The Master of Arts in Marital and Family Therapy Degree Program


Program Overview

The Master of Arts (M.A.) in Marital and Family Therapy program prepares practitioners of personal integrity and spiritual maturity to provide effective, ethical, culturally inclusive, professional counseling from a Christian worldview. The program prepares Christian counselors with the knowledge, skills, and insight needed to practice in family service agencies, mental health clinics, residential and outpatient treatment programs, counseling centers, public and private clinical counseling settings, church and parachurch organizations.

Western's counseling program is designed with an integrative approach which seeks to understand and explain emotional, relational, behavioral, and spiritual problems that people face in life from a biblical worldview. The program places an emphasis on theological reflection and spirituality as they relate to personal development and the therapeutic process.

Five major areas of study are blended in the M.A. program: biblical, theological, clinical mental health counseling, marriage and family counseling, and spiritual integration. A wide variety of teaching methods are utilized to assist individuals with differing learning styles emphasizing learning by doing. Each student spends three or more semesters of clinical experience in practicum positions working with clients in the community. Additionally, personal examination and reflection is a significant part of the program and is emphasized in a variety of settings, including small group practicum and mentoring relationships with faculty. In these settings, students are challenged to reflect upon the practical application of theory and what meaning it has for them professionally and personally. Additionally, graduates of the counseling program may choose to specialize in work in addiction counseling. Overall, students are trained to master the art of counseling from a biblically-informed worldview.

While the curriculum satisfies the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) educational requirements for Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT), it also meets the requirements for licensing as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) in California and other states.

Western Seminary offers the Master of Arts (M.A.) in Marital and Family Therapy program (requiring 72 credits) through the San Jose and Sacramento campuses. Additionally, the program may be augmented by two dual-track degree options, an M.A. in Marital and Family Therapy/M.Div. (Pastoral Counseling) program (requiring 128 credits), and the M.A. in Marital and Family Therapy/M.A. (Biblical and Theological Studies) (requiring 108 credits). M.A. students may also complete five additional credits to qualify for the Addiction Studies Certificate.

Courses are held at convenient times for working adults. The M.A.-MFT program is designed to be completed within three years. Courses have been strategically sequenced to maximize academic achievement, personal growth, and the integration of counseling and theology.

Program Goals and Student Learning Outcomes

The Master of Arts in Marital and Family Therapy program goals include:

  • Equip counselors for clinical mental health counseling positions and for counseling ministry in church and parachurch settings.
  • Integrate biblical and theological foundations with the insights of counseling theory and the use of counseling interventions.
  • Promote growth in Christian maturity in students, demonstrated through effective interpersonal relationships.
  • Prepare individuals for state licensure and professional practice as Licensed Marital and Family Therapists and/or Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors.

The Master of Arts in Marital and Family Therapy program is designed to prepare graduates of integrity with the following learning outcomes:

  • Theological reflection and discernment (conviction) By employing advanced theological thinking that integrates a gospel-centered worldview with biblical and social science studies;
  • Spiritual maturity (character) By applying biblical truth to life and ministry resulting in gospel-centered spiritual growth and transformation;
  • Interpersonal skills and emotional health (character) By demonstrating social and emotional awareness, respect for others, inclusivity in diversity, effectiveness in teamwork, intrapersonal and interpersonal awareness, and the ability to care for self;
  • Counseling skills (competence) By evidencing theoretical knowledge, application of theory, and clinical competence; additionally, students will demonstrate an ability to build an effective culturally inclusive therapeutic alliance with clients utilizing a breadth of clinical skills and technique consistent with current clinical research evidence;
  • Professional practice (competence) By applying their training to internship tasks, integrating supervisory input into clinical work, reflecting on multicultural and contextual issues, engaging cooperatively in the supervision relationship, and behaving in accordance with the ethical standards of the profession.

Admission Requirements

In addition to the general requirements for admission to the Seminary, applicants for this M.A. program must possess a four-year baccalaureate degree or its educational equivalent from a college or university accredited by a United States association holding membership in one of the seven regional accrediting associations, membership in the Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada, membership in the Association for Biblical Higher Education, or from an institution which maintains similar academic requirements and standards. Additionally, M. A. applicants must present a GPA of 3.0 or higher, including a breadth of liberal arts. Applicants who do not meet these general academic requirements may petition the Admissions Committee for consideration. A recommendation from the applicant’s pastor and three personal recommendations regarding the applicant’s Christian character and leadership are also required.

Entering counseling students are expected to bring a foundational knowledge of psychology. Proficiency in this foundational knowledge will be confirmed through a readiness exam, required of all incoming counseling students. If deficiencies are indicated, remedial work will be required during the first semester of study. Counseling students may satisfy these deficiencies in one of the following two ways: Complete the appropriate undergraduate course(s) at an approved institution, or complete a recommended course of self-study. The student may not begin the second semester of counseling studies without satisfying proficiency requirements.

Applications must give evidence of personal character, interpersonal relationships, appropriate goals and motivation, and potential for a future clinical counseling career and ministry. This will include a vital spiritual life, growing and nurturing relationships with people, commitment to a biblical/theological worldview, and vocational aspirations involving the care and nurture of people.

Transfer Credit, Advanced Standing, and Residence Requirements

Upon approval by the program director and the registrar’s office, transfer of up to 12 credit hours of Bible and theology is allowed toward the M.A. program from graduate institutions accredited by the Association of Theological Schools. Transfer of up to 12 credit hours of counseling courses is allowed from a California state-approved graduate counseling program. Students must have earned a grade of B or higher for a course to be considered for transfer (courses assigned a passing grade rather than a letter grade will not be considered), and coursework must have been completed no more than five years prior to matriculation to Western Seminary. Transferability of credits earned at Western and transferred to another institution is at the discretion of the receiving institution.

Alternatively, students may receive advanced standing of up to 12 credit hours of Bible and Theology coursework toward their program if they are able to demonstrate current competency in required coursework based on prior study (based on parallel undergraduate work or transfer credit that is ineligible for consideration based on age). Consult the registrar’s office for information on eligibility of transfer credit and advanced standing.

Of the 72 credit hours required for the M.A. in Marital and Family Therapy program, a minimum of 48 credit hours must be completed through coursework at Western Seminary, with a minimum of 40 credit hours taken in resident study at Western Seminary’s Sacramento or San Jose campus..

Degree Requirements

Students may complete their studies in as few as six semesters with a minimum of 72 credit hours required as a minimum for graduation. The program is designed around a common core of 60 credit hours of counseling coursework, 6 credit hours of biblical studies, and 6 credit hours of theological studies.

The M.A. in Marital and Family Therapy degree is conferred upon the attainment of pertinent personal and academic requirements. In addition to the general seminary requirements, degree candidates must (1) give evidence of a genuine Christian character, orthodox belief, and conduct consistent with a God-given call to a position of leadership; (2) complete all courses in the prescribed M.A. curriculum with a minimum grade point average of 3.0; (3) pass the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Exam (CPCE) in preparation for National Certification and California state licensure prior to graduation; and (4) complete practicum hours as required by the BBS.

All work leading to the Master of Arts degree must be completed within five years from the time of matriculation. Permission to extend the five-year statute of limitation must be granted through submission of an academic petition. Reinstatement to the program after withdrawal requires Admissions Committee action and may subject the student to additional requirements for the degree. All credits applied toward the degree requirements must be earned within ten years of the awarding of the degree.

Students who intend to apply for the LMFT license must complete 325 hours of clinical experience at an approved site with a qualified supervisor. (These 325 hours include a minimum of 225 hours of face-to-face experience counseling individuals, couples, families and/or groups; 45 hours of clinical supervision; 30 hours of personal therapy with a licensed MFT, LCSW, LPCC, psychologist or advanced intern—the remaining hours may be client-centered advocacy, workshops, trainings, etc.). The BBS counts practicum hours up to the 3,000 required for LMFT licensing exams.

Students who intend to apply for the LPCC intern license must complete a minimum of 280 hours of direct, face-to-face client contact hours; 45 hours of clinical supervision; 30 hours of personal therapy with a licensed MFT, LCSW, LPCC, psychologist or advanced intern—the remaining hours may be client-centered advocacy, workshops, trainings, etc. Although these hours are required during the program the BBS does not count practicum hours up to the 3,000 hours required for the LPCC licensing exams.

Professional Assessment of Candidates (PAC Review)

Western Seminary counseling faculty review each student every six months to insure progress is being made toward professional identity as a mental health professional. Students who are doing well receive encouragement. If concerns are indicated, members of the PAC Review committee meet with the student to discuss plans for strengthening their academic and professional candidacy. In rare situations, the committee may advise students to develop other vocational goals. This process is intended to encourage students and support them as they develop as counseling professionals. For a few, this process of monitoring student progress may help prevent unnecessary financial expense preparing for an unsatisfying career.

Master of Arts in Marital and Family Therapy Curriculum Plan

Biblical Studies: 6 credits
BL511 Survey of Genesis to Song of Solomon
BL512 Survey of Prophets and Gospels
BL513 Survey of Acts to Revelation
Theological Studies: 6 credits
TH511 Survey of Knowing the Triune God: Theology I 2
TH512 Survey of Glorifying the God of Our Salvation: Theology II 2
TH513 Survey of Living as the Community of the Spirit: Theology III 2
Marital and Family Therapy/Counseling Studies: 60 credits
CNS501 Clinical Foundations: Basic Counseling Skills/Interventions 2
CNS502 Psychological Theory and Techniques 3
CNS503 Family Systems Therapy 3
CNS504 Psychotherapeutic Systems 2
CNS505 Psychopathology 3
CNS506 Legal and Ethical Issues 2
CNS507 Human Life Span Development 3
CNS508 Introduction to Integrative Issues 2
CNS509 Advanced Integration 2
CNS510 Spiritual Development and Assessment 2
CNS512 Group Counseling 3
CNS513 Social and Cultural Foundations 2
CNS516 Marriage and Couple Counseling 3
CNS517 Child and Adolescent Therapy 2
CNS518 Career and Lifestyle Development 2
CNS523 Human Sexuality 2
CNS524 Research in Counseling and Family Studies 2
CNS525 Tests and Measurements 3
CNS526 -or- Psychopharmacology (Sacramento students only) 2
CNS527 Physiology, Pharmacology, and Addiction (San Jose students only) 2
CNS529 Counseling Addictions 2
CNS530 Counseling Practicum I 2
CNS531 Counseling Practicum II 2
CNS532 Counseling Practicum III 2
CNS544 Counseling Violence and Abuse Issues 3
CNS553 Human Services 2
CNS559 Emergency Preparedness: Crisis Management 2