Marriage and Family Therapy (MS)

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About the program

Seattle Pacific University is a Christian university fully committed to engaging the culture and changing the world by graduating people of competence and character, becoming people of wisdom, and modeling a grace-filled community.

SPU’s Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) Department mission is to provide high quality education so our students graduate with competence in systemically informed MFT skills and character through ethically responsible relational care to diverse communities of families and clinical populations.

The U.S. federal government has designated marriage and family therapy as a core mental health profession along with psychiatry, psychology, social work, and psychiatric nursing, and our MFT students identify as mental health professionals trained in psychotherapy and family systems to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders within the context of marriage, couples, and family systems.

Graduates of the Masters of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy (MS) program are prepared to demonstrate the following student-learning outcomes:

  • Application of family systems theoretical models and clinical interventions to therapeutic work with diverse populations of individuals, couples, groups, and families.
  • Examination of personal and professional values that are integrated into an ethical practice of psychotherapy.
  • Awareness of sociocultural factors and professional trends that influence the practice of psychotherapy.

Students are assessed for competencies related to each of these student-learning outcomes, based on the professional marriage and family therapy principles as regulated by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education.

This program begins in Autumn Quarter and admits students once a year.

Distinctives

A strong self-of-the-therapist orientation undergirds the MFT program as well as the ORCA stance, a theological and multiculturally valuing exploration of persons through open, respectful, curious, and accountable social interactions.

  • This MFT program trains within a faithfully Christian context that respects a diversity of spiritual explorations. Our faculty and staff hold a Christian faith commitment; students are free to share any religious perspective or none at all.
  • The MFT degree prepares you for supervised service in clinical and agency mental health organizations, educational settings, and private psychotherapy. Other professional opportunities include educator, consultant, mediator, administrator, and medical family therapist.

Faculty, students, and staff in the School of Psychology, Family, and Community strive to become a community of learners:

  • Guided by faith. Exploring the implications of vital expressions of Christian faith for the human condition, as well as for emotional and relational healing and health.
  • Rooted in academic discipline. Fostering rigorous and creative learning environments, as well as contributing primary scholarship to the scientific study of psychological and social processes.
  • Committed to service. Grounding our learning community in the theory, research, and application of our disciplines in order to produce skilled graduates who can serve with character and competence in a broken world; nurturing creative partnerships with our local community and beyond in order to serve in and learn from socially and culturally diverse settings.

Accreditation

In addition to regional accreditation by the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities, the MFT program at Seattle Pacific University holds national accreditation through the Commission of Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), the accrediting agency for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy training programs. AAMFT is the national professional organization dedicated to the practice of marriage and family therapy.

Graduates with post-master's degree experience are eligible to apply for licensure through Washington state's Department of Health. 500 hours of clinical practice and 100 hours of supervision may be applied toward Washington state MFT licensure if an applicant graduates from the SPU MFT program. Licensure in other states often follows COAMFTE curriculum and supervision requirements.

Curriculum

MFT courses are sequenced developmentally using a cohort training model. You may complete the degree in either a two-year (full-time) or three-year (part-time) sequence. In exceptional circumstances students may have up to four years to complete degree requirements.

To maintain active status in the program, you are expected to complete 24 credit hours per year. Exceptions are to be approved by the chair of the Marriage and Family Therapy program.

Courses are generally held during mid-afternoon and evening hours, Monday through Thursday, for 10 weeks. A typical full-time schedule is as follows:

  • First Year: Monday and Wednesday, 1:30–8:30 p.m.
  • Second Year: Tuesday and Thursday, 1:30–8:30 p.m.

Full-time employment is discouraged if you intend to pursue the two-year program. Full-time employment may be possible if you’re pursuing the three-year program, but part-time employment is preferable.

The program provides a seven-quarter practicum sequence that focuses on the development of the therapist and provides fundamental and comprehensive clinical training. This includes the following:

  • Supervised internship at an approved site (500 hours of face-to-face client contact, of which at least 250 hours must be couples or family therapy).
  • On-campus small-group supervision and individual/group supervision at an Internship placement site. 100 total hours of supervision is required, which will include at least 50 hours of live, video, or audio supervision.
  • A Clinical Portfolio, presented in the seventh quarter. This is an in-depth application of a theory to clinical practice and the integration of you, the therapist, with your clinical work. Supervisors and clinical practicum supervision group members attend the final presentation.

Marriage and Family Therapy program graduates work with individuals, couples, families, and groups. You will become skilled in providing professional therapeutic techniques in the treatment of family and individual issues based on a systems/relational understanding of people’s lives.

Admission requirements

  • Online application and $50 application fee.
  • Bachelor’s degree
    • From a regionally accredited institution in any field.
    • A minimum grade-point average of 3.0* in the last 45 quarter credits (30 semester credits) of coursework completed before applying for admission, or in all undergraduate work, whichever is higher.
  • Prerequisites
    • Social and behavioral sciences: minimum of 18 semester credits, or 24 quarter credits.
    • A course in applied statistics, and a course in individual life span development completed at a regionally accredited institution prior to full admission to the program.
      • If you have not already taken sufficient courses in this area, you are encouraged to take courses from the following areas: theories of personality, theories of counseling, abnormal psychology, and developmental psychology or family studies.
    • You may elect to take the psychology subject test of the GRE. Those who earn a score of 500 or higher may waive any unfinished prerequisite coursework, with the exception of the statistics and individual life span development courses.
  • Testing
    • Minimum score of 293* (only verbal and quantitative, 950 for the older version of the test) for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), or 388 scaled score (35 raw score) for the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) is preferred.
    • Administered within five years of the deadline date for application to the program.
    • If you previously earned a master’s degree from a regionally accredited institution and submit an official transcript that includes the master’s degree, the GRE/MAT will be waived.
  • Letters of recommendation
    • One from a person professionally qualified to recommend for a field of this nature (e.g., mental health counselor, marriage and family therapist, pastoral counselor, psychologist)
    • One from a person qualified to evaluate your academic ability (e.g., educator)
    • A personal recommendation that may include a reference from an employer and/or supervisor from a volunteer experience
      • Recommendation forms are included in the online application.
      • Your recommendations must be submitted on the forms provided and sent to you in sealed and signed envelopes to be included with the application package.
  • Personal statement, typed
    • Three to four pages, demonstrating your writing and grammatical skills
    • Explaining your career objectives
    • Rationale for seeking the degree and choosing to attend Seattle Pacific University
    • Personal interest in marriage and family therapy
    • Professional and personal strengths as they apply to the mental health profession
    • Related volunteer or work experiences
    • The way in which your personal and professional life experiences have converged to motivate application to the MFT program
    • Other insights as deemed appropriate by you

    *Candidates with significant qualifications and exceptional recommendations but fail to meet the GPA or GRE/MAT preferred minimum scores may still be considered for admission to the MFT program, as the program admits all students on a probationary status.

    International students

    • If English is not your first language, you must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and present a minimum score of 550 on the paper-based test or 80 on the iBT, or complete the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) with a minimum score of 7.0.
    • If you are not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you must provide an official confidential statement of financial support covering each year of intended enrollment. This is necessary in order to issue the paperwork for an I-20 immigration form.

Deadline

  • January 9

Admissions process

The Marriage and Family Therapy Graduate Admissions Committee will complete an initial applicant screening process based upon your online application materials only.

Finalists are invited to meet with members of the committee for an all-day group interview process at the end of March or the beginning of April. It is highly recommended that you participate in the group interview process. Telephone interviews are also permissible, but only in exceptional circumstances.

Admission to the graduate program depends upon recommendation by the MFT faculty and approval from the chair of the Marriage and Family Therapy program. The entire process is usually completed within 12 weeks of the final deadline date for applications.

All students are admitted on a probational status in order to allow faculty to be certain they are fully prepared for placement in an internship site. Full admission is required for placement in an internship site to occur.

To be considered for full admission, you must complete a minimum of 11 units in the MFT program, with a average GPA of 3.0 or better in all courses, and must be recommended for continuance by MFT faculty.

Transfer of credit

If you wish to apply master’s degree level coursework completed at a regionally accredited institution prior to application, you must provide applicable transcripts and/or syllabi. Each course must be at least 3 graduate quarter credits and be equivalent to courses taught in the MFT program at Seattle Pacific University.

A minimum grade of B will be needed for transferred work, and a maximum of 9 quarter credits may be transferred.

Dual Degree: MFT and Theology

Some students wish to bring skills and knowledge from both mental health disciplines and Christian theological understanding into their work. There is also an increasing demand for church and parachurch ministries to require both clinical licensure and denominational ordination. To meet these needs, faculty members in the MFT program have partnered with the School of Theology to offer two dual degrees:

  • MS/MFT and MA in Theology: If you want to complete basic theological education alongside a MS in Marriage and Family Therapy, a Christian Studies track within the Master’s in Theology degree can be completed alongside the MS in MFT in a three-year sequence.
  • MS/MFT and MDiv: If you want to complete education often required for church ordination as well as clinical licensure, the Master’s of Divinity degree can be completed alongside the MS in Marriage and Family Therapy degree in a four-year sequence.

Both dual degrees prepare students to serve in church positions that incorporate roles of pastor and therapist, such as a pastor for family ministries, an inner-city missionary to homeless families, or a therapist within a church counseling center.

Applicants of the dual degree program will need to apply (via Graduate Admissions) to the School of Psychology, Family, and Community for admission to the Marriage and Family Therapy program, as well as to Seattle Pacific Seminary. Acceptance in one program does not guarantee acceptance in the other.

Once applicants are admitted to both programs, they will receive a specialized program plan to follow for the duration of their enrollment at SPU.

Questions?

School of Psychology, Family, and Community Graduate Programs