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Marriage and Family Therapy Degree Programs

What is Marriage and Family Therapy?

Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) is a form of Mental Health Counseling that is focused around helping families manage and overcome mental or emotional disorders as well as conflict within the family. Marriage and Family Therapists will diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders within a family unit—providing conclusive treatments for clinical conditions including depression, anxiety, trauma, child-parent conflict, and relationship problems.

Marriage and Family Therapy has been shown to be more effective than individual treatments for many mental health maladies, including adult schizophrenia and alcoholism, mood disorders, drug abuse, childhood autism, and anorexia in young women. In contrast to other modes of counseling, Marriage and Family Therapists practice short-term therapy—usually between 9 and 50 sessions—with sessions evenly divided between individual therapy and marital/couple and family therapy.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists is positioned to grow much faster than average for other occupations.

Interested in pursuing a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy? Obtain your MFT degree at Pacific Oaks.


How do I become a Marriage and Family Therapist in California?

At a Glance:

  1. Earn a Master’s or Doctoral degree from a qualifying college*
  2. Register with the BBS as an MFT Intern
  3. Earn 3,000 hours of post-degree experience
  4. Apply to take the California Law & Ethics Examination
  5. After passing the CA Law & Ethics Exam, apply for the Clinical Examination
  6. After passing the Clinical Examination, Apply for initial licensure
  7. Receive LMFT license

In California, those interested in becoming Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) must first possess a qualifying* doctoral or master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy before sitting for the licensure examination.

Upon graduation from the qualified MFT degree program, the pre-licensee must register with the Board as an MFT intern in order to accrue post-degree hours of supervised experience. Pre-licensees must complete 104 weeks of supervision and 3,000 hours of supervised work experience.

Once the supervision and work experience requirements have been met, MFT Therapy candidates can apply for eligibility from the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS). After receiving notification of eligibility, candidates may schedule an examination date at any one of the Psychological Services (PSI) testing locations throughout California.

*For a program to be qualified, the program must satisfy all of the requirements of the SB 33 and the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) (Business and Professions Code Sections 4980.36c, d e 4980.39, 4980.40, and 4980.41).


Why choose a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy degree from Pacific Oaks?

Pacific Oaks’ Marriage and Family Therapy degree programs offers a Traditional MFT program along with four specializations centered on addressing the unique challenges faced by individuals in these groups:

Students pursuing a degree in any of our three, culturally-centered specializations may choose to add a secondary specialization in Trauma Studies. Those interested in this additional specialization must submit a request to their Academic Advisor prior to the completion of their second semester.

Pacific Oaks’ M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy program provides students with a robust blend of theory and hands-on practice. By maintaining relationships with clinics and community agencies throughout the greater Los Angeles area, we are able to provide students with extensive opportunities for supervised fieldwork in diverse communities. Serving underrepresented communities allows students to become culturally attuned while developing their clinical skills.

These Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy degree programs offer multidisciplinary, inclusive curricula based on developmental and family systems theories and evidence-based theory and practice. With years of experience in the field, faculty help students maintain a commitment to understanding their patients holistically—taking into account life experiences, culture, oppression, and social-political context.

Marriage and Family Therapy Licensure

Pacific Oaks’ Marriage and Family Therapy degree programs prepare graduates to sit for the California MFT exam and to earn a Marriage and Family Therapist License awarded by the California Board of Behavioral Science.

Fieldwork Requirements

Students must complete the pre-graduate portion of the 3,000 supervised hours required for the California MFT licensing exam. Most students secure clinical training placements within community agencies in the Los Angeles, Pasadena and San Jose, California areas.

Non-Licensure M.A. Program

Pacific Oaks also offers an M.A. in Cultural and Family Studies for those interested in a non-licensure degree program.


Marriage and Family Therapy Sample Courses

Couples Therapy

This is an introductory marriage and family therapy course for working with domestic partners. This includes an overview of approaches from various schools of thought, as well as training in relationship skills, including the dynamics of bonding and attachment, communication skills, conflict management skills, and negotiating differences. The course will include reflections upon one’s own significant relationships; role-playing and skill practice; and application of therapy skills to issues of diversity.

Theories of Marriage, Family and Child Counseling

This MFT course will review the major psychotherapeutic approaches in marital and family therapy. There will be a focus on interpersonal theories, family systems theories, and feminist theory and how each informs work with individuals, couples, families, and children. The class will present an inclusive framework so that students develop competency working with bicultural populations.

Personality Theories and Clinical Intervention

This course is designed to explore the various personality theories and develop a beginning understanding of these through an application in psychotherapy. An overview of psychological testing will be introduced. This class meets the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) requirements for the California MFT license.

Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor Specialization

For those who wish to expand the scope of their degree to include groups and individuals outside of a Marriage and Family Therapy setting, students may elect to enroll in the Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) Specialization. To complete this specialization, students will need to take these additional courses:

  • MFT 670 Career Development Theories and Techniques (3 units)
  • MFT 681 Advanced Topics in Addictions Counseling (1 unit)
  • MFT 683 Advanced Topics in Psychopharmacology (1 unit)


Careers in Marriage and Family Therapy

Marriage and Family Therapists work as clinicians in a variety of settings, including:

  • Outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers
  • Facilities that address intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental health, and substance abuse
  • Hospitals
  • Individual and family services
  • State and local government, excluding education and hospitals
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Practitioner offices
  • Nursing and residential care facilities