Throughout the two-year program, careful attention is paid to the development of your professional identity as a marriage and family therapist. Through extensive clinical training with the leaders in marriage and family therapy, along with the academic excellence of a degree from Northwestern University, you will be well equipped to make a difference in your chosen field.
New Student Information
New students join the program during the fall quarter and move through the next two years together as a cohort. As a new student, you will arrive two weeks early for orientation to the academic, clinical and administrative requirements and procedures of the program, and meet your classmates.
What to Expect Over the Next Two Years
Over the two-year period, you are required to complete 25 courses in Marriage and Family Therapy — 19 academic courses and six internship courses. The internship courses consist of intensive supervision in support of the requirement of 500 hours of actual clinical work.
Your First Quarter
In the first quarter, you will complete four courses:
- Pre-Practicum in Marriage and Family Therapy
- Basic Concepts of Systems Therapy
- Systemic Assessment
- Legal, Ethical and Professional Issues
You will also begin seeing cases under intensive supervision sometime in November.
Your First Year & Beyond
You will continue with coursework and clinical training throughout the first year, into the summer and on to the end of May in your second year.
Your schedule is as follows:
- First year courses are held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays
- Second year courses are held on Wednesdays and Fridays
- Group supervision takes place on Wednesday afternoons for both years; individual supervision is arranged between supervisor and student
- Students also are required to schedule time to see their clinical cases and keep appropriate records of their sessions; it is worth noting that the coursework, clinical practice, supervision and various program meetings comprise a full-time commitment
Our clinically-focused program is rooted in research. A research-informed approach to therapy is woven throughout all coursework and clinical training. All students take a course in marriage and family therapy research which covers both how to conduct research and how apply research in clinical practice. Some students may have a strong interest in obtaining more research experience, either to be competitive for doctoral programs or research careers. These students can take an additional seminar in marriage and family therapy research and may be able to work in a research lab and complete a research thesis project.
Students in the on-campus platform who are interested in working in a research lab will be introduced to the available lab opportunities early in the program. Research labs can be with faculty or staff at The Family Institute or throughout other departments at Northwestern University. Students will apply to be interviewed for a research lab within the first month of starting the program. Not all students who are interested in working in a research lab will have the opportunity to do so. Students in research labs commit to working three to six hours a week in their lab. Many of them complete a research thesis project using data from the research lab to which they were assigned.
All students utilize “progress research” through the use of the STIC® (Systemic Therapy Inventory of Change). This online instrument completed by clients enables you to track your clients’ therapy progress and monitor the therapeutic alliance.
The sequencing of courses in the curriculum is based on six developmental principles that are roughly sequential and progressive in nature:
- Providing a foundational knowledge base and an orientation to a systemic, integrative and empirically-informed approach to MFT practice.
- Preparing you to begin therapy early in your training (learning while doing).
- Expanding your knowledge of methods, models and modalities that can be integrated into practice while increasing cultural sensitivity.
- Expanding caseloads as you deepen your understanding of the role of research in a scientist-practitioner's work.
- Increasing your understanding of human development and psychodynamic issues in clinical practice.
- Learning more about working with a variety of presenting concerns and exploring particular clinical interests.
- Presenting your Capstone Project. In Winter and Spring of your second year, you will work intensively on your capstone, which involves synthesizing and applying what you have learned in the program. This project requires integration and consolidation of your learning with the program's mission, goals and outcomes.
This seminar is designed to introduce students to the personal and professional issues in becoming and developing marriage and family therapist, both during graduate training and beyond. This will include a focus on the development of self-awareness to define and differentiate themselves and their practice effectively. An optional research seminar is geared towards those interested in pursuing a PhD. The focus is on finding the right Ph.D. program, how to make yourself competitive for Ph.D.
This seminar is designed to introduce students to the tasks, demands and professional issues likely to arise in applying for Ph.D. programs. The seminar meetings will address "how-to" strategies as well as discussing the role of Ph.D. applicant, Ph.D. student and Ph.D. professional. It will include a focus on if Ph.D. study is right for you as well as what type of Ph.D. makes the most sense for your career goals.
This course is an introduction to the central theoretical underpinnings of systemic family therapy, providing a basic framework for assessment of and intervention in the problems clients bring to therapy. Particular attention is paid to the assumptions, concepts, frameworks, and clinical guidelines of the Integrative Systemic Therapy (IST) perspective. The course provides a set of constructs for planning and conducting therapy, a structure for organizing bodies of knowledge associated with the field of marriage and family therapy, and a foundation for lifelong, professional learning and growth.
Students will learn how to define the parameters of systemic assessment and how it differs from, and can be integrated with, individual assessment. Students will learn how systemic assessment operates within the current legal and medical context. Students will learn the DSM-5-TR diagnostic system and how to apply it systematically. Students will learn specific biopsychosocial systemic assessment guidelines, treatment planning that draws from their assessment, and the means to navigate, utilize and critique the research available to address diagnostic criterion.
This course will explore legal issues and areas of family law in the practice of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT). The course objectives include the demonstration of competence in handling legal issues such as confidentiality, duty to protect, malpractice, and expert testimony, and the understanding of the AAMFT Code of Ethics and state requirements regarding ethical practice. Additionally, students will learn how personal values and the “self of the therapist” impact clinical work, and will develop a professional identity as an MFT, and understand how to keep it current. Lastly, the course will pay special attention to underrepresented groups, and how this links to the topics of social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion in MFT practice.
The purpose of this course is to introduce the basic administrative and clinical aspects of conducting systemic therapy, using the Integrative Systemic Therapy (IST) perspective. The course presumes no background as a therapist and aims to provide students with the essential skills needed to conduct the first phone call and the initial sessions with individuals, couples and families. In addition, the course will focus on the role of personal values, beliefs, and interpersonal style in the work of psychotherapy. Students will be encouraged to examine the ways in which their own culture and family background has shaped their perspective, and how to make use of personal experience as a professional marriage and family therapist through the ongoing reflection and development of the self of the therapist.
This course introduces students to a range of methods used in systems therapy. The methods will be drawn from the integrative traditions emphasized in The Family Institute Model and will prepare students to engage, work with and terminate cases.
This course utilizes the development metaframework to understand individual, relational and family development across the life span and the dynamic interactions within families. Physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development will be presented at each age level, including issues regarding culture, gender and sexual orientation. Commonly presented problems and therapeutic interventions will be discussed for each age group.
The purpose of this course is to sensitize students to the influence of race, class, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, and ability on lived experience (generally) and on the practice of marriage and family therapy (specifically). This course will provide students with a theoretical knowledge base and an experiential learning experience to increase cultural humility, develop awareness of personal and institutional bias, and gain insight into the assumptions, values, and beliefs about both themselves and others as a means of working more effectively with diverse populations in the therapeutic process.
Students begin the clinical internship in the winter quarter of the first year in the program. They do 10-15 hours/week under the supervision of clinical supervising faculty. They gain practical experience in providing systemic, integrative assessment and treatment for clients. Clinical faculty provide group and individual supervision on a weekly basis through case discussion as well as direct observation and videotape/audiotape recordings of students' therapy sessions. University regulations require that all students doing an internship be registered. Students earn a total of three (3) units of credit for this series.
This course's purpose is to deepen students' understanding of self and systems. Particular emphasis will be given to aspects of self-development and the therapist's understanding of self when working with systems.
This course will elaborate on the Integrative Systemic Therapy (IST) approach for working with couples, which involves a focus on sequences of interaction, affective intensity and subtlety of communication. The most common problems that couple present, including communication issues, intense conflict, trust and attachment, sexual difficulties, and lifespan changes, will be addressed. Theoretical models, case conceptualization, and intervention will be taught from a cultural perspective, considering the social positioning of both the client(s) and the therapist.
This course is an examination of the major treatment models that have emerged through the development and history of systemic therapy, including the respective philosophies, theories, assessments, and interventions nested within them. This course is designed to provide an overview of the major models of systemic therapy that have been developed and critiqued over time. Course content focuses on discussions of traditional and contemporary systemic therapy models, including these models’ respective theoretical underpinnings, assumptions of systemic health versus pathology, goals, role of the therapist, and means of intervention. In addition, the course will explore how to use models to navigate the matrix of IST.
Please see 481 in Winter 1.
In this course, trainees learn the theoretical basis of group therapy and develop a framework for group work. The course includes didactic, experiential, and clinical elements. Students will learn the fundamentals of group dynamics through lectures/readings, by participation as a member of a group, and by co-facilitating a group. The course also addresses the business aspects of setting up and marketing a group.
This course will provide theoretical and practical knowledge in working with families that present with Children and Adolescents. A systemic framework will be employed as the basis for developing assessments and therapeutic objectives. Specific clinical issues will be covered, such as abuse, divorce and mood disorders, with the focus on assessment and interventions.
Please see 481 in Winter 1.
In this second course on intimate relations, students will increase their skill set for working with couples in therapy, building on what they have learned throughout first year courses, and most particularly in Intimate Relations I (MS_FT 411-0). This advanced course will provide the techniques and skill building derived from evidence-based models of couples therapy and focus on some of the more challenging kinds of couple problems including sexual issues, infidelity, individual problems, and cultural issues impacting therapy.
Students completing the course will develop skills to understand common MFT research methods, how research methods are applied, and how to critique research in the ﬁeld of marriage and family therapy and mental health. Students will also be introduced to empirically based practices in MFT.
In their second year, students continue their supervised clinical training for 15-20 hours per week in the Advanced Internship. Students advanced their skills in providing systemic, integrative assessment and treatment for clients. Clinical faculty provide group and individual supervision on a weekly basis. Focus remains on clinical cases, direct observation and videotape/audiotape recordings of students' therapy sessions. University regulations require that all students doing an internship be registered. Students earn a total of three (3) units of credit for this series of Advanced Internship in MFT. Additional units may be required to meet the program's clinical requirements and to comply with clinical competency standards.
This course offers an in-depth understanding of transgenerational models including a system perspective on the development of intrapsychic structure and function. Students learn the utilization and application of each model with cases and apply the transgenerational framework to strengthen their conceptualization of the self-of-the-therapist.
This course reviews distinctions of disease model vs. systemic views of addiction and treatment, discusses the markers of abuse and dependence, illuminates various therapeutic approaches, and explores the efficacy of family therapy approaches. Students develop working theoretical and clinical knowledge of addiction treatment. Issues of substance use and addiction will be explored through a social justice lens, integrating knowledge of broad cultural systems that impact the prevalence, nature and treatment of substance use.
The MSMFT Capstone involves the completion of a case study process, a case presentation and a paper that demonstrate the student's acquisition of clinical competence, as well as the ability to integrate relevant knowledge and skill within the framework of Integrative Systemic Therapy and apply this integration to their clinical work. The project demonstrates the student's ability to accomplish systemic integration in their practice and, thereby, their readiness to continue their professional growth through the integration of new learnings.
Please see 482 in Fall 2.
The purpose of this course is to provide the concepts and develop the skills necessary for working with particular client-lived experiences and problems. The course will address unique considerations presented in working with populations such as BIPOC community; chosen, divorced and blended families; LGBTQIA clients/families; client and families living with severe mental and/or physical disorders; and more. This course raises awareness of issues related to the systemic treatment of families navigating complex constraints. Participants will be challenged to integrate knowledge of these topics with the Integrative Systemic Therapy (IST) approach and with their own clinical experiences to develop an understanding of how to work systemically with these problems and populations.
A multidimensional, biophysical approach to the diagnosis and treatment of sexual difficulty in individuals and couples. Sexual problems discussed include disorders of desire, aversion, arousal, orgasm and pain.
The MSMFT Capstone involves the completion of a case study process, a case presentation and a paper that demonstrates the student’s acquisition of clinical competence, as well as the ability to integrate relevant knowledge and skill within the framework of Integrative Systemic Therapy and apply this integration to their clinical work. The project demonstrates the student’s ability to accomplish systemic integration in their practice and, thereby, their readiness to continue their professional growth through the integration of new learnings.
Please see 482 in Fall 2 Elective - See Below
Elective - See Below
COAMFTE accreditation requirements largely dictate the curriculum and demand the full slate of courses described above; consequently, there are no formal electives offered. The university, however, does allow students to enroll in up to four courses without paying additional tuition. Students may, therefore, opt to take an elective in any quarter where there are three courses (including internship). Note that registration for an elective requires the approval of the department and the course instructor.
Examples of electives students have taken:
403-310 | Anthropology | Evolution & Culture
623-388 | Comm. Sci. & Disorders | Attention Deficit Disorder
622-443-1,2 | Comm. Sci. & Disorders | Clinical Theory & Practice in Assessment & Early Intervention
622-342-28 | Comm. Sci. & Disorders | Typical & Atypical Development in Infants & Toddlers
230-414 | Counseling | Psychology of Adult Development: Theory & Research
451-314-26 | Psychology | The Self
451-314-68 | Psychology | Special Topics in Psychology: The Psychology of Terrorism
471-308-26 | Sociology | Sociology of Deviance & Crime
630-434-26 | Theatre | Introduction to Storytelling
*The Family Institute at Northwestern University reserves the right to modify this curriculum, including courses offered, time of offering and instructors.