The Master of Arts in Marital and Family Therapy Degree Program


Program Objectives & Requirements

Western Seminary offers the Master of Arts (M.A.) in Marital and Family Therapy program (requiring 73 credits) through the San Jose and Sacramento branch campuses. The Marital and Family Therapy program (M.A.-MFT) may be augmented by two dual-track degree options, an M.A. in Marital and Family Therapy/M.Div. (Pastoral Counseling) program (requiring 130 credits), and the M.A. in Marital and Family Therapy/M.A. (Biblical and Theological Studies) (requiring 118 credits). M.A. students may complete additional courses to qualify for the Addiction Studies Certificate, requiring 78 credits (at the San Jose campus).

M.A. in Marital and Family Therapy Program Outcomes

In addition to the Seminary’s general educational goals, the M.A.-MFT program endeavors to prepare practitioners of personal integrity who will provide effective, ethical, culturally inclusive, professional counseling from a Christian worldview.

The Counseling program aims to: 
  • 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.

M.A. Program Description

The M.A.-MFT program leads to a professional degree designed to equip future counselors with the knowledge and skills needed to offer care for the individuals, couples, and families that seek their services. This program prepares students to excel in a wide variety of settings including private practice, agencies, hospitals, churches, parachurch organizations, and schools. As with most counseling programs, the M.A.-MFT program offers skill-based coursework and practical experience.

Compared to other programs, the M.A.-MFT program offers Christians an opportunity to enrich their faith by taking Bible and theology courses alongside counseling courses, elucidating the integration of theology and counseling. While the curriculum satisfies the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) requirements for Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT), it also allows the flexibility to obtain licensure as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) in California and other states.

Three major areas of academic study are blended in the M.A.-MFT program: biblical, theological, and therapy/counseling studies. In addition, course work in character development facilitates spiritual and emotional healing and growth.

Program Vocational Purposes

The M.A.-MFT program intends to prepare Christian marriage and family therapists and/or professional clinical counselors with the knowledge, skills, and insights needed to practice therapy in non-profit organizations or mental health clinical settings, residential and outpatient treatment programs, hospitals, counseling centers, churches, or parachurch ministries.

The M.A.-MFT/M.A. (Biblical and Theological Studies) dual degree track provides scholarly discipline and training for thorough theological/psychological research and integration as well as an academic base suitable for biblical or theological doctoral studies.

The M.A.-MFT and Addiction Studies Certificate dual program track qualifies individuals to test for certification under the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors and its affiliated state organizations (San Jose only).

The M.A.-MFT program meets the educational requirements for licensure by the California Board of Behavioral Science (BBS). All programs prepare individuals for membership in (1) the American Counseling Association, (2) the American Association of Marital and Family Therapists (and its California chapters), (3) the American Association of Christian Counselors, (4) the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, (5) the National Board of Certified Counsellors, (6) the California Association of Licensed Professional Clinical Counsellors, and (7) the American Association of Pastoral Counselors.

Program Structure

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.

Admission Requirements

In addition to the general requirements for admission to the Seminary, applicants to the Marital and Family Therapy program must have earned an accredited baccalaureate degree with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher (on a 4.0 scale), including a breadth of liberal arts.

Entering M.A.-MFT 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 admitted students who intend to pursue a counseling degree. If deficiencies are indicated, remedial work will be required during the first semester of study.

Applications must give evidence of a vital spiritual life, personal character, interpersonal relationships, goals, motivation, and potential for future counseling work. Additional evidence will include 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 others

Transfer Credit

Upon approval by the Registrar, transfer of up to 12 credit hours of counseling studies is allowed from a state approved graduate program in the state of California. Transfer of up to 13 credit hours of Bible and theology is allowed toward the M.A. in Marital and Family Therapy program from graduate institutions accredited by the Association of Theological Schools. Students must have earned a grade of B or better for a course to be considered for transfer and coursework must have completed no more than five years prior to matriculation to Western Seminary.

Additionally, students may receive advanced standing of up to 13 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). Transferability of credits earned at Western and transferred to another institution is at the discretion of the receiving institution. Consult the Registrar’s Office for information on eligibility of transfer credit and advanced standing.

Residence Requirements

Of the 73 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. All work leading to the Master of Arts in Marital and Family Therapy 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.

Degree Requirements

The M.A.-MFT 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, and (4) 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; 20 hours of personal therapy with a licensed MFT, LCSW, LPCC, or psychologist - the remaining hours may be client-centered advocacy, workshops, trainings, etc.). The BBS counts practicum hours toward teh 3,000 required for LMFT licensing exams.

In addition to the specific degree requirements noted above, 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; 20 hours of personal therapy with a licensed MFT, LCSW, LPCC, or psychologist; 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 toward 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 a professional identity as a mental health professional. If concerns are indicated, members of the PAC Review committee will meet with the individual 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.

Course Requirements

Students may complete their studies in as few as six semesters with a minimum of 73 credit hours required as a minimum for graduation. The program is designed around a common core of 60 credit hours of counseling coursework, 8 credit hours of biblical studies, and 5 credits of theological studies.

Master of Arts in Marital and Family Therapy Curriculum Plan

Biblical Studies: 8 credits
DBS516 Survey of Learning to Interpret Scripture 2
BLS511 Survey of Genesis to Song of Solomon -or- 2
BLS511X and Survey of Genesis to 2 Samuel 1
BLS511Y Survey of 1 Kings to Song of Solomon 1
BLS512 Survey of Prophets and Gospels -or- 2
BLS512X and Survey of the Prophets 1
BLS512Y Survey of the Gospels 1
BLS513 Survey of Acts to Revelation -or- 2
BLS513X and Survey of Epistles 1 1
BLS513Y Survey of Epistles 2 1
Theological Studies: 5 credits
THS511 Survey of Knowing the Triune God: Theology I 2
THS512 Survey of Glorifying the God of Our Salvation: Theology II 2
THS513 Survey of Living as the Community of the Spirit: Theology III 1
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 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

2016-2017 Academic Catalog