Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy

Welcome to the Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy Program (MSMFT). The Family Institute at Northwestern University (TFI) and Northwestern University co-sponsor this unique program. With four decades of experience treating families, The Family Institute is ideally suited to administer the Program and a highly ranked university, Northwestern, awards your degree. The Program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). The Program has been in existence since 1992. Be sure to visit our page on The Graduate School at Northwestern University's website.

We have arranged the content of the website in an effort to answer all of your questions. Below, you will find the 10 things about our program that make us very proud. I invite you to then dig deeper by examining our curriculum and reading the bios of our prestigious and clinically active faculty. Be sure to also check out the more than 400 publications of Family Institute staff. We also provide detailed information about our Clinical Internship, answer a multitude of questions, provide information about tuition, financial aid and debt management, explain licensure and share our open house information.

Of particular interest to prospective applicants are four articles published in the Journal, Family Process. Two of these articles lay out an integrative perspective developed by our faculty and represent a cutting-edge approach to therapy (Integrative Problem Centered Metaframeworks I [IPCM]; Integrative Problem Centered Metaframeworks II [IPCM]). A third article describes The Family Institute at Northwestern University and a fourth article articulates a practice value for working with the whole family.

You can also learn about our Program by reading a few of our newsletter articles. The first provides a quick overview of the Program. The second articulates values of the Program and the third describes the training cycle of a marriage and family therapist. Cap this off with a peak at the graduation ceremony of the class of 2015.

Applications are accepted from September 1 through December 31 for the class matriculating in the fall quarter of the following year.

I hope you will take a close look at our program and encourage you to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any questions.



Douglas C. Breunlin, LCSW, LMFT
Program Director
Clinical Professor of Psychology
Northwestern University


Ten Things That Make Our Program Great


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The Family Institute at Northwestern University administers the Program. With over 45 years of experience, the Institute is a world-renowned center of learning about family therapy. The Institute conducts over 60,000 hours of therapy annually, engages in important clinical research and is at the forefront of family therapy education. The MSMFT Program is located at the Institute's headquarters. This state-of-the art 26,000 square-foot facility is designed to maximize student learning. It has 10 interviewing suites equipped with two-way mirrors and videotaping capability where students conduct therapy under the helpful eye of their supervisors and make recordings of their interviews for later supervision.


Perennially ranked as a top 15 University, Northwestern offers top shelf educations and delivers a brand name that carries its graduates far. Northwestern is a major research institution with fabulous facilities. As a member of the Big Ten Conference, Northwestern plays host to many intercollegiate athletic events. The beautiful campus is located on the shores of Lake Michigan.


Our classes are held on the Northwestern University campus, located in the thriving suburbs of Evanston, Illinois. A short train ride from downtown Chicago, students enjoy the best of both worlds. The rich diversity of the population of metropolitan Chicago provides a rich source of referrals for learning therapy.


Our faculty are among the leaders in the field. Three sit on the editorial board of family therapy's premier journal, Family Process. Several hold or have held positions of leadership in organizations such as the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Family Therapy Academy and the American Psychological Association. The faculty have made seminal contributions to the literature. All of the faculty are practicing therapists who bring a wealth of current experience to the classroom.


The Commission on Accreditation accredits the Program for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). Students who graduate from an accredited program have fulfilled all graduate requirements for licensure in all 50 states. The AAMFT requirement that students graduate with at least 500 hours of clinical experience gives our graduates extensive training and a decided advantage when seeking employment.

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With students applying, competitively, from across the country, our faculty have the pleasure of teaching a talented, diverse, and academically advanced group of students. This environment leads to a challenging, enlightening and rewarding exchange of ideas between students. Through our Alumni Association, graduates network, support the program, and receive discounts on Family-Institute-sponsored professional education CEUs.


The clinical component of our training program takes place at the Bette D. Harris Child and Family Clinic that is administered by The Family Institute. The client population is highly diverse and represents many of the problems and populations family therapists will encounter beyond graduate school. The Clinic has four client sites and all have two-way mirrors and recording equipment. To further train our students and assist those who need help, we recently launched Project Strengthen, where a student is paired with a staff therapist to help meet the demand of high quality care to underserved individuals and families who suffer from multiple mental health disorders (such as anxiety and substance abuse) alongside socio-economic and cultural barriers to much-needed care.


Students receive extensive amount of supervision (more than double the number of hours required for accreditation). Supervision occurs in two formats: three-hour supervision groups with a small supervisee/supervisor ratio of 4:1 and individual supervision. Supervisory methods include live supervision (supervisor observes from behind a two-way mirror), videotape, audiotape and case consultation. Group supervisors are highly experienced and all are practicing clinicians, themselves. Supervisors must be either designated as "Approved Supervisors" of AAMFT or hold equivalent credentials.

Our approach to therapy is grounded in the concept of integration: that the models of therapy are best understood and used in a thoughtful and planful way. The systemic, integrative family therapy, pioneered at The Family Institute, addresses emotional, behavioral and relational problems in the context of both familial and extra-familial relationships. The influences of biology, psychodynamics, gender, socioeconomic status, culture and life cycle are used to help clients understand and address their problems. Read more about our approach.
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Although therapy will always be a blend of science and art, our approach to therapy is based on the 21st century trend to ground practice in scientifically proven methods. To prepare our students for this growing trend, we teach them to be consumers of research, and to know how to access and use this research with their own cases. The Institute research team has also developed its own research instrument designed to guide the progress of therapy. Known as the STIC (Systemic Therapy Inventory of Change), this instrument enables therapist and client to track the progress of therapy. Key measures of change are monitored, as is the crucial relationship between the therapist and client(s).


Student Achievement Data

As an AAMFT accredited program we report data on student achievement to our accrediting body on a yearly basis. The chart below provides evidence that our students successfully complete the program and are well prepared to pass the licensure exam and enter the profession following graduation.

Student Achievement Data
Advertised Program Length 2 YEARS
Maximum Time to Complete Program 5 YEARS
Year Entered Program Graduation Rate National Exam Pass Rate Licensure Rate*
Fall 2005 100.00% 100.00% 85.71%
Fall 2006 95.65% 100.00% 54.55%
Fall 2007 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%
Fall 2008 100.00% 100.00% 72.73%
Fall 2009 96.15% 100.00% 56.00%
Fall 2010 95.65% 100.00% 22.73%
Fall 2011 100.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Fall 2012 96.15% 0.00% 0.00%
Fall 2013 100.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Fall 2014 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%

*Please Note: In order to become a licensed marriage and family therapist, graduates must complete at least 3,000 hours of professional work experience in not less than a 2-year period. Our graduates’ licensure rates are affected by the rate at which they complete these hours, when they sit for the exam and report their results to The Family Institute. In addition, some of our students continue on to doctoral studies, others work part time, both of which postpone licensure.

To compare our student achievement data with comparable programs, please see data published by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education.

For more detailed information, contact the MSMFT Education Program Manager at 847-733-4300, ext. 206, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the detailed links of the MSMFT Program menu.


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