10 Top Marriage and Family Therapist Programs

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 2, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Many aspiring therapists choose to enroll in marriage and family degree programs to learn how to help people improve and repair their relationships. Marriage and family therapist programs provide students with the knowledge, resources and skills they need to counsel couples, families and individuals throughout every stage of their lives. If you're considering pursuing a career as a therapist, counselor or social worker, then you might be interested in learning about some of the top marriage family therapist programs available today.

In this article, we explain what a marriage and family therapist is, list 10 well-known programs you can enroll in to prepare for this career field and provide tips to help you become a marriage and family therapist after you graduate.

Related: 6 Types of Bachelor's Degree in Counseling To Consider

What is a marriage and family therapist?

A marriage and family therapist provides counseling services to couples, families and individuals to help them develop healthy relationships and overcome personal challenges. While marriage and family therapists may work with individuals, they focus on learning about the relationships their clients have with other people in their lives to understand their condition.

The situations marriage and family therapists work with may range from helping couples work through financial disagreements, giving parents and children the tools they need to mend broken relationships or teaching people coping mechanisms to help them overcome relational trauma. Marriage and family therapists may also diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders and substance abuse issues. They use a combination of psychotherapy and counseling strategies to help patients improve their lives. Marriage and family therapists may also collaborate with health care providers, such as psychiatrists, to develop well-rounded treatment plans.

Related: How To Become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) in 6 Steps

10 marriage and family therapist programs

Learning about some of the top marriage and family therapist programs available today can help you make a smart decision about your academic career. It can also make it easier for you to compare what each program offers. For example, some academic institutions may provide remote classroom options, clinical hours, networking opportunities or career services. Here are 10 marriage and family therapist programs you can explore to get started:

1. Pacific Oaks College

Located in Pasadena, California, Pacific Oaks College offers a master's degree program in marriage and family therapy with several unique specialization options. Students can choose to focus on African American family studies, Latinx family studies or LGBTQIA+ studies to develop a deeper understanding of the unique experiences and needs of different individuals. Pacific Oaks College also offers a secondary specialization in trauma studies, which students can pair with any of the other specializations mentioned to create an even more robust program.

In addition to coursework, students complete between 225 and 280 clinical hours with local community agencies and schools to help them meet their licensing requirements after they graduate. A few of the classes you can take at Pacific Oaks College to prepare for a career as a marriage and family therapist include:

  • Couple's therapy

  • Theories of marriage, family and child counseling

  • Personality theories and clinical intervention

2. Edgewood College

Edgewood College offers a Master of Science in marriage and family therapy program that focuses on teaching students how to work relationally and holistically with their clients. Evening courses are available for full-time and part-time students at Edgewood College's campus in Madison, Wisconsin. Throughout this program, students have the opportunity to complete a 12-month clinical internship and apply for their training licenses. Students typically graduate from this program within two years.

Edgewood College also offers additional supervised work experience after graduation to help students meet the requirements to apply for their full marriage and family therapist licensure. A few of the classes you can take through this program include:

  • Introduction to systems theories

  • Psychology of trauma and stress

  • Ethics and social responsibility

3. University of Saint Joseph

The University of Saint Joseph, located in West Hartford, Connecticut, has a master's program in marriage and family therapy that focuses on teaching students how to work with diverse populations from a relational and systemic perspective. This nationally accredited program features a theory-driven approach that helps students develop multi-cultural awareness.

Students who enroll in the marriage and family therapy master's degree program through the University of Saint Joseph complete a 12-month clinical internship and meet the requirements to obtain their licensure as a marriage and family therapist in Connecticut upon graduation. A few of the classes you can take through this program include:

  • Gender issues and diversity in therapy

  • Family systems theory

  • Human development

  • Collaborative health care practice

  • Marriage and family theory

Related: What Degree Does a Marriage and Family Therapist Need?

4. Mount Saint Mary's University

Mount Saint Mary's University offers a graduate program in marriage and family therapy that prepares students to become licensed therapists. Located in Los Angeles, California, this academic institution offers courses during the day and in the evening to accommodate professionals with busy work schedules and personal lives. Most students graduate within two to three years. The first half of this program focuses on foundational coursework, while the second half includes hands-on fieldwork and a clinical traineeship.

This provides students with the opportunity to hone their counseling skills by working with community training sites for up to 20 hours per week. A few of the classes you can take through this program include:

  • Psychopathology

  • Applying research to practice

  • Lifespan development

  • Multicultural counseling

  • Addiction counseling

5. Texas Woman's University

Located in Denton, Texas, the Texas Woman's University offers a master's program and a Ph.D. program in marriage and family therapy that focus on holistic care. The Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) accredits both of these programs. Students typically complete the master's program in three years and the Ph.D. program in approximately two years. While most of the courses the Texas Woman's University offers are on campus, they do provide some flexible online options as well. A few of the classes you can take through this program include:

  • Counseling theory and practice

  • Human development

  • Early childhood development

  • Family economics and financial planning

  • Family communication and development

Related: MSW Degrees vs. MFT Degrees: Definitions, Similarities and Differences

6. William James College

William James College, located in Newton, Massachusetts, offers a master's program in clinical mental health counseling with an emphasis in couples and family therapy. By combining clinical mental health counseling courses with couples and family therapy courses, students can earn a dual degree that prepares them to become licensed mental health counselors and licensed marriage and family therapists. Completing this program involves taking 63 course credits, completing a 360-hour practicum and performing 600 hours of work through a clinical internship.

Students may choose to enroll in this program full-time to complete their work in approximately two years or part-time to complete their work in approximately three years. A few of the classes you can take through this program include:

  • Theories of counseling and psychotherapy

  • Collaborative family therapy

  • Substance abuse evaluation and treatment

  • Group counseling

  • Lifespan development

7. San Diego State University

San Diego State University offers a full-time Master of Science in marriage and family therapy program that typically takes students two and a half years to complete. Accredited by COAMFTE, this program teaches students how to provide therapeutic services and facilitate relevant change processes that improve people's lives. The culturally infused curriculum includes community-based clinical training, practicums and traineeship opportunities. San Diego State University focuses on offering small class sizes with less than 30 students to make learning accessible for everyone. A few of the classes you can take through this program include:

  • Cross-cultural counseling

  • Family life cycle development

  • Substance abuse treatment and motivational interviewing

  • Couple's therapy

  • Psychopharmacology

Related: 18 Types of Therapists To Explore as a Career

8. USC Rossier School of Education

Located in Los Angeles, California, the USC Rossier School of Education has a Master of Science in marriage and family program designed to help students become culturally competent therapists. This program focuses on providing students with the tools to address a wide range of challenges, including relationship stressors, parenting concerts, dysfunctional family units and behavioral issues.

The USC Rossier School of Education also offers fieldwork experience which includes up to 1,300 hours of supervised clinical work. Upon completion of this program, students are eligible to apply for their marriage and family therapy licenses in California. A few of the classes you can take through this program include:

  • Counseling theories

  • Psychopathology for marriage and family therapists

  • Research methods and data analysis

  • Psychological assessment

  • Group counseling

Related: LPCC vs. MFT: Definitions and Key Differences

9. Adler University

Adler University offers an accredited master's degree in couples and family therapy that prepares therapists to serve families, individuals, couples and children. Located in Chicago, Illinois, this program features a scholar-practitioner approach with a focus on social justice that teaches students how to promote positive change in their clients' personal relationships and the larger social systems surrounding them. Students can also take specialized courses in substance abuse counseling as a part of this program through Adler University.

The couples and family therapy master's program provided by Adler University prepares students to meet the educational requirements to obtain their marriage and family therapist licenses in Illinois. Students can also continue their education at Adler University by pursuing an accredited Ph.D. in couples and family therapy. A few of the classes you can take through the master's program include:

  • Assessment and treatment planning

  • Family therapy with children and adolescents

  • Culture and diversity in couple and family therapy

  • Research methods

  • Biopsychosocial bases of health

Related: How To Write a Marriage and Family Therapist Resume in 8 Steps

10. Capella University

Capella University offers an online Master of Science in marriage and family therapy program for students seeking a remote learning environment. This accredited program focuses on helping students improve their clinical skills, become effective client advocates and incorporate concepts of social justice into their work. To earn a degree through Capella University's program, students complete 16 courses and two clinical residencies. Capella University also offers internship opportunities. Some of the courses you can take through this program include:

  • Diversity and social justice in systemic family therapy

  • Psychopathology

  • Impact of addictive behavior on family systems

  • Marriage and family therapy

  • Systemic interventions for grief, loss and trauma

Tips for becoming a marriage and family therapist

Here are some tips to help you become a successful marriage and family therapist after you graduate from your program:

  • Make sure you enroll in an accredited program. You can visit COAMFTE's website to search for nationally accredited marriage and family therapist programs in your desired area.

  • Review licensing requirements for your state. The requirements to earn your marriage and family therapist license after you graduate vary from one location to another, so make sure to research how many supervised clinic hours you need to perform based on your desired region.

  • Prepare for your clinical exam. After you graduate, enroll in an online course or download a study guide to help you prepare to pass your clinical exam.

  • Apply for your license. After you pass your clinical exam, complete the necessary paperwork through your state's Board of Behavioral Sciences to obtain your marriage and family therapist license.

  • Renew your license. While the requirements for license renewal vary from one state to the next, you may need to enroll in continuing education credits, complete a certain number of clinical hours or retake your clinical exam to maintain your credentials as a marriage and family therapist.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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