or program is recognized as being qualified to issue a degree or teach a certain subject. This is one way to judge a program's quality. The US Department of Education recognizes various accrediting bodies. A program or school maintains accreditation by meeting certain standards set by these organizations. For more information about what this entails, follow up review the CACREP or COAMFTE websites, the US Department of Education website, or follow up with your selected program.

MFT Graduate Programs: Degree Levels

Marriage and family counseling degrees may be offered at several levels. In general, these can be broken down into three groups. The type of program you choose could depend on your objective, your educational and professional background, and other preferences.

  • Marriage and family therapy masters programs may issue either a Master of Arts or Master of Science degree (often abbreviated as MSMFT) upon completion. Some states may require the MSMFT (or similar) as a prerequisite for licensure. As such, many such programs may be designed to support the licensure process. However, requirements may vary by state, so make sure to consider this during your search.
  • Marriage and Family Therapy doctoral programs could offer a few different types of degrees. These include a PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) or Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapy (DMFT). The specific approaches and objectives of each may vary. However, in many cases, PhD programs are more academically inclined and look at designing and implementing research. PsyD and DMFT programs, on the other hand, tend to be more clinical.
  • Marriage and Family Counseling Graduate Certificate Programs are much shorter than degree programs and may be found. This could enable students to study specific topics of interest within Marriage and Family Therapy. Certificate programs might also be a great starting point for those just beginning their graduate education. Or they could act as continuing education to support licensure maintenance. Programs may be found at the masters and post-masters level.

Marriage and Family Therapy Programs Formats

A big part of choosing MFT degree programs is finding the ones that fit into your life. Whether you prefer to commit yourself completely to your studies, or balance your time between school, home, your professional therapy practice, and family obligations, different programs might serve you in different ways.

MFT programs may offer a range of options for flexibility and course delivery formats, each of which might be attractive to different students. While each have unique aspects, they can generally be divided up into three types.

  • Marriage and Family Counseling Schools offer MFT education in a face-to-face classroom format. Some of these programs may be designed to comply with local licensure requirements. MFT graduate schools may also be able to help organize any necessary field experiences in your area utilizing their relationships with hospitals and practices in the local community.
  • Online MFT Programs deliver courses directly to students' computers. Choosing to study online may make it possible to consider marriage and family therapy graduate programs outside your local area, and offer extra flexibility to accommodate your schedule.
  • Hybrid Marriage and Family Therapy programs are also referred to as partially online or blended programs. Hybrid programs use a variety of styles to combine the convenience of online courses with face-to-face learning.

What Is a Marriage and Family Therapist?ii

A marriage and family therapist seeks to help couples and families function in a healthy way. They do this by identifying specific obstacles and helping clients overcome them. Therapists or family counselors might ask questions to help clients define and understand their own feelings and situations. They may provide counseling, or create and enact treatment plans to help people overcome issues and encourage healthier behaviors.

A marriage and family therapist career typically requires a master's degree, such as the Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy degree. In addition, all states require marriage and family therapists to be licensed. State requirements vary but licensure may require a master’s degree and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of post-degree supervised clinical experience. In addition, licensed MFT therapists must pass a state exam and complete annual continuing education classes.

Find MFT Programs & Schools

GradSchools.com is here to help you begin your search for graduate MFT programs! You can start by reviewing the sponsored program listings here, or narrow down your options using the menu. Select filters by program level, format, or location. Then review the programs that match your search criteria! Click on program names to learn more, and contact the schools to start your application.


Sources: [i] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm#tab-4 | [ii] onetonline.org/link/summary/21-1013.00

Prepares marriage and family therapists to address the varied mental health needs of children, adults, and families.
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