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5 Courses to Expect in a Marriage and Family Therapy Degree Program

5 Marriage and Family Therapy Courses

  • Marriage and Family Therapy Theories
  • Family Systems
  • Parent and Child Relationships
  • Couples Therapy
  • Practicum


Marriage and family therapy (MFT) is an incredible career path. Therapists help individuals become their best selves and participate in the mending of couples and families. This career path officially begins with a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. Here are five of the core classes MFT students can expect to take.

Related resource: Top 20 Master’s in Marriage and Family Counseling Online Degree Programs

1. Marriage and Family Therapy Theories

One of the first courses to expect in any MFT program is an overview of the theories of the field. In order to fully understand the practice of MFT in the present day, students must have a firm grasp of the theories that inform it and why this field was created in the first place. Marriage and Family Therapy was actually modeled after the biological theory of homeostasis, which suggest that organisms are constantly working to return to their baseline states. Therapeutically speaking, people and groups are constantly trying to fight the changes that happen as they move through life and their various relationships and environments. Many theories have branched out of this through time in order to further explain marital and family relationships, how they are shaped by individual members, and how they differ in different cultures and communities.

2. Family Systems

What sets marriage and family therapists apart from other types of psychological practitioners is their focus on family systems. They believe that mental health problems arise from, and therefore must be treated in the context of, the family system. Otherwise, any progress an individual makes will be lost when they return to the context of the family or lack thereof. When it is absolutely impossible to conduct sessions with the whole family present, marriage and family therapists utilize role-playing and other techniques to virtually bring absent family members into the experience. Family systems courses will teach students all about the background and practice of this foundational aspect of marriage and family therapy. The Center for Family Systems Theory of Western New York, Inc. provides in-depth information.

3. Parent and Child Relationships

MFT students can expect many courses specifically regarding the relationships between parents and children. This includes parents of children of all ages, including aging parents of adult children. The parent-child relationship remains dynamic throughout the lifespan and in the context of various life events, family structures, and cultures. In these courses, students will also learn about child development and forms of therapy that are specifically geared toward working with children.

4. Couples Therapy

Another central aspect of marriage and family therapy is that of couple relationships. In couples therapy courses, MFT students will learn about attraction, dating, engagement, cohabitation, marriage, divorce,co-parentingg, remarriage, and step parenting in a wide variety of cultural contexts. Students will learn about sex therapy and the importance of maintaining a distinction between couple roles and parental roles. They will learn therapeutic techniques and interventions geared specifically towards working with couples. The New York Times published a fascinating article about the specific occupational struggles and triumphs of couples therapy.

5. Practicum

Marriage and family therapy students are not thrown straight from the classroom to the office. There is a period at the end of the degree program where students begin conducting supervised sessions and then attend courses to review their work with professors and peers. This process is referred to as Practicum. Successful completion Practicum training is a requirement of graduation, and provides the networking opportunities needed to secure the internship position that will eventually lead to MFT licensure.

As long as there are couple and families, there will be steady jobs available for graduates of MFT programs. While this work is emotionally and mentally challenging, it is in equal parts rewarding. Through completing courses such as these five, students will prepare for exciting careers in the mental health community.