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MS in Psychology for MFT and LPCC Licenses

MS in Psychology/MFT Program Description, Table of Contents

  • Main Mission and Features of the MFT/LPCC Curriculum at WISR
  • Major Learning Objectives for the Program
  • Program Details
    • Details about State Licensing
    • Program Content, Descriptions of Courses, and Requirements
    • Transfer of Credit and Admissions

Main Mission and Features of the MFT/LPCC Curriculum at WISR

Students working toward the State of California’s Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) license are assisted and required to study in the core subject-matter areas required for the license. This includes mastering content in all subject matter areas required by the State of California, including psychopathology, human development, marriage and family counseling theory and techniques, research methodology, psychotherapeutic techniques, human sexuality, cross-cultural counseling, psychological testing and therapeutic appraisal and assessment, psychopharmacology, and professional ethics. Beginning in August 2012, entering MFT students are now required to study additional areas and by virtue of new State requirements, the program will be about 33% longer and more intense. New, required areas of study will include: addictions counseling, case management, advanced studies in multicultural/cross-cultural counseling and work with special populations, additional advanced study in counseling theories and methods.

The vast majority of WISR students are mature adults with significant work and family responsibilities, time demands and commitments. Most students will progress at a rate approximately equivalent to half-time enrollment. WISR’s tuition is very affordable, even in comparison to other private institution’s rates for half-time enrollment. All WISR students pay the same tuition, and those students who are able to pursue their studies with an intensity and at a pace comparable to students who are seriously engaged full-time students will very likely be able to graduate in 40 to 50 percent of the estimated time for studies in WISR degree programs. The MS in Psychology toward the State’s MFT license (and optionally the LPCC license) is, by State law, the equivalent of two Master’s degrees (over 60 semester units). Therefore, for many students pursuing the MS in Psychology/MFT at WISR, the length of study at WISR may be expected to be about 6 years, unless they are able to study at the intensity of a seriously engaged full-time student.* In all cases, faculty will strive to support students in their efforts to complete their degree in a timely manner, while also benefiting from their studies at WISR in ways that will help them build bridges to the next important life goals.

*These program length expectations do not include any time off for leaves of absence due to matters resulting from health issues, family responsibilities or periods of financial hardship. Each leave of absence must be for a minimum of six months, during which time the student does not pay tuition, and during which time the student may not receive credit for any efforts related to their studies at WISR. The student pays a $600 re-enrollment fee when resuming their studies..

Students work individually with faculty and receive faculty guidance in doing required readings and assignments in each area that provides the student with a a strong foundation in each area of study required by the State, as well as an opportunity to focus on those topics of greatest interest to the student. The student writes a paper in each subject matter area, and faculty help students to identify and pursue paper topics address issues, methods or concepts that are of strong interest to the student, and help prepare the student in his or her areas of anticipated professional specialization.

WISR faculty member, Ronald Mah, LMFT, PhD, has been with WISR for over 25 years

WISR faculty member, Ronald Mah, LMFT, PhD, has been with WISR for over 25 years

In addition, WISR’s coursework is also designed to meet the State of California’s academic requirements to become a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC). Students pursuing the LPCC license must also study Career Development and Group Counseling. MFT students not interested in obtaining the LPCC license do not have to pursue studies in the areas of Career Development and Group Counseling, although it is strongly recommended that they do so anyway. Also, by new State law, those students beginning studies for the LPCC license after August 1, 2012 now need to study the additional areas required for the MFT license, as well as some further advanced studies in counseling theories and methods. Overall, those seeking the LPCC license will typically need to spend an extra 3-4 months completing the required LPCC studies, beyond the work required of MFT students. WISR’s program is integrated in such a way as to encourage and enable interested students to pursue both licenses and do thorough study, and still  attain their degree in a timely fashion.

Along with the student’s individual work with faculty in studying the required readings and assignments in each of the State-defined content topics, and along with the more personalized further research, study and paper-writing in each area, students are also required to participate in two Saturday class sessions each month for a minimum of 24 months. During that time students participated in seminars that explore the various core areas, and which also meet the State’s minimum classroom hour requirements in such areas as: child abuse assessment and reporting, alcoholism and chemical dependency/substance abuse, human sexuality, aging and long-term care, and spousal and partner abuse (domestic violence), as well as for students also pursuing the LPCC license, crisis and trauma counseling. In addition, students must participate in monthly seminars while gaining their practicum hours (by State requirement), even if they have completed the 24 months of seminars required by WISR.

Quite importantly the required seminars are available by telephone conference call or by the internet as a video and audio real-time meeting with students and faculty on site at WISR, sometimes supplemented by web-based online sharing of documents and notes in real-time. This is valuable for those students who live too far from our Berkeley site to travel here twice per month.  Students and faculty on site at WISR and those students on their phone line, off site, will be able to interact and discuss issues, ideas and questions with one another.

WISR student, William Poehner, at Annual Conference, discussing Nonviolent Communication

WISR student, William Poehner, at Annual Conference, discussing Nonviolent Communication

Major Learning Objectives for this Program are:

  • Developing a solid foundation and understanding of the theory and practice in each of the State-mandated areas of study–as outlined in the MFT (and LPCC) Program Descriptions, below.
  • Developing an initial base of professional experience as a trainee–by putting into practice what one has been learning, and in becoming more self-aware of one’s strengths and limitations, including areas of needed further personal and professional development.
  • Beginning to define for oneself, and explore, one or more possible areas of professional specialization.
  • Successfully building bridges for oneself to the next important things that the student wishes to be involved in, and accomplish, in her or his life and career.
  • Ability to conduct action-inquiry projects which can positively contribute to improved practices and knowledge in one’s field(s), using methods of action-research, especially, qualitative, participatory research.
  • Significant progress in WISR’s core meta-competencies and areas of learning: 1) Critical, Creative, Compassionate, Collaborative/Communal Thinking and Communication; 2) Becoming a Conscious, Intentional, Improvising Learner; 3) Community Leadership and Collaboration; 4) Experience, Competence, Talent, and Knowledge in One’s Chosen Area(s) of Specialization; 5) Participatory Action-Inquiry and Qualitative Research; 6) Awareness of Issues of Justice, Sustainability and Social Change; 7) Multicultural Perspective.

MFT students must have at least 306 hours of supervised experience in a practicum that meets State requirements. Also, students discuss their practicum experiences with their faculty adviser(s), and write two papers critically analyzing insights from these experiences.

Evaluation sessions are provided to support MFT student learning at three stages:

(1) Students are eligible to begin a practicum if they have been participating in seminars at WISR for at least six months and have completed 12 semester units of coursework. They confer with two WISR faculty, at least one of whom holds an MFT license to discuss their readiness for the practicum. If they are then deemed ready, they may begin the practicum.

(2) approximately at the midpoint of the student’s Master’s program; and

(3) when the student has completed all requirements except the thesis.

Each session is conducted by two core faculty members, at least one of whom holds the MFT License, with a student peer. The student’s work in the practicum is evaluated as well. Evaluations are intended to offer constructive suggestions, to help students strengthen weak areas, and to support growth by building on areas where the student shows strength.

Review of Student Progress

In addition, an Executive Committee of at least three WISR faculty, will review each student’s progress semi-annually, in consultation with the faculty with whom the student has been most closely working.  The purpose of these reviews is to help students make timely progress toward their degree and their personal and professional career goals.  In conducting these reviews, faculty will be mindful that during the first year or so of study, students at WISR do not typically complete courses at the same rate as they do after that.   When faculty have concerns about a student’s progress, they will negotiate with that student a progress plan for the next six months.  The purpose of the plan will be to enable the student to make better progress, and to assess whether or not it is realistic for the student to succeed in completing the program in a timely fashion.  If, after the end of the six-month progress plan, WISR faculty do not believe that it is realistic that the student can complete the program within a reasonable time frame (specifically, 6 to a maximum of 9 years for the MFT/LPCC programs), then the faculty committee reviewing student progress will recommend that the student be disenrolled.  (Note:  students enrolled prior to July 2014 will have a longer period of time to complete their studies, but they will still be subject to disenrollment if they do not show continual progress.) The student may appeal any decision to WISR’s Board of Trustees. If the student is disenrolled, they will be given an opportunity, after a period of at least six months, to re-apply for admission, if they can make the case that their circumstances and/or ability to complete the program have improved.  If re-admitted, they will be given one six-month period to demonstrate good progress, and they must continue to demonstrate good progress in each subsequent six-month period.

Students conduct a Master’s thesis on a topic of strong personal interest, and are guided in designing a thesis that will build bridges for the student into the areas of professional practice that they anticipate in their post-Master’s internship and beyond to their years as a licensed MFT. Through the thesis and through the various papers written for the required courses, students are encouraged to develop one or several emphases and specializations that address one or more of the unique, complex and important array of human problems, symptoms and needs of those Californians served by MFTs and LPCCs.

More details on the MS program leading the MFT license, as well as the LPCC license, can be found in the two versions of WISR’s “OFFICIAL PROGRAM DESCRIPTION: MASTER OF ARTS IN PSYCHOLOGY, DESIGNED TO LEAD TOWARD THE MFT LICENSE AND ALSO THE LPCC LICENSE, Revised, July 2016.” . . . go to:

Program Details!

More Information on:

Grading and Awarding Academic Credit

Required Seminar Participation and Annotated Bibliographies

Graduation Review Boards and Assessment of Student Progress


Jim Newberry, LMFT, WISR alumnus, lives in the Central Valley and has embarked on a new career as an MFT after decades as an educator

Jim Newberry, LMFT, WISR alumnus, lives in the Central Valley and has embarked on a new career as an MFT after decades as an educator