Curriculum Calendar: Marriage & Family Therapy

MFT Program – Curriculum

Phillips graduate institute’s Master of Marriage and Family Therapy Program (60 units)

This program plan meets graduation requirements for a Master of Marriage and Family Therapy. Graduates will meet the educational requirements for MFT licensure in California. Click here for the MMFT brochure.


First Term • 13 units (Offered Fall and Spring)

Course NumberCourse Name# of Units
MFC 502Family Therapy: Systemic Approaches(3 Units)
MFC 503Developmental Psychology(3 Units)
MFC 507Foundations of Counseling and Psychotherapy(3 Units)
MFC 518Introduction to Research – I(1 Unit)
MFC 519Case Conference: Pragmatics and Human Communication(3 Units)

Second Term • 12 units (Offered Spring and Summer)

Course Number     Course Name# of Units
MFC 505Family Therapy: Evolving Systemic Approaches(3 Units)
MFC 504Diversity and Social Justice in Families, Schools and Other Systems(2 Units)
MFC 523Case Conference/Practicum(3 Units)
MFC 520Abnormal Psychology(2 Units)
MFC 524Assessment and Treatment in a Developmental Context(2 Units)

SUMMER Term • 11 units (Offered Summer only)

Course NumberCourse Name# of Units
MFC 529Group Dynamics/Practicum(3 Units)
MFC 549Psychological Testing(3 Units)
MFC 550MFTs in Community Mental Health(2 Units)
MFC 600Fundamentals of Addiction(3 Units)

Third Term • 13 units (Offered Fall Only)

Course NumberCourse Name# of Units
MFC 521Introduction to Research – II(1 Unit)
MFC 528Couple Therapy(3 Units)
MFC 531Applied Therapeutic Methodology: Relational Therapy I(3 Units)
MFC 532Sexuality and Sex Therapy(1 Unit)
MFC 533Practicum – I(2 Units)
MFC 539Legal, Ethical and Professional Issues(3 Units)

Fourth Term • 11 units (Offered Spring Only)

Course NumberCourse Name# of Units
MFC 522Professional Project(1 Unit)
MFC 534Applied Therapeutic Methodology: Relational Therapy II(3 Units)
MFC 535Practicum – II(2 Units)
MFC 540Professional Issues for Marriage and Family Therapists(2 Units)
MFC 547Psychopharmacology(3 Units)

Course Descriptions

MFC 502 Family Therapy: Systemic Approaches (3 units)

Families are the primary unit of study in this course designed to familiarize students with systems theories. Students study the interaction of parts and the whole, and how intervention with one element of a system creates change throughout the family and the larger systems with which the family interacts. Learning sequentially, students begin with a sensitive study of their own family systems before moving on to therapeutic and counseling applications with other families. The models presented are General Systems Theory, Bowen, Structural, Strategic, and Humanistic/Experiential. The course then moves into the collaborative, strength-based approaches of Post Modern therapies. Specific counseling applications of these theories are demonstrated in the classroom to help students develop intervention strategies with families and larger systems.

MFC 505 Family Therapy: Evolving Systemic Approaches (3 units)

This course builds on the foundational and traditional systemic theories presented in MFC 502 and examines both common factors and the evolution of systemic theory. Postmodern and evidenced-based family therapy models are presented with an emphasis on clinical application. Clinical factors such as diversity, recovery-oriented care, crisis management and trauma are considered through a contemporary systemic perspective.

MFC 503 Developmental Psychology (3 units)

This course reviews normal developmental processes over the lifespan of individuals, as well as systems including family, schools and the community. The student encounters both theoretical models for describing developmental stages and behavioral descriptions of tasks and competencies at each stage. We explore the interaction between individual development and the stages of the family life cycle. Attention is also given to gender differences in development, multicultural considerations, the effect of early experience, and developmental processes in divorcing and blending families.

MFC 504 Diversity and Social Justice in Families, Schools and Other Systems (2 units)

This course is designed to facilitate the intra and interpersonal examination, awareness and valuing of human diversity and social justice across varying populations and contexts. Students will develop an understanding of individual, family and social roles in the construction of diversity and equity through an exploration of privilege and oppression across dominant and marginalized cultures. Such examination will increase sensitivity to and comprehension of the psychological impact of cultural forces. The course utilizes a systems and strength-based perspective, honoring a collaborative and community approach to school counseling and psychotherapy.

MFC 507 Foundations of Counseling and Psychotherapy (3 units)

This course presents models originally developed to work with individuals as a context for understanding marital and family therapy and school counseling. The major focus is on three (3) foundational approaches: Psychodynamic, Humanistic-Existential, and Behavioral and Cognitive-Behavioral theories. The course is comparative and integrative and offers an introduction to rather than a comprehensive presentation of these historically important models. These models also provide the context for foundational counseling skills utilized by marriage and family therapists and school counselors.

MFC 518 Introduction to Research – I (1 unit)

This course introduces students to concepts and procedures that will help them become educated consumers of research. Students will develop basic database search skills to locate recent studies that document effective practices for working from a systemic perspective. They will become familiar with legal and ethical issues involved in research and will learn about research methodologies such as qualitative and quantitative research. Additionally, students will develop skills in academic writing such as appropriate use of APA style format and writing in a scholarly voice and will begin to develop their competence in critical reading of research literature to support becoming research-informed clinicians.

MFC 521 Introduction to Research – II (1 unit)

This course continues the practice of critical analysis of research. The emphasis is on evaluating research relevant to relational and systemic issues, including the clinical effectiveness of research-informed treatment strategies. Students begin the process of developing their professional project while working with an assigned faculty research mentor.

MFC 522 Professional Project (1 unit)

This course continues to support students in the completion of the professional project. The goal of the project is to increase the student’s expertise in a specific area of clinical knowledge that has a relational and systemic focus. The professional project provides a foundation for future professional development and contribution to the field of Marriage and Family Therapy.

MFC 519 Case Conference: Pragmatics and Human Communication (3 units)

This course provides an experiential and practical demonstration of the foundational concepts presented in the first (1st) term coursework. Students are oriented to the practice of psychotherapy/counseling with a focus on systemic/relational practices and a multicultural perspective. Additionally, students begin developing clinical skills, including establishing and understanding, confidentiality, avoiding dual relationships and handling personal information in an ethical manner. Throughout the course, students observe actual therapy/counseling behind a one-way mirror and participate as co-therapists with the instructor and on reflecting teams. Following the session, students participate in discussions with the instructor/school counselor about what has been experienced and observed. Communication principles and skills that enhance professional effectiveness are introduced, demonstrated and practiced.

MFC 523 Case Conference/Practicum (3 units)

Students continue the observational process from first term with clients/pupils, deepening their understanding of the concepts and practices introduced in the first term. Observing and participating as co-therapists and reflecting team members with a different client, students will apply their growing knowledge of theory, assessment and diagnosis. Students will begin to explore their personal functioning, that is their awareness of their impact on others, both in class and as they begin their traineeships and field placements. Theoretical, assessment and treatment concepts presented in term two (2) are demonstrated and applied in the clinical/counseling work with the case conference client.

MFC 520 Abnormal Psychology (2 units)

This course surveys Abnormal Psychology from the perspective of the medical model presented in the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In the course, students are encouraged to think critically about the concepts of mental illness and Psychopathology; for example, students examine the impact of the socio-cultural context on diagnosis. Students learn to identify and diagnose commonly seen disorders as well as severe mental disorders in both children and adults. Students also begin developing more advanced skills in the process of differential diagnosis.

MFC 524 Assessment and Treatment in a Developmental Context (2 units)

This course builds on knowledge obtained in 520 in the area of child and adolescent diagnostic categories. The course continues skills training in the process of assessment and expands to include treatment planning specific to working with youth and families. Students learn through in-class demonstration and course assignments, intervention strategies appropriate for addressing different presenting problems and developmental stages. In addition, this course explores assessment and treatment planning with children and adolescents and their families in various settings: clinical settings, schools, and community-based facilities. The practical management of commonly-seen child and adolescent counseling issues and the legal and ethical guidelines related to working with youth and families are discussed. MFC 520 or its equivalent is a prerequisite for this course.

MFC 528 Couple Therapy (3 units)

This course examines theory, methodology, and pragmatics of working with intimate partnerships and will explore various theoretical models for an in-depth view of dynamics in couples. Issues and processes that frequently arise in couple therapy will be addressed, such as lack of intimacy, trust issues, conflicts, relationship dissolution, and domestic violence. The course will also demonstrate methods of therapeutic intervention designed to enrich couples’ lives and help negotiate change.

MFC 529 Group Dynamics/Practicum (3 units)

Understanding group dynamics from the perspective of both participant and leader is an essential skill for professionals in the field of marriage and family therapy and school counseling. In this experiential course, students learn the theory and practice of group dynamics. The course includes both didactic instruction on the theories of Yalom and others, and a “laboratory” experience of being in a group. Students are encouraged to utilize this experience to enhance their personal and professional growth. Although not therapy, the experience can be therapeutic for those who participate fully.

Students in clinical placement may utilize the group experience as an adjunct to their official group or individual supervision. The instructor and the group will offer monitoring and support as the student deals informally with personal and professional issues related to their clinical work.

MFC 531 Applied Therapeutic Methodology: Relational Therapy I (3 units)

This course involves the application of theory to practice in marriage and family therapy. Relational and systemic theoretical models are utilized in the assessment and treatment of individuals, couples, families and children within a multicultural context. Students will formulate a relational and systemic theoretical position as a foundation for their clinical practice as Marriage and Family Therapists. The application of clinical skills is reviewed, including assessment, development of a therapeutic alliance, establishment of clinical goals, interventions, and the ongoing evaluation of treatment. Aspects of professional communications in the mental health profession will also be covered. This course must be taken concurrently with MFC533, Practicum.

MFC 534 Applied Therapeutic Methodology: Relational Therapy II (3 units)

This course continues the application of theory to practice in marriage and family therapy. Relational and systemic theoretical models continue to be emphasized in the assessment and treatment of individuals, couples, families, and children. Knowledge of theory, the foundations of psychotherapy, and Marriage and Family Therapy learned in the first year are reviewed and applied to cases from the practicum experience. This course supports the student’s experience in supervised practicum with readings, assignments and resources relevant to the populations being served by the students. Students will continue to formulate a relational and systemic theoretical position as a foundation for their professional identity as Marriage and Family Therapists. Comprehensive written and oral examinations are part of this course. The course must be taken concurrently with MFC 535, Practicum.

MFC 532 Sexuality and Sex Therapy (I unit)

This course will introduce students to the fundamentals of sexuality and sex therapy necessary for working with intimate relationships as a marriage and relationship therapist. The course has several purposes. First, in a safe and supportive atmosphere, students will deepen their awareness of their own sexuality, increase their comfort with sexual language, and widen their perspectives on sexual variations. Second, the classes will examine the growing merger and integration of two previously separate fields, sex therapy and relationship therapy, thereby helping students decide when to refer to specialized professionals. Third, the course will help students address sexual issues in session and increase intimacy in partnerships. Fourth, the course will help students develop an increased multicultural sensitivity to issues of sexuality.

MFC 533 Practicum – I (2 units) (CR/NC)

In this course students gain direct clinical experience with individuals, couples, families and/or groups at placement sites approved by the Clinical Placement Directors. The MFT program practicum requirements as well as MFT licensure requirements in California are presented. The MFT program requires that students obtain a minimum of 100 relational, 200 individual client, and 75 client-centered advocacy hours while in a practicum and prior to graduation. The Phillips Graduate Institute’s MFT program has affiliations with a variety of placements, including the California Family Counseling Center.

MFC 535 Practicum – II (2 units) (CR/NC)

In this course students continue to gain direct clinical experience with individuals, couples, families and/or groups at placement sites approved by the Clinical Placement Directors. The MFT program practicum requirements as well as MFT licensure requirements in California are presented. The MFT program requires that students obtain a minimum of 100 relational, 200 individual client, and 75 client-centered advocacy hours while in a practicum and prior to graduation. The Phillips Graduate Institute’s MFT program has affiliations with a variety of placements, including the California Family Counseling Center.

MFC 539 Legal, Ethical and Professional Issues (3 units)

This course reviews aspects of California and federal law relevant to Marriage and Family Therapy. The course focuses in-depth on confidentiality and privileged communication, scope of practice and scope of competence, laws defining unprofessional conduct, laws relating to minors and other vulnerable populations, the ethical decision-making process, and the AAMFT professional ethical standards as well as those of CAMFT. Students will recognize when legal and/or clinical consultation/supervision is necessary. The course includes family law (issues connected to marital dissolution, child custody and mediation of conflicts). Legal issues connected to mandated reporting requirements (child, elder and dependent adult abuse) and to domestic violence are also presented. Students are asked to consider the application of legal and ethical standards within the framework of different theoretical perspectives with various systems, in different clinical settings, and through the lens of their own values and personal characteristics. The development of the identity of the Marriage and Family Therapist is emphasized.

MFC 540 Professional Issues for Marriage and Family Therapists (2 units)

This course updates current clinical and professional issues impacting the practice of marriage and family therapy. Specific topics reflect recent developments in the field. Additionally, this course addresses the students’ professional development and identity as a Marriage and Family Therapist as they prepare to enter associateships.

mFC 547 Psychopharmacology (3 units)

The course is designed to introduce the student to the psychopharmacological management of mental disorders. Emphasis will be placed on the role of the non-medical therapist as a member of the health care team in the assessment, referral and management of clients being treated with Psychotropic medication. The course will cover the history of psychopharmacology, basic nervous system functioning and biochemical theories of mental disorders and will familiarize students with the various classes of psychoactive medications used to treat major mental disorders. In addition, the course will address the use of psychotropic medication across the lifespan and within the context of gender, race, culture and ethnic identity. MFC 520 or equivalent is a prerequisite for this course.

MFC 549 Psychological Testing (3 units)

The course introduces students to the basics of testing and assessment so they can learn to interact with other mental health professionals in ways that facilitate the treatment of clients. This course focuses on several areas: advanced clinical interviewing, basic statistical concepts necessary for understanding tests and measurements, an introduction to most major psychological tests, the important role of testing in psychotherapy, and the process of referrals for psychological testing. In addition, students will gain information on tests which fall under the scope of practice for marriage and family therapists.

MFC 550 MFT’s in Community Mental Health (2 unit)

This course defines the role of Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT’s) in community mental health care and provides knowledge and skills to adequately fulfill the functions of that role. Special attention is given to culturally-relevant mental health assessment and treatment, recovery and wellness models, strength-based treatment planning and the reintegration of clients (consumers) in family and social systems. The course will also emphasize professional self-care and examine public service as a professional career for MFT’s.

MFC 600 Fundamentals of Addiction (3 units)

This course offers a comprehensive overview of contemporary treatment of addictions in a highly interactive format. Topics include: theories across time and cultures, the psychology of addictions, understanding and treating the needs of special populations, intervention strategies, concepts and theories of addiction, medical aspects of addiction, and customizing treatment plans to meet specific client-centered goals.