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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
Two Track Options

To tailor the program to your educational needs, we have created two tracks within the program: the clinical track and the clinical/research track. The clinical track is designed to prepare students for a career as practicing marriage and family therapists. The clinical/research track also prepares students for a career as practicing marriage and family therapists and, in addition, provides the opportunity to obtain experience in research. This track is designed for students who wish to apply for a doctoral program after graduation as well as for students with a particular interest in research or a career as a researcher.

Students in both tracks are required to take the same classes, the same clinical practicum/internships and are eligible for MFT licensure. It should be noted that no offer of admission to any Ph.D. program is part of the MSMFT program, regardless of track. However, the research experience you receive and the completion of a master's thesis will make you competitive for Ph.D. programs in marriage and family therapy, clinical psychology and counseling, among others.

Both tracks are identical with the following exceptions:

Clinical Track
  • Students take Professional Identity Seminar-C, a course designed to support students who will be embarking on careers as practicing therapists
  • The Family Institute assistantship, required for scholarship recipients
  • Culminates in a clinical capstone project and a capstone final paper (see MSFT 495-0 capstone project in the schedule of courses)
Clinical/Research Track
  • Students take Professional Identity Seminar-C/R, a course designed for those interested in research careers or in pivoting to a Ph.D. program
  • Lab placement and assistantship:
    • Assignment to research labs is made with consideration given to student choice and lab availability
    • Culminates in a clinical capstone project and a master's thesis; there is no written capstone project for the clinical/research track
    • The master's thesis will be a submission-ready research paper that is derived from the student's lab work. The primary reader for the thesis will be the lab director (within The Family Institute or within Northwestern University at large). The secondary reader for all theses will be Tamara Sher. For theses within the Couples & Health Lab, Ryan Earl will serve as second reader.
    • The master's thesis will derive from work conducted by the student in a research lab of The Family Institute or Northwestern faculty to be decided at the beginning of the first year
Sequence of Courses

The sequencing of courses in the curriculum is based on six developmental principles that are roughly sequential and progressive in nature:

  1. Providing a foundational knowledge base and an orientation to a systemic, integrative and empirically-informed approach to MFT practice.
  2. Preparing you to begin therapy early in your training (learning while doing).
  3. Expanding your  knowledge of methods, models and modalities that can be integrated into practice while increasing cultural sensitivity.
  4. Expanding caseloads as you deepen your understanding of the role of research in a scientist-practitioner's work.
  5. Increasing your understanding of human development and psychodynamic issues in clinical practice.
  6. Learning more about working with a variety of presenting concerns and exploring particular clinical interests.
  7. 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.
Courses Offered Each Quarter
MSFT 400-01 Professional Identity Seminar — Clinical

Instructor(s): Earl

This seminar is designed to introduce students to the developmental, personal and professional issues in becoming an IST-informed couple and family therapist. The seminar meetings will address various professional issues that are relevant to developing couple and family therapists, both during graduate training and beyond. This will include a focus on the development and self-awareness dexterity necessary for family therapists to differentiate and market themselves and their practice effectively.

MSFT 400-02 Professional Identity Seminar — Academic/Research

Instructor(s): Sher

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.

Fall 1
MSFT 401-0 Basic Concepts of Systems Therapy

Instructor(s): Russell

This course is an introduction to the central theoretical underpinnings of systemic family therapy, providing a basic framework for assessment and intervention in family problems. Particular attention is paid to the assumptions basic to a systemic perspective.

MSFT 421-0 Systemic Assessment

Instructor(s): Black

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-IV diagnostic system and how to apply it systematically. Students will learn specific models and measures of systemic assessment, including formal family assessment measures.

MSFT 428-0 Legal, Ethical & Professional Issues in Marriage & Family Therapy

Instructor(s): Torres-Gregory

The objectives of this course are: (1) competence in handling the most significant legal issues relevant to the practice of marriage and family therapy, including confidentiality, dangerousness, malpractice and expert testimony; (2) heightened awareness of the requirements for ethical practice, including an understanding of how your own values will impact your work; and (3) development of a professional identity as a family therapist and an understanding of how to keep that identity current.

MSFT 480-0 Pre-Practicum in Marriage & Family Therapy

Instructor(s): Goldstein & Roberts

The purpose of this course is to train the beginning family therapy student in the practical aspects of doing systemic therapy. The course presumes no background as a therapist, and aims to provide skills in conducting interviews with individuals as well as couples and families, making initial assessments, and learning to manage a professional practice. 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 family background has shaped their perspective, and how to make use of personal experience in their work as a professional marital and family therapist.

Winter 1
MSFT 402-0 Methods of Systems Therapy

Instructor(s): Breunlin

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.

MSFT 411-0 Intimate Relations 1

Instructor(s): Solomon

This course will elaborate on The Family Institute Model for working with couples, which involves great affective intensity and subtlety of communication. The most common problems that couples present, such as intense conflict, depression, sexual difficulties, separation and divorce, will be addressed.

MSFT 436-0 Family Therapy Treatment Models

Instructor(s): Earl

This course will explore the various approaches to family therapy as they are actually practiced. Important trends and controversies in the field will be examined, including the influence of race, culture, ethnicity and gender in the assessment and treatment processes. Fianlly, approaches will be measured against each other. Treatment Models is a foundation course offered concurrently with the clinical internship. It stresses the progressive integration of class and practice experiences.

MSFT 481-0 Internship in Marriage & Family Therapy

Instructor(s): Taussig 

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. 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.

Spring 1
MSFT 403-0 Self & Systems: Theory & Application

Instructor(s): Sabey

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.

MSFT 410-0 Human Development

Instructor(s): Earl

This course utilizes a developmental framework to understand individual human functioning across the lifespan and the dynamic interactions of individuals 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.

MSFT 430-0 Power, Privilege & Difference: Practicing Cultural Curiosity & Humility in a Multicultural World

Instructor(s): Hampton

Effective community-based work requires a focus on strengths and a valuing of diverse perspectives and talents. The course will review strategies for understanding how culture and context influence the therapeutic alliance individual functioning, how to gather information regarding context and how to use this information to intervene with diverse clients and settings. This course covers the implementation of The Family Institute Model with under-resourced clients and community settings.

MSFT 481-0 Internship in Marriage & Family Therapy

Instructor(s): Taussig 

Please see 481 in Winter 1.

Summer 1
MSFT 424-0 Group Therapy

Instructor(s): Roberts

This course is comprised of three components: a didactic, an experiential and a clinical part. Its overall purpose is to facilitate effective group work. The didactic component familiarizes students with the theoretical underpinnings of group therapy and assists them in developing a consistent framework for their group work. Participating in a group experience deepens understanding of the workings of a group. Both of these components prepare students for actually conducting a group. Students will be assigned to co-lead a group with Institute faculty or paired with another student to begin a new group. The clinical component will also address the more practical, business aspect of setting up and marketing a group.

MSFT 437-0 Family Therapy with Children & Adolescents

Instructor(s): Black 

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.

MSFT 481-0 Internship in Marriage & Family Therapy

Instructor(s): Taussig

Please see 481 in Winter 1.
 

Fall 2
MSFT 413-0 Intimate Relations 2

Instructor(s): Rampage

Intimate Relations Part II builds off of Intimate Relations in order to increase therapists' competence with helping couples gain, rediscover and/or maintain intimacy within their relationship. The course brings in cutting edge interventions and theory from the scientific study of relationships and offers students the opportunity to learn from the best of the best in the field of couple's therapy including a series of lectures by William Pinsof, Cheryl Rampage, Mona Fishbane and Doug Breunlin amongst a slew of other experts in this field. As an advanced course, second-year students are encouraged to draw from the expertise of lecturers in this class to begin to form and identify their own expertise as emerging couples therapists.

MSFT 422-0 Family Research

Instructor(s): Sabey

The aim of this course is to help students become critical consumers of research. That is, by the end of the course, you should become more comfortable picking up a journal like JMFT, critically reading it and being able to evaluate whether or not you should incorporate the research into your practice. Thus, this course will walk you through the various elements of reading a journal article and will have activities aimed at demonstrating your critical thinking skills. Finally, as this course aims to be as useful as possible, it will also help you to develop and embrace an identity as an expert in your specialty area. This includes a secondary goal of improving your presentation skills by using research to sell your practice.

MSFT 482-0 Advanced Internship in Marriage & Family Therapy

Instructor(s): Taussig

In their second year, students continue their supervised clinical training in the Advanced Internship with a deeper emphasis on the model in couple and family work, as well as developmental self-of-the-therapist issues. Newly assigned 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.

Winter 2
MSFT 427-0 Family of Origin: Systemic Perspectives on Risk & Resilience

Instructor(s): Burgoyne

Course objectives are (1) to familiarize students with a systemic perspective on the development of intrapsychic structure and function; and (2) to expose students to therapeutic approaches for individuals, couples and families that emanate from this perspective, including family of origin and transgenerational approaches.

MSFT 414-0 Behavioral Medicine in Marriage & Family Therapy

Instructor(s): Sher

This course is designed to introduce students to areas of health psychology and behavioral medicine. The goal of behavior medicine is to understand the intersection of mental and physical health. This class will cover a range of topics that are relevant to thinking about the impact of physical health on mental health and the impact of mental health on physical health processes. We will examine basic psychological processes that influence health and illness, including but not limited to perceived control, stress, factors that influence behavioral change, self-efficacy and social support. We will also examine specific behaviors, illnesses and physical conditions that are part of the behavioral medicine domain such as diet, obesity, exercise, smoking, cancer and diabetes. Finally, we will consider all of the above issues in the broader social context.

MSFT 495-0 Capstone Project

Instructor(s): Earl

Beginning with the class entering the program in Fall of 2016, program requirements will include a Capstone Project, which satisfies a key requirement of our accrediting body, the Commission on Accreditation of Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). A Capstone Project demonstrates that students have integrated and consolidated their learning in a manner consistent with the program's mission, goals and outcomes. 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 (IST, formerly known as Integrative Problem Centered Metaframeworks), 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.

MSFT 482-0 Advanced Internship in Marriage & Family Therapy

Instructor(s): Taussig

Please see 482 in Fall 2.

Spring 2
MSFT 429-0 Sex Therapy

Instructor(s): Rafacz

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.

MSFT 440-0 Systemic Perspectives in the Treatment for Chemical Dependency & Substance Abuse

Instructor(s): Goldsmith 

This course will examine disease model as well as systemic conceptions of addiction and treatment. Developing a working understanding of the strengths of both models of abuse and addiction is emphasized. A variety of therapeutic approaches will be reviewed with specific attention to strategies of motivational interviewing and stages of change in clinical practice. A review of outcome research is highlighted demonstrating the efficacy of family therapy approaches. Specific attention to issues of gender, race, ethnicity, disability and other critical historic, socio-cultural contexts and influences in the problems of addiction are appreciatively considered and viewed as essential to any effective approach to treatment.

MSFT 495-0 Capstone Project

Instructor(s): Earl

Beginning with the class entering the program in Fall of 2016, program requirements will include a Capstone Project, which satisfies a key requirement of our accrediting body, the Commission on Accreditation of Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). A Capstone Project demonstrates that students have integrated and consolidated their learning in a manner consistent with the program's mission, goals and outcomes. 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 (IST, formerly known as Integrative Problem Centered Metaframeworks), 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.

MSFT 482-0 Advanced Internship in Marriage & Family Therapy

Instructor(s): Taussig 

Please see 482 in Fall 2 Elective - See Below
Elective - See Below

MSMFT Program Electives

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

453 | Counseling | Treatment of Trauma

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.