The Master of Arts in Marital and Family Therapy/Master of Arts (Biblical and Theological Studies) Dual Degree Program


Program Overview

The M.A. in Marital and Family Therapy/M.A. (Biblical and Theological Studies) dual degree program expands the student's preparation in the biblical and theological areas. It is designed to prepare individuals for both professional counseling and such ministries as family ministries, pastoral care, discipleship, and small group ministries.

The purpose of the Master of Arts (Biblical and Theological Studies) degree is to provide a graduate level understanding of biblical and theological disciplines for students seeking specialized education. It is ideal for students with various academic goals and realize the need for graduate study in theological and biblical disciplines; persons seeking a solid theological education to enhance their chosen professions and prepare them to fill a vital ministry role; students building a substantial academic foundation for doctoral studies; and for those serving with parachurch organizations or other specialized ministries who desire advanced biblical/theological competency. The M.Div. program is recommended for those preparing for a ministry where ordination is expected or required (e.g., the pastorate or chaplaincy) or for those who anticipate subsequent doctor of ministry studies.

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.

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.

The M.A. (Biblical and Theological Studies) program goals include:

  • Cultivate skills in the efficient study and interpretation of Scripture.
  • Provide theoretical and practical skills in one area of focused specialization; and
  • Promote growth in Christian maturity demonstrated through effective interpersonal relationships.

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.

The M.A. (Biblical and Theological Studies) student learning outcomes include:

  • Applies biblical truth to life and ministry based on a thorough understanding of the biblical canon.
  • Employs mature theological thinking to evaluate competing ideas, develop a personally integrated and gospel-centered expression of biblical teachings, communicate theological truths clearly, and apply theological truths to life and ministry
  • Understands a broad range of biblical and theological issues, their historical background, and the significance that they have for the life and ministry of God’s people.
  • Exhibits a Christ-like character worthy of being emulated, and integrity that imparts credibility to his/her ministry
  • Demonstrates self-awareness and a commitment to an ongoing process of personal and spiritual formation that is clearly grounded in the gospel

Admission Requirements

In addition to the general requirements for admission to the Seminary, applicants for the M.A. dual degree program are expected to present an accredited baccalaureate degree (or its equivalent) with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher (on a 4.0 scale), 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 potential 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 placement exam, required of all incoming counseling students. If deficiencies are indicated, remedial work will be required. 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 a potential for future counseling ministry as fitting the program. This will include a vital spiritual life, growing and nurturing relationships with people, commitment to a biblical/theological orientation to the therapeutic process, 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 counseling is allowed from a state-approved graduate counseling program in the State of California, and up to 28 credit hours towards the M.A (BTS) from graduate institutions accredited by the Association of Theological Schools. 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 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 14 credit hours of the 28 credit hours of transfer credit towards M.A (BTS) requirements 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). Advanced standing is allowed for up to eight credits of the required BL courses (501, 502, 503) and eight credits of the required TH courses (501, 502, 503). They may qualify for four additional credits of advanced electives for the remaining credits in each of these required courses. Students can receive a maximum of six credits of advanced standing in NT and OT required courses. Consult the registrar’s office for information on eligibility of transfer credit and advanced standing.

Of the 122 credit hours required for the dual M.A. in M.F.T. and M.A (BTS), a minimum of 48 counseling and 28 M.A.(BTS) requirements must be completed through coursework at Western Seminary, with a minimum of 40 credits of counseling and 6 credits of M.A. (BTS) taken in resident study at Western Seminary’s Sacramento or San Jose campus.

Degree Requirements

Students may complete their studies in as few as seven semesters, with a minimum of 122 credits required as a minimum for graduation. The M.A.(B.T.S.) program requires a common core 50 credits including of foundational, biblical, and theological studies and 12 credits of electives while the M.A. in Marital and Family Therapy program requires a common core of 60 credits of counseling coursework.

The Master of Arts in Marital and Family Therapy and M.A (Biblical and Theological Studies) degrees are conferred upon the attainment of certain 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, and (4) complete practicum hours as required by the BBS.

All work leading to the M.A. in M.F.T. and M.A. (BTS) degree programs must be completed within seven years from the time of matriculation. Permission to extend the seven-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/Master of Arts (Biblical and Theological Studies) Curriculum Plan

Foundational Studies: 10 credits
BT501 Hermeneutics 2
BT502 Understanding Biblical Theology 2
CS501 Loving God and Others 2
CS502 Growing in Prayer and Other Key Spiritual Disciplines 2
MF500 Intro to Theological Study and Ministry Formation (Pass/Fail graded, lab fee) 0
ML506 Ministerial Ethics 2
Biblical Studies: 26 credits
Interpreting Genesis to Song of Solomon 4
Interpreting Prophets to Gospels 4
Interpreting Acts to Revelation 4
Theological Studies: 14 Credits
Learning from Church History 4
TH501 Knowing the Living God: Theology I 4
TH502 Glorifying the Word of Life: Theology II 4
TH503 Living as the Community of the Spirit: Theology III 4
Restricted Biblical/Theological Electives: 12 credits
With advisor's consent, select courses from BL, BT, CH, NT, OT or TH prefixes. Students are encouraged to consider using part of these electives for study in the biblical languages.
Counseling Studies: 60 credits
CNS501 Clinical Foundations: Basic Counseling Skills/Interventions 2
CNS502 Psychological Theory & 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 & Family Studies 2
CNS525 Tests and Measurements 3
CNS526 -or- Psychopharmacology (Sacramento Campus) 2
CNS527 Physiology and Pharmacology of Addiction (San Jose Campus)
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