MS in Psychology, MFT and LPCC

PAGE SUMMARY: This page provides an in-depth description of the MS in Psychology, MFT Program including its purpose, goals, learning outcomes, requirements, course descriptions, and more. Most of the content is found beneath the drop-down headings/toggles below. 

MFT/LPCC Program Overview

  • Units of Study: 60 Semester Units
  • Length of Study (self paced): 2-3 years full time, 6 years part time
  • Tuition: $8,400 per year (See Tuition and Fees for a list of all fees)
  • Program Tuition: 6 years: $50,400; 3 years: $25,200
  • Admission Requirement: Bachelor’s Degree
  • Enrollment Start Date: First day of any month

MFT Program Introduction

This program is specifically designed by WISR, and approved by the State of California’s Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) to prepare students to obtain the State’s Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) License and the State’s Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) License.
 
Upon the completion of this degree program (including as an option, some extra, required coursework for the LPCC), students must obtain the necessary number of hours of supervised internship experience and pass the State-required licensing exams, in order to obtain the MFT license, and if they choose as an added option, the LPCC license.
This program prepares students for successful private counseling practice as an MFT and/or LPCC, and for professional practice in non-profit community agencies as well as in some public agencies, educational institutions and health organizations.
 
This program requires 60+ semester units of study in areas designated by the State of California for these licenses, and incorporates both State-mandated content and individualized studies. 

Students working toward the State of California’s Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) license are assisted and required to study in the core subject-matter areas required for the license. This includes mastering content in all subject matter areas required by the State of California, including psychopathology, human development, marriage and family counseling theory and techniques, research methodology, psychotherapeutic techniques, human sexuality, cross-cultural counseling, psychological testing and therapeutic appraisal and assessment, psychopharmacology, and professional ethics.

The vast majority of WISR students are mature adults with significant work and family responsibilities, time demands and commitments. Most students will progress at a rate approximately equivalent to half-time enrollment.

WISR’s tuition is very affordable, even in comparison to other private institution’s rates for half-time enrollment. All WISR students pay the same tuition, and those students who are able to pursue their studies with an intensity and at a pace comparable to students who are seriously engaged full-time students will very likely be able to graduate in 40 to 50 percent of the estimated time for studies in WISR degree programs.

The MS in Psychology toward the State’s MFT license (and optionally the LPCC license) is, by State law, the equivalent of two Master’s degrees (over 60 semester units). Therefore, for many students pursuing the MS in Psychology/MFT at WISR, the length of study at WISR may be expected to be about 6 years, unless they are able to study at the intensity of a seriously engaged full-time student.*

In all cases, faculty will strive to support students in their efforts to complete their degree in a timely manner, while also benefiting from their studies at WISR in ways that will help them build bridges to the next important life goals.

*These program length expectations do not include any time off for leaves of absence due to matters resulting from health issues, family responsibilities or periods of financial hardship. Each leave of absence must be for a minimum of six months, during which time the student does not pay tuition, and during which time the student may not receive credit for any efforts related to their studies at WISR. The student pays a non-refundable $250 re-enrollment fee when resuming their studies ($50 toward the re-enrollment application fee and re-admissions process, and $200 to re-register in the degree program they are pursuing or taking courses).

Students work individually with faculty and receive faculty guidance in doing required readings and assignments in each area that provides the student with a strong foundation in each area of study required by the State, as well as an opportunity to focus on those topics of greatest interest to the student. The student writes a paper in each subject matter area, and faculty help students to identify and pursue paper topics address issues, methods or concepts that are of strong interest to the student, and help prepare the student in his or her areas of anticipated professional specialization.

In addition, WISR’s coursework is also designed to meet the State of California’s academic requirements to become a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC). Students pursuing the LPCC license must also study Career Development and Group Counseling. MFT students not interested in obtaining the LPCC license do not have to pursue studies in the areas of Career Development and Group Counseling, although it is strongly recommended that they do so anyway. Overall, those seeking the LPCC license will typically need to spend an extra 3-4 months completing the required LPCC studies, beyond the work required of MFT students. WISR’s program is integrated in such a way as to encourage and enable interested students to pursue both licenses and do thorough study, and still attain their degree in a timely fashion.

Along with the student’s individual work with faculty in studying the required readings and assignments in each of the State-defined content topics, and along with the more personalized further research, study and paper-writing in each area, students are also strongly encouraged to participate in most of the Saturday class sessions which meet twice each month, and in any case, are required to participate in 10 hours of collaborative activity with other students in each of their courses.

During the regularly held MFT program seminars, students learn from faculty and explore further with one another the various core areas which contribute toward the State’s requirements for the MFT license.

In addition, students must participate in a seminar each month and/or confer with a WISR faculty member about their practicum, while gaining their practicum hours. The dates, times and topics of these seminars is announced over one month in advance to all students, by email and posted on WISR’s website.

Quite importantly the required seminars are available by telephone conference call or by the internet as a video and audio real-time meeting with students and faculty on site at WISR, sometimes supplemented by web-based online sharing of documents and notes in real-time. This is valuable for those students who live too far from our Berkeley site to travel here twice per month. Students and faculty on site at WISR and those students on the internet or on their phone line, off site, will be able to interact and discuss issues, ideas and questions with one another.

 

MFT Program Goals, Learning Outcomes and Measures

Program goals are guided by several important considerations:

  1. First and foremost, WISR’s MFT program goals, outcomes and curriculum is guided by the standards and requirements articulated by the State of California licensing agency, the Board of Behavioral Science.
  2. In addition, the MFT program goals, outcomes and curriculum is guided by WISR’s mission and the learning “meta-competencies” articulated from that mission (e.g., self-directed learning, action-oriented inquiry, multiculturalism, social justice, effective communication and collaboration, and the value of using one’s studies to build bridges to the future) further augment the State’s requirements and expectations.
  3. Finally, in implementing the program goals through program outcomes, course outcomes, module outcomes, and measures, indicators, and evaluation rubrics, we draw on the first two areas of consideration and also on the knowledge gained through WISR’s history of offering a Master’s leading to the State counseling license since 1977, and the collective academic and professional experience and knowledge of WISR’s faculty.

 

  1. Develop, Evaluate and Apply specialized knowledge in all the areas of professional expertise required for MFT licensure in California*–as defined by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences [see 4980.36 of the California Business and Professions Code](*and also for LPCC licensure for those pursuing that additional option)
  2. Develop in all the areas required by the State, “competent” knowledge and skills, as defined by the Dreyfus Model of Knowledge and Skill Development** [see below]. Develop the knowledge of a “competent” expert within the professional field of Marriage and Family Therapy (as a licensed LPCC as well for those also choosing that added, option). By developing a broad and critically informed professional knowledge base, the student is now prepared and able to continue to develop further through their post-graduate internship experiences toward the professional proficiency required to become licensed as an MFT and/or LPCC in the State of California.
  3. Understand, evaluate, and apply a variety of theories, key concepts, evidence-based findings, and practices in the field of study Marriage and Family Therapy—as defined by the California State Board of Behavioral Sciences for MFT Licensure*–including the strengths, limitations, and realms of applicability of those theories, perspectives and practices. (*and also the necessary knowledge for LPCC licensure for those pursuing that additional option)
  4. Develop competence in at least one area of specialization within Marriage and Family Therapy.
  5. Develop an awareness of the therapeutic relevance of multicultural concerns and perspectives, as well as of the connections between specific therapeutic issues and such larger matters as social justice and equality, and bring this awareness to critical study of theories, key concepts, evidence-based findings, and practices relevant to the MFT’s (and if chosen, also LPCC’s) scope of professional practice.
  6. Develop skills of “learning how to learn”—methods of action-research, skills as a self-directed learning with capacity for critical thinking and improvisational problem-solving–to advance their specialized knowledge and skills for professional practice as an MFT (and also as a LPCC, for those also choosing that option).

 

A: MFT Program-Specific Learning Outcomes

The student will demonstrate that they:

  1. Understand research, theories, key concepts, and professional practices in each area of knowledge and professional practice required by the State of California licensing Board—the Board of Behavioral Sciences. State-required knowledge areas have been grouped into WISR’s required courses, and each WISR MFT and LPCC course has specifically defined learning outcomes that guide and assess student learning progress in developing the required expertise in each area. The areas of understanding to be demonstrated include, quite notably:

    a. Foundational and contemporary theories and methods of psychotherapy, and marriage, family, couples, and child counseling.

    b. Psychopathology—diagnosis, assessment, treatment, and treatment planning of mental disorders.

    c. Developmental issues from infancy to old age, and their effects on individuals, couples and family relationships.

    d. Cultural competency and sensitivity, multicultural development and cross-cultural interaction,

    e. California law and professional ethics for MFTs (and for LPCC for those also pursuing that license),

    f. Among such other important areas as, for example, recovery-oriented care, crisis and trauma counseling, addictions, human sexuality, the impact of socio-economic status and poverty, spousal and partner abuse, aging and long-term care, child abuse assessment and reporting, and marriage, divorce, and blended families.

  1. Evaluate key theories and methods of psychotherapy and marriage and family therapy, as indicated by:

    a. Evaluating the strengths and limitations of a variety of major theories and methods,

    b. Evaluating the circumstances in which specific theories and methods are likely to be usefully applied and valuable in professional practice.

  1. Apply skills of conscious and deliberate planning, as indicated by making critical comparisons of alternative courses of therapeutic action. In doing so, they will:

    a. Evaluate the relevance and efficacy of their recommended plan(s) of action.

    b. Evaluate uncertainties and dilemmas faced by competent professionals in the field, and

    c. Identify directions for inquiry to investigate alternative courses of action growing out of these dilemmas, uncertainties, and complexities.

  1. Create theoretical applications and strategic practices in at least one area of specialization within the scope of practice of an LMFT or LPCC, as indicated especially in their Master’s thesis, practicum and course-based action-research projects.
  1. Apply skills of doing an effective, critically minded and comprehensive review of the literature in an area of special interest to the student, as indicated by:

    a. applying a variety of strategies for searching for relevant sources.

    b. evaluating quality and credibility of sources

    c. effectiveness in discussing and presenting findings, gaps in knowledge, limitations of existing research, and directions for future research

Evaluation of these outcomes.

These outcomes will be evidenced in the written assignments for each course–and guided and evaluated by course learning outcomes and module learning outcomes within each course. They will also be evaluated and evidenced through the student’s practicum, their course-based action-research projects, their written assignments in courses, their ongoing dialogue with faculty and the oral exams in each course, in the thesis, and in their collaborations with others, such as in seminars and the online forum.

 

In addition to the above-mentioned MFT program-specific PLOs, MFT students must demonstrate the following general PLOs:

WISR General Program Learning Areas and Outcomes for MFT Students

The student will:

B: Self-Directed Learning.  

Demonstrate skills as a self-directed learner, as indicated by critically minded, intentional, and improvisational learning in doing their course assignments, practicum, and thesis.

C: Action-Research. 

Engage in critically informed uses of methods of participatory and action-research in the pursuit of specialized knowledge and competent practice, especially as indicated through their action-research projects and thesis.

D: Multiculturalism and Inclusiveness. 

Demonstrate an awareness of issues of diversity and inclusiveness, by showing a sensitivity to the issues involved in working with diverse populations, as indicated in their writing, dialogue and/or practicum.

E: Social Change and Justice. 

Analyze the connections of mental health issues and therapeutic practices with the bigger, societal picture, by showing in their writing, dialogue and/or action-research projects that they are inquiring into ways of creating change for social justice, greater equality and environmental sustainability, as part of the pursuit of specialized knowledge and competent practice.

F: Communication and Collaboration. 

  • Demonstrate skills of clear and engaging written communication, by a) writing clearly and in a well-organized fashion, b) showing that they can intentionally identify and communicate to a chosen audience(s), and c) using their own voice on topics that matter to them.
  • Demonstrate skills of effective oral communication and collaboration, as indicated in a) their practicum with professionals and lay people, alike, and b) in seminars and informal dialogue with other students and with faculty, and
  • Produce a thesis that, with only further, modest revisions, is of sufficient quality to be considered seriously for professional publication

G: Build Bridges to the Future. 

  • Demonstrate an awareness of employment opportunities, in the field of Marriage and Family Therapy, or related professional counseling options, appropriate to their specialized capabilities, experience, and interests.
  • Begin building bridges, i.e., specific action steps, to their post-graduate involvements, especially as indicated in their practicum and Master’s thesis.

Evaluation of these outcomes. These outcomes will be evidenced in the written assignments for each course–and guided and evaluated by course learning outcomes and module learning outcomes within each course. They will also be evaluated and evidenced through the student’s practicum, their course-based action-research projects, their ongoing dialogue with faculty and the oral exams in each course, in the thesis, and in their collaborations with others, such as in seminars and the online forum.

 

The Dreyfus Model is Used to Evaluate the Effectiveness of WISR’s Degree Programs, and to conceptualize the interconnections of degree program learning outcomes. The stages of the Dreyfus Model that are used at WISR are:

  • the stage of “competent” serving as an orienting learning goal to guide students and faculty in the Master’s programs at WISR, and
  • the stage of “proficient” providing an orienting learning goal for students and faculty in the Doctoral program.

From time to time, we have seminars on this Model at WISR, to engage students and faculty in reflecting on and discussing how to make use of it to aid learning at WISR.  Here are a few highlights to consider.

The “competent” expert comes to appreciate that simple recipes do not adequately address the nuances of, variations in, and complexity of real-life situations. As Master’s students progress in their studies, and are engaged in many levels of learning—for example, the levels articulated in Bloom’s taxonomy: understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating—their behavior and learning are increasingly characterized by the following indicators of the “competent” stage of expert knowledge and skills. They:

  • Engage in deliberate planning
  • Understand the importance of each specific context/situation
  • Use guidelines, not rules, to determine their actions
  • Are emotionally-involved in the outcomes of their actions (a strong sense of Responsibility) (commitment)
  • Use what they see to be the most valuable and “relevant perspectives” for each situation, rather than relying on rules. They may not have the creativity of a proficient expert to develop a new theory or strategy, but they will strategically analyze and evaluate what they have learned to make an educated choice about what they see to be the situationally most appropriate action or plan, from among their knowledge of the “available alternatives.” So, they:
  • Analyze and evaluate what they have learned, and then also make judgments based on their experiences

To learn more about the Dreyfus model go to: https://www.nateliason.com/blog/become-expert-dreyfus  and

http://www2.psych.utoronto.ca/users/reingold/courses/ai/cache/Socrates.html

And also:  Chapter 5, Cases and Stories of Transformative Action Research. Bilorusky, J.  Routledge Press, 2021.

 

MFT Program Regulations and Licensing

The vast majority of WISR students are mature adults with significant work and family responsibilities, time demands and commitments. Most students will progress at a rate approximately equivalent to half-time enrollment. WISR’s tuition is very affordable, even in comparison to other private institution’s rates for half-time enrollment. All WISR students pay the same tuition, and those students who are able to pursue their studies with an intensity and at a pace comparable to students who are seriously engaged full-time students will very likely be able to graduate in 40 to 50 percent of the estimated time for studies in WISR degree programs.

For many students pursuing a MS degree in Psychology, the length of study at WISR may be as much as 6 years, unless they are able to study at the intensity of a seriously engaged full-time student.* Some students complete this demanding Master’s degree (the equivalent of two Master’s degrees) in about three years. Typically, the maximum allowable length of study toward the Master’s in Psychology degree at WISR is 6 years. Faculty review student progress semi-annually to facilitate each student’s efforts to complete their degree within this maximum amount of time. Students who are consistently engaged in their studies, but who are slowed down due to disabilities or other extenuating factors may petition WISR faculty for permission to take somewhat longer than 6 years to complete their studies. In all cases, faculty will strive to support students in their efforts to complete their degree in a timely manner, while also benefiting from their studies at WISR in ways that will help them build bridges to the next important life goals.

*These program length expectations do not include any time off for leaves of absence due to matters resulting from health issues, family responsibilities or periods of financial hardship. Each leave of absence must be for a minimum of six months, during which time the student does not pay tuition, and during which time the student may not receive credit for any efforts related to their studies at WISR. The student pays $250–$50 for a re-application fee, and $200 for them to re-register in the degree program they are pursuing or for the degree program in which they are taking courses–when resuming their studies.

 

The recommendation of a MS student’s readiness to begin the culminating Master’s Thesis is made by the primary faculty adviser, usually only after at least three-fourths of the other requirements have been completed. At that time, the student writes a thesis proposal, which outlines

(1) the major issues and questions to be addressed,

(2) the significance of those issues to the student and to others, and

(3) the sources of information, the methods of inquiry, and (if appropriate) the modes of action to be used.

The student then constitutes, with her or his major faculty adviser’s help, a Graduation Review Board composed of at least two WISR Graduate Faculty members, and since December 2018, one or more outside experts in the student’s field. The Review Board members comment on, critique, and approve the student’s proposal. The proposal then serves as a general guide for the student’s thesis inquiry. However, it is subject to change, and the student is expected to discuss his or her thesis progress with each Review Board member throughout the work on the thesis. Review Board members comment on and critique at least one rough draft, but usually two drafts. The student’s major faculty adviser helps to facilitate and mediate disagreements if Review Board members make inconsistent suggestions for change.

Faculty serving on a Graduation Review Board shall have been active in their field of scholarship or profession during the five-year period preceding their participation on the Review Board. We recommend to students, but do not require, that they identify two (or more) current and/or former WISR students to be part of a “peer support group” to aid them in the work on their thesis or dissertation—by serving as a sounding board and support group to discuss their progress and challenges, and in some cases, to read and comment on student drafts or portions of drafts when requested to do so by the student.

Once the faculty adviser and the student are confident that all Review Board members are ready to approve the thesis, a final Graduation Board meeting is held. At that time, Review Board validates that the student is responsible for their work on thesis, and the student discusses and answers questions about the thesis and their learning in working on it, and throughout the entire degree program. The student is questioned about their future plans, and how the experience at WISR will contribute to the student’s future work. The Review Board may also examine the student’s academic accomplishments throughout the program, and discuss them with the student. Finally, each graduating student is required to submit a written self-evaluation, which includes a critical reflection on what she or he has learned in the program, and a discussion of insights gained, challenges and obstacles encountered, and WISR’s strengths and weaknesses in contributing to the student’s learning.

 

This program is approved by the State of California, and is designed primarily to educate those who wish to prepare for licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) in the State of California.  In addition, the coursework is also designed to meet the State of California’s academic requirements to become a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC).  Those students not interested in obtaining the LPCC license do not have to pursue studies in the areas of Career Development and Group Counseling, and they do not have to pursue the additional 5 units of Advanced Study of Cross-Cultural/Multicultural Counseling and Needs/Issues with Special Populations, although it is strongly recommended that they do so anyway. 

The Western Institute for Social Research offers required courses that are also personalized by faculty working closely with each student, along with two seminars per month that are available both on site at WISR and by telephone or internet/video and audio conference call. This instruction follows and is based on information from the State of California’s Board of Behavioral Science Examiners about the academic requirements of the Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) License, as well as for the requirements to become a Licensed Professional Counselor. WISR’s Master of Science in Psychology option leading toward the MFT license is an integrated program primarily designed to train Marriage and Family Therapists in California, and it meets the educational requirements specified in California Business and Professions Code Sections 4980.36. For those wishing to pursue the LPCC license, WISR MS in Psychology option leading toward the LPCC license as well as the MFT license meets the requirements specified in California Business and Professions Code Section 4999.33.

 

All students entering WISR are required to contact the Board of Behavioral Sciences Examiners, or go to their website, in order to obtain their own copy of the “Statutes and Regulations Relation to the Practice of Professional Clinical Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy, Educational Psychology, Clinical Social Work.” Students are also expected to keep abreast of the changing details regarding the various exam and practice requirements for the MFT license, as well as the new and emerging regulations regarding the recently created LPCC license. [Recent updates of answers to frequently asked questions can be found at: https://www.bbs.ca.gov/pdf/publications/mft_faq.pdf] By their third month in the program, students will be expected to discuss and ask questions of faculty about the content of these laws and regulations. Students will not be approved for a practicum until faculty are satisfied that the student understands the essential material contained in this document. Students should contact:

 

BOARD OF BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE EXAMINERS
1625 N Market Blvd., Suite S-200
Sacramento, CA 95834
(916) 574-7830
Website Address: http://www.bbs.ca.go

Keeping up to date with changes in laws: Since the laws and regulations are constantly changing, students are encouraged to keep up to date by joining the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT). CAMFT Membership also gives students access to the online EBSCO database which contains many of the readings required for MS in Psychology/MFT program courses at WISR. (As an option, students who are California residents may also access the EBSCO library database by obtaining a free library card from the San Francisco Public Library.) The student membership rate is inexpensive, and CAMFT is an excellent source of information and will answer questions asked by members by phone and fax. CAMFT also publishes a bimonthly journal, The California Therapist, which provides a lot of information about legal and ethical issues, as well as practical matters pertaining to professional practice. Students may review back issues of this journal in WISR’s library. You may contact:

CAMFT:
7901 Raytheon Road
San Diego, CA 92111-1606
(856) 29-CAMFT (292-2638)
www.camft.org/


Prerequisites for Licensing:

The State has a number of important prerequisites for licensing, in addition to obtaining a Master’s degree that meets the State’s academic requirements. It is important for prospective students to understand these requirements before embarking on an MFT program. Each prospective student should review all of the State regulations, but here are highlights of the main requirements. WISR faculty will be happy to answer questions you may have about these, and if you enroll you will be expected to familiarize yourself with the laws during the first couple of months of enrollment. Before you can be approved as ready to begin a practicum (six months or more into the program), faculty will expect you to know the important details in State laws and regulations pertaining to MFT preparation and practice.

Here are highlights of licensing requirements:

  1. 3,000 hours of supervised MFT experience are required. [During the WISR Master’s program, students may not obtain Practicum hours until they have passed WISR’s Practicum Readiness Assessment Exam.]–with the following details, below:
  2. Latest Update on the detail, February 2020:  https://www.bbs.ca.gov/pdf/publications/mft_faq.pdf
  3. The State requires a criminal background check on all applicants for the MFT license. “The Board shall not issue a registration or license to any person who has been convicted of any crime in the United States that involves the sexual abuse of children or who has been ordered to register as a mentally disordered sex offender . . .”
  4. To obtain the license, one must pass an initial written exam (on law and ethics) and a subsequent written clinical vignette exam which has replaced the oral exam.

Prospective students who are considering moving to another state should investigate the licensing requirements of that state to determine whether or not that state has “reciprocity” with California. That is, if you obtain a California MFT license, will you be able to meet the licensing requirements of the state you move to with little difficulty, or will it involve doing a lot of additional work, schooling and/or training? CAMFT has information about the licensing requirements in other states.

 

Similarly, those students who wish to also obtain licensing as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor should investigate and stay informed about the State of California’s latest decisions about exam, practice and supervision requirements for the LPCC license. And, as is the case with the MFT licensing, prospective students who are considering moving to another state should investigate whether or not that state has “reciprocity” with California, regarding the LPCC license.

WISR offers faculty and curriculum resources to help each student fulfill academic requirements toward MFT licensure, but each student is expected to take responsibility to monitor her or his own progress toward licensure and to be in compliance with State requirements. WISR faculty are eager to help students identify and clarify questions they may need to ask of the BBS.

Program Requirements and Course Descriptions

The following overarching concerns and themes are consistent with WISR’s educational philosophy and State-mandated programmatic emphases:

1) Study of MFT principles, and especially a concern with the application of knowledge to real world practice, recovery-oriented care, and methods of service delivery in recovery-oriented practice environments,

2) counseling preparation that is multiculturally-oriented, cross-culturally informed, and concerned with the impact of poverty, social injustice and societally created stress on individuals and families,

3) development of innovative and progressive approaches by each student, along with ample opportunity to develop areas of expert specialization reflective of each individual student’s concerns,

4) an individualized program of learning that provides for self-awareness, nurturance and development of the personal qualities required for expert and sensitive professional practice, and

5) exposure to and experience with those in need of mental health services, to better understand the needs for appropriate mental health services and counseling strategies, in line with WISR’s long-standing emphasis on learning and using participatory action-research methods in order to develop one’s knowledge and expertise.

 

Note: Throughout this Program Description, the term, “MFT student” will also include students who are working toward the LPCC license, unless a specific comment is made at that point in the Program Description to distinguish between MFT and LPCC requirements.

 

MFT 551: Theories and Methods of Marriage and Family Therapy and Professional Counseling—Part I. Introduction to Theories and Methods of MFT and Professional Counseling (5 semester units)—This must be one of the first two courses pursued (along with, or just before or after MFT 513)

Introduction to theories and methods of marriage, family and child counseling, and individual professional counseling. Study of major theories and a consideration of such varied schools of thought as psychodynamics, humanistic, behavioral, and system theories. Study of theories, principles, and methods of a variety of psychotherapeutic orientations directly related to marriage and family therapy and marital and family systems approaches to treatment and how these theories can be applied therapeutically with individuals, couples, families, adults, including elder adults, children, adolescents, and groups to improve, restore, or maintain healthy relationships. Included in the study of counseling and psychotherapeutic techniques is an orientation to recovery-oriented practice and environments and wellness and prevention, selection of appropriate counseling interventions, models of counseling suggested by current professional practices and research, the development of a personal model of counseling, interdisciplinary responses to crises, emergencies and disasters, and the many considerations involved in conducting professional counseling practice in a multicultural society.

MFT 553: Theories and Methods of Marriage and Family Therapy and Professional Counseling—Part II. Contemporary Family Dynamics and Issues (5 semester units)

Study of the sociocultural context of the family; problems, issues, and circumstances affecting the family as a unit; relations among its members; and strategies for effectively intervening in family dynamics to build on strengths, solve problems, or minimize the problems’ impact. Students will become familiar with the broad range of issues and matters that may arise within marriage, family and couples’ relationships, and within a variety of California cultures, including:

  • Child and adult abuse assessment and reporting (To obtain an overview of clinical skills developed by practitioners who have treated abused children and adults, offenders, and adult survivors who were abused as children; statutes, issues for professionals, indicators and assessment of child and adult abuse, resources/agencies, prevention, statistics on incidence of abuse, publication about abuse, issues pertaining to reporting, developmental theories and issues, evaluation and treatment of offenders, and self-help efforts by adult survivors. Includes study of the methods for preventing child and adult abuse).
  • Spousal or partner abuse assessment, detection, intervention strategies, and same-gender abuse
  • Cultural factors relevant to abuse of partners and family members.
  • Childbirth, child rearing, parenting, and step-parenting.
  • Marriage, divorce, and blended families.
  • Long-term care.
  • End of life and grief.
  • Poverty and deprivation.
  • Financial and social stress.
  • Effects of trauma.

And, among all these, study of the psychological, psychotherapeutic, community, and health implications of these matters and life events.

MFT 555: Theories and Methods of Marriage and Family Therapy and Professional Counseling—Part III. Advanced Counseling and Psychotherapeutic Theories and Methods (5 semester units)

Study of advanced theories and methods of marriage and family therapy, and professional counseling, including the use of counseling constructs, assessment and treatment planning, clinical interventions, therapeutic relationships, psychopathology, advanced recovery-oriented care and service in recovery-oriented practice environments, and other clinical topics. Study of treatment methods and issues for such special populations as in working with clients affected by HIV and AIDS.

MFT 513: Research Methods (4 semester units)—This must be one of the first two courses pursued (along with, or just before or after MFT 551)

A study of research design and methods, including such topics as logic of design, scientific paradigms and epistemology, ethical issues in research, strategies for reviewing, using and critiquing literature in psychology and related fields, and methods of data collection and analysis. Study of the use of research to inform practice, and the use of practice to build knowledge and contribute to research, including uses and limitations of statistical analyses. Special emphasis is put on qualitative and action-oriented research methods, including participant observation, interviewing, needs assessments and program evaluation. Study and use of participatory action-research methods in building knowledge, evidence/experience-based expertise, and empathy—and in understanding of needs, of clients, and their families and communities. This includes meeting with, and having informing dialogue with, mental health consumers, their families and others in the community, in order to better understand their experience of mental illness, life challenges, treatment, recovery, and attainment of well-being. This should be one of the first three courses that the student studies during their degree program, because it provides a methodological foundation for studies throughout the degree program. Also, it is strongly recommended that the student pursue this course concurrently with another course that requires a full-scale, action-research lab–so that the student can apply in greater depth some of the action-research methods that they are being introduced to in this course.

MFT 557: Human Development (4 semester units)

Study of developmental theories, events, and issues covering the entire life-span from infancy to old age, including parent-child relations, child development and adolescence, and various phases, crises, and transitions to adulthood. Emphasis is on critical examination of a range of theories, such as those of Freud, Erikson, Piaget, Mahler, Kohlberg and others. Study of normal and abnormal behavior and an understanding of developmental crises, disability, psychopathology and situational and environmental factors that affect both normal and abnormal behavior. This involves a study of developmental influences on and consequences of individual circumstances–interpersonal relationships, and family dynamics, as well as the larger social context–from infancy to old age, including:

  • The effects of developmental issues on individuals, couples, and family relationships.
  • The psychological, psychotherapeutic, and health implications of developmental issues and their effects.
  • Aging and its biological, social, cognitive, and psychological aspects.
  • A variety of cultural understandings of human development.
  • The understanding of human behavior within the social context of socioeconomic status and other contextual issues affecting social position.
  • The understanding of human behavior within the social context of a representative variety of the cultures found within California.
  • The understanding of the impact that personal and social insecurity, social stress, low educational levels, inadequate housing, and malnutrition have on human development.

MFT 559: Psychopathology and Diagnostic Principles (4 semester units)

The study of the assessment, diagnosis, treatment planning, outcome evaluation, and other prescribed treatments of various psychiatric disorders as identified in the DSM-5. This includes the study of the characteristics, diagnostic criteria, and dynamics associated with various pathologies, ranging from neurotic styles in “normal” functioning individuals to severe and debilitating disorders. Study of evidence-based practices and promising mental health practices (including complementary and alternative treatments) from peer reviewed literature, as well as study of differential diagnosis, the impact of co-occurring substance abuse disorders or medical psychological disorders, established diagnostic criteria for mental or emotional disorders, the role of diagnosis in recovery-oriented care, and the treatment modalities and placement criteria within the continuum of care. Since 2020, this course has included the study of suicide risk factors and suicide assessment, as well as suicide intervention and treatment.

MFT 561: Human Sexuality (3 semester units)

This course is an exploration and introduction to human sexuality for Marriage and Family Therapists. The course includes a minimum of 10 hours of guided discussion in the study of human sexuality. Human sexuality, including the study of physiological, psychological, and social cultural variables associated with sexual behavior and gender identity, and the assessment and treatment of psychosexual dysfunction. The study of human sexuality is a diverse and interdisciplinary study. Religion. Philosophy, Sex and sexuality has inspired art, music and culture throughout history. There are personal and interpersonal dimensions of sexual experiences. Sexuality includes behavior, somatic/body elements, cognitions and feelings. The study of sex and sexuality includes such topics as anatomy and physiology of human sexuality, psychosexual development, sociocultural and family influences on sexuality, sexual orientation and identity and gender identity, and sexual counseling. Students will become familiar with the concept of gender spectrum and sexual diversity.  Students will become familiar with the main psychological theories and approaches influencing the study of Human Sexuality. Becoming comfortable talking about sex and sexuality is important for therapists in training. Students are encouraged to develop a non- judgmental view of human sexuality to foster safety for clients to talk about issues that come up around sex and sexuality. Students will learn how to access sound information and research on human sexuality. Students will also learn how the mainstream field of therapy, and in particular the DSM has sometimes been used to pathologize the LGBTQI and any sexuality seen as alternative sexuality. Students will learn about sexual exploitation as a form of psychopathology. Students will explore the issues that can affect healthy sexual functioning including the effect of sexual trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Students will develop a holistic and multicultural view of human sexuality.  The student will explore what it means to help support clients towards sexual health.

 

MFT 563: Cross-Cultural Counseling (4 semester units)

Study of the importance of cultural, racial, ethnic, and subgroup values and beliefs, and how they affect individuals, interpersonal relations, family life, and the therapeutic process. An examination of the wide range of ethnic backgrounds and the cultural mores and values common in California, including the general values and diversity within each of the following groups: African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, Native Americans, whites of European ancestry, and people who identify themselves as bi-racial or bicultural. Study of multicultural development and cross-cultural interaction, including experiences of race, ethnicity, class, spirituality and/or religion, sexual orientation, gender, and disability and their incorporation into the psychotherapeutic process. Study of multicultural counseling theories and techniques, including counselors’ roles in developing cultural self-awareness and cultural competency and sensitivity, identity development, promoting cultural social justice, individual and community strategies for working with and advocating for diverse populations, and counselors’ roles in eliminating biases and prejudices, and processes of intentional and unintentional oppression and discrimination. This includes the study of human behavior within the social context of socioeconomic status and other contextual issues affecting social position and an understanding of the effects of socioeconomic status on treatment and available resources.

MFT 565: Theories of Social Analysis and Change for MFTs (4 semester units)

Study of several theories/perspectives on social change, and analysis of the strengths and limitations of these ideas as they pertain to some of the issues and problems of special concern to the student in his or her planned areas of professional practice. [Required for WISR Students, even though not required for MFT or LPCC licensure. Can count as Advanced Study for LPCC students.]

MFT 567: Professional Ethics and Law (3 semester units)—This must be the third course pursued, and must be completed to be eligible for the Practicum.

Study of legal and ethical issues and standards involved in the professional practice of marriage and family therapy in California, in particular, and in the field of mental health and professional counseling in general. This includes an examination of ethics and laws that regulate and delineate the profession’s scope of practice; therapeutic and practical considerations involved in legal and ethical practice as a licensed MFT; licensing law and process in California, study of the broader legal trends and ethical debates in the health, mental health, and human service professions; ethical and legal issues bearing on counselor-client relationships (e.g., scope of practice, counselor-client privilege, confidentiality, treatment of minors with or without parental consent, and when a client may be dangerous to self or others); and issues arising out of the counselor’s sense of self and personal values, in relation to professional ethics and law. Includes the study of regulatory laws and functions and relationships with other human service providers, and of strategies for collaboration and advocacy processes needed to address institutional and social barriers that impede access, equity and success for clients, as well as the study of the application of legal and ethical standards in different types of work settings.

 

MFT 569: Aging and Long-Term Care (2 semester units)

The study of aging in contemporary society encompassing elder abuse and neglect, long-term care, intergenerational relations, biopsychosocial aspects of aging such as the development of neurocognitive disorders, including dementia. Study in this area requires at least 10 hours of seminar participation and/or mentoring instruction

 

MFT 571: Addictions Counseling (3 semester units)

Study of theories and research on addiction and abuse of a variety of substances, including alcohol, prescriptions and illegal drugs, as well as such process addictions as the internet and gambling. Study of co-occurring disorders and major approaches to identification, evaluation, treatment and prevention of substance abuse and addiction, legal and medial aspects of substance abuse, populations at risk, the role of support persons that compound or support addiction, as well as support systems and community resources offering screening, assessment, treatment, and follow-up for the affected person and family. Special consideration is given to recovery-oriented care and methods of service delivery in recovery-oriented practice environments.

MFT 575: Psychopharmacology (3 semester units)

Study of the use of psychotropic medications in the treatment of various psychological disorders. Examination of the role of the psychotherapist and psychotherapy in the use of such medications. Study of the biological bases of behavior, basic classifications, indications and contraindications of commonly prescribed psychopharmacological medications so that appropriate referrals can be made for medication evaluations and so that the side effects of those medications can be identified. Study of specific medications that are used in the treatment of psychiatric disorders, including antidepressants, mood stabilizers, anti-obsessional, antipsychotic and antianxiety drugs, and how they are used in conjunction with psychotherapy, as well as the abuses of drugs in each category.

MFT 577: Psychological Testing and Therapeutic Appraisal and Assessment (3 semester units)

Study of theories and applications of commonly used psychological tests for family and individual assessments. Covers cognitive and personality testing as well as looking at specific tests related to assessing for depression, anxiety and other DSM V disorders. Also, the study of statistical significance in psychological testing, and the uses and limitations of such tests. Includes basic concepts of standardized and non-standardized testing and other assessment techniques, norm-referenced and criterion-referenced assessment, social and cultural factors related to assessment and evaluation of individuals and groups, and ethical strategies for selecting, administering, and interpreting assessment instruments and techniques in counseling. In addition, the study of assessment and appraisal of client needs, including but not limited to the client’s strengths and available resources, and also their family, social/contextual and personal challenges. Furthermore, students receive guidance in studying assessment and appraisal “across the curriculum”—that is, for example, by studying how “assessment and appraisal” is practiced and used in such areas as alcoholism and substance abuse, cross-cultural counseling, and human development.

MFT 579: Case Management, Advocacy and Collaborative Treatment (3 semester units)

Study of case management, systems of care for the severely mentally ill, public and private services and supports available for the severely mentally ill, community resources for persons with mental illness and for victims of abuse, disaster and trauma response, advocacy for the severely mentally ill, and collaborative treatment. Study of the role of case management, advocacy and collaborative treatment in providing recovery-oriented care and service in recovery-oriented practice environments.

MFT 581: Crisis and Trauma Counseling (3 semester units)

Examination of types of trauma and crisis—resulting from such varied causes as natural disasters, social upheaval and unrest, car accidents, interpersonal violence, secondary trauma (e.g., observation of trauma), loss of home or loved ones, among others. Theories and methods of immediate, mid-term and long-term interventions. Includes crisis theory, multidisciplinary responses to crises and therapeutic responses to trauma. Assessment strategies for clients in crisis and principles for intervention for individuals with mental or emotional disorders during times of crisis, emergency or disaster. Specifically, the study of somatic, physiological, and neurological dynamics, as well as cognitive, emotional and behavioral considerations—and the interrelations of all these. The role of multidisciplinary assessment and treatment, and strategies for helping trauma survivors to identify and access their own individual, and community, sources of strength and resilience, in order to cope with adversity, trauma, threats, tragedy, or other stresses. Consideration of the impact of trauma and crises on entire families, communities and societies, and the role of larger scale interventions. Examination of complications from multiple traumas and/or traumas experienced by people with pre-existing emotional challenges and conditions. Study of resilience, including the personal and community qualities that enable persons to cope with adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or other stresses.

MFT 591: Supervised Practicum in Psychotherapeutic Techniques (minimum 6 semester units*)—To be eligible to be considered to enroll in the Practicum, the student must first complete MFT 551, MFT 513, and MFT 567, and then participate in a Practicum Readiness Review conducted by two WISR MFT faculty.

This involves supervised work by the student in the assessment, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of premarital, couple, family, and child relationships, within the scope of practice of a marriage and family therapy trainee. Students also discuss and critically reflect on issues, challenges and insights arising out of their practicum: 1) in seminars, which regularly allocate time to for faculty to teach about and for students to reflect on and discuss clinical cases, 2) in individual advising sessions with WISR faculty, and 3) in the two papers they write on their practicum experience. In the practicum and in the reflective papers, students learn about applied psychotherapeutic techniques, assessment, diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, issues of development, adjustment and maladjustment, health and wellness promotion, professional writing (including documentation of services, treatment plans and progress notes), how to find and use resources, and other counseling interventions. Students are encouraged to seek out a practicum that will give them experience in working with low-income and multicultural populations–through the practicum experience, students are expected to give great attention to developing those personal qualities that are intimately related to the counseling situation, including integrity, sensitivity, flexibility, insight, compassion and personal presence.

*Credit: Minimum of 6 semester units based on completing the required 306 hours of supervised practicum, along with the required term paper and seminar participation. One additional semester unit awarded for each additional 51 hours of supervised practicum, over and above the 306 hours minimum required.

MFT 597: Master’s Thesis (7 semester units)

The Master’s thesis is an in-depth study of a topic of strong interest to the student, and one that generally helps the student build bridges for him/herself to the next important things she or he wishes to do with her/his life—as a professional, and a leader. The student makes use of what he or she has learned at WISR about action-research methods to do a serious and substantial inquiry that involves some original data collection by the student. It is an inquiry that is based on action and/or that has action implications of some significance to the student and/or others. In particular, Master’s thesis makes a worthwhile contribution to the professional field. [The Master’s Thesis qualifies as advanced studies toward the LPCC license.]

The following are specific, expected outcomes for the Master’s Thesis:

  • Students will build on, critically reflect on, and synthesize many of the things they have learned previously—during their MFT studies at WISR, and delve more deeply into a specific topic of significance to themselves and to others in the field.
  • The scope and depth of the Master’s Thesis should demonstrate expert knowledge of the topic studied, based on the student’s experiences, a literature review, and the collection and analysis of some original data.
  • Students will demonstrate their ability to use action-research methods in the conduct of a project that is important to them and to others in the field.
  • Students will use their Master’s thesis—the process and/or outcomes—to build a bridge to the next significant things they plan to do in their life and professional work.
  • The scope and depth of the Master’s Thesis should demonstrate expert knowledge of the topic studied, based on the student’s experiences, a literature review, and the collection and analysis of some original data.
  • Since the thesis is the culmination of Master’s studies, students will demonstrate their competencies in many of the MS in Psychology program’s overall learning objectives–especially in the areas developing skills and knowledge as a self-directed learner, expertise in methods of participatory and action-research, ability to communicate clearly and meaningfully to one’s audience(s), ability to pursue successfully employment and/or leadership roles in the community, and expertise in marriage and family therapy as well as in one or more areas of specialization.

These Courses Are Required for Students Pursuing the LPCC license, recommended but not required for other students.

MFT 583: Career Development (3 semester units)

Career development theories and techniques, including career development decision-making models and interrelationships between work, family and other life roles and factors. Includes study of the role of multicultural issues in career development, what is a career, points where people seek career counseling, and issues involved in successfully providing career counseling.

MFT 585: Group Counseling (3 semester units)

Group counseling theories and techniques, including principles of group dynamics, group process components, developmental stage theories, therapeutic factors of group work, group leadership styles and approaches, pertinent research and literature, group counseling methods and evaluation of effectiveness. Includes history of group psychotherapy, creating successful therapy groups, therapeutic factors and mechanisms, selection of clients, preparation and pre-group training, group development and process, therapist interventions, reducing adverse outcomes and the ethical practice of group psychotherapy, concurrent therapies, and termination of group psychotherapy.

MFT 589: Advanced Study of Cross-Cultural/Multicultural Counseling and Needs/Issues with Special Populations (5 semester units)

This course involves further, advanced study of the complexities of the topics initially addressed in “Cross-Cultural Counseling.” Includes in-depth, advanced study of specific needs and treatment issues involved in working with one or more special populations.

Note: MFT 597: Master’s Thesis [7 semester units] counts toward units of advanced study for LPCC requirements.

 

The Five Steps to Admission

Reach Out to Us and Connect

Call to meet us at 1-510-655-2830.

We will want to have two to three conversations with you including an interview. During our conversation we will arrange for you the following opportunities:

  1. Speak with current students or alumni
  2. Speak with one or more faculty members
  3. Attend one or more WISR seminars
  4. MFT students only…
    A) Check with the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) and/or CAMFT about any remaining questions about licensure
    B) Join the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists

Call to meet us at 1-510-655-2830.

Important Documents to Read Before Applying

Read these webpages and formulate further questions:

Your Alignment with WISR’s Mission

Important: In preparation for your interview, we ask that throughout your reading you consider whether WISR’s mission statement and the focus of your program of interest is:

  1. Aligned with your own values and therefore something you find inspiring
  2. Aligned with your intentions and sense of purpose in life
  3. Aligned with activities you have already pursued in your life

This is the link to the “Admissions Application and Interview Form.” 

As part of the application process, all admissions to study at WISR are made on the basis of intensive conversations with applicants about their goals, interests, and backgrounds, and applicants are told about the kinds of learning and action that are involved in studying with us. Initial discussions may be informal.

Thereafter, each serious applicant is asked to file a formal application for admission, by filling out:

  1. The Admissions Application and Interview Form,
  2. submitting transcripts of previous college-level study to verify that the student has met WISR’s admissions requirements and to verify any transfer credit requested, and
  3. providing two letters of recommendation from others who can attest to the student’s readiness for further academic study.
  4. The application for admission must also include a written statement describing the scope and significance of the applicant’s study and future objectives, assessing how well these fit with study at WISR, and discussing the applicant’s commitments to professional and community work.

WISR is interested in working with students who find a common bond with the Institute’s stated philosophy and goals.

We are also interested in students who have given some thought to their educational goals and have an initial clarity about them, although we recognize that goals frequently change as a student’s course of study progresses.

WISR also seeks students who want a flexible program, tailored to their individual needs, but who also want discipline and rigor in their studies.

These and other issues are discussed frankly and openly with each serious applicant, and students’ intelligent self-selection to study at WISR is very deliberately emphasized.

Many tentatively interested inquirers are discouraged from formally applying if their specific interests, personal maturity, or resources of time and money do not promise success in study here. We help many potential applicants to find other ways of pursuing their studies elsewhere.

As part of the application process, each applicant must discuss her or his background and objectives with a core faculty member, usually WISR’s President or Chief Academic Officer. Interested persons are routinely encouraged to visit WISR seminars and to talk with other faculty, students, and Board members of WISR, to gain several perspectives on study at WISR and a sense of the learning community that they may be joining.

 

Set Up Your Interview

Call us and arrange for your interview. In preparation for the interview, we think it is valuable for you to read the questions we will be asking the topics we will be discussing in advance. Here’ the link to the “Admissions Application and Interview Formwhich makes that clear. 

About the Interview

As part of the application process, each applicant must discuss her or his background and objectives with WISR’s President or Chief Academic Officer. This meeting is both an “admissions interview” and an exploration, together, of how well WISR’s distinctive approach to learning and our specific State-licensed degree offerings, will meet the prospective student’s needs and enable him or her to have a strong likelihood of using a WISR program in the meaningful and successful pursuit of his or her short- and long-term goals.

Prospective students are urged to have a face-to-face meeting at WISR; however, if it is more convenient, or if the student is living at a distance, two or more in depth phone or video conversations often suffice. An hour-long conversation is scheduled so that the prospective student will not feel rushed, and indeed, students are welcome, and even expected, to have more than one conversation with WISR’s President or Chief Academic Officer.

After extensive discussions, most prospective enrollees are able to judge the kinds of student autonomy and commitment that study at WISR requires. Most applicants who do not have the necessary qualifications screen themselves out voluntarily.

The purpose of the conversations and interviews is to help each person to make a very informed decision about whether or not to apply for admissions, and also to enable the Chief Academic Officer and/or the President, sometimes in consultation with other faculty, make the decision to admit the prospective student, based on whether or not they are likely to benefit from studying at WISR. 

The WISR “Admissions Application and Interview Form” shows how much we place a priority on admitting those prospective students who understand WISR’s learning methods and mission, whether or not a WISR degree is likely to aid them in achieving their future goal and who are likely to succeed in learning and pursuing an academic degree at WISR.

 

If admitted, call us to set up your start date and arrange your enrollment meeting in which you sign your enrollment agreement and set up your payment plan. 

In preparation for the enrollment meeting, make sure you have read the following WISR documents: 

WISR’s Catalog

WISR’s Consumer Disclosures

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