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MS in Psychology Program Details

(For Students Enrolling Prior to August 1, 2012 and Completing by December 31, 2018–Click Here for the Program Description)

Program Details for Students Enrolling on or After August 1, 2012, or for other Students Completing the Master’s After December 31, 2018 . . .

MS in Psychology/MFT Program Details, Table of Contents

  • Details about State Licensing
  • Program Content, Descriptions of Courses, and Requirements
  • Transfer of Credit and Admissions

Details about State Licensing

This program is approved by the State of California, and is designed primarily to educate those who wish to prepare for licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) in the State of California.  In addition, the coursework is also designed to meet the State of California’s academic requirements to become a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC).  Those students not interested in obtaining the LPCC license do not have to pursue studies in the areas of Career Development and Group Counseling, and they do not have to pursue the additional 5 units of Individually Designed Advanced Studies, although it is strongly recommended that they do so anyway. 

The Western Institute for Social Research offers required courses that are also personalized by faculty working closely with each student, along with two seminars per month that are available both on site at WISR and by telephone or internet/video and audio conference call.  This instruction follows and is based on information from the State of California’s Board of Behavioral Science Examiners about the academic requirements of the Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) License, as well as for the requirements to become a Licensed Professional Counselor. WISR’s Master of Science in Psychology option leading toward the MFT license is an  integrated program primarily designed to train Marriage and Family Therapists in California, and  it meets the educational requirements specified in California Business and Professions Code  Sections 4980.36.  For those wishing to pursue the LPCC license, WISR MS in Psychology option leading toward the LPCC license as well as the MFT license meets the requirements specified in California Business and Professions Code Section 4999.33. 

All students entering WISR are required to contact the Board of Behavioral Sciences Examiners, or go to their website, in order to obtain their own copy of the “Statutes and Regulations Relation to the Practice of Professional Clinical Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy, Educational Psychology, Clinical Social Work.”  Students are also expected to keep abreast of the changing details regarding the various exam and practice requirements for the MFT license, as well as the new and emerging regulations regarding the recently created LPCC license.  By their third month in the program, students will be expected to discuss and ask questions of faculty about the content of these laws and regulations. Students will not be approved for a practicum until faculty are satisfied that the student understands the essential material contained in this document. Students should contact:

BOARD OF BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE EXAMINERS
1625 N Market Blvd., Suite S-200
Sacramento, CA 95834

 (916) 574-7830

Website Address: http://www.bbs.ca.gov

Keeping up to date with changes in laws: Since the laws and regulations are constantly changing, students are encouraged to keep up to date by joining the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT). CAMFT Membership also gives students access to the online EBSCO database which contains many of the readings required for MS in Psychology/MFT program courses at WISR.  (As an option students who are California residents may also access the EBSCO library database by obtaining a free library card from the San Francisco Public Library.) The student membership rate is inexpensive, and CAMFT is an excellent source of information and will answer questions asked by members by phone and fax. CAMFT also publishes a bimonthly journal, The California Therapist, which provides a lot of information about legal and ethical issues, as well as practical matters pertaining to professional practice. Students may review back issues of this journal in WISR’s library. You may contact:

CAMFT: 7901 Raytheon Road

San Diego, CA 92111-1606

(856) 29-CAMFT (292-2638)

www.camft.org/

Prerequisites for Licensing: The State has a number of important prerequisites for licensing, in addition to obtaining a Master’s degree that meets the State’s academic requirements. It is important for prospective students to understand these requirements before embarking on an MFT program. Each prospective student should review all of the State regulations, but here are highlights of the main requirements. WISR faculty will be happy to answer questions you may have about these, and if you enroll you will be expected to familiarize yourself with the laws during the first couple of months of enrollment. Before you can be approved as ready to begin a practicum (six months or more into the program), faculty will expect you to know the important details in State laws and regulations pertaining to MFT preparation and practice.

Here are highlights of licensing requirements:

  1. 3,000 hours of supervised MFT experience are required, but no more than 750 hours may be obtained prior to receiving the Master’s degree. No hours may be obtained until a student has completed 12 semester units and passed WISR’s practicum readiness assessment by faculty.
  2. Students may obtain credit toward the 3,000 hours as soon as they are enrolled in an approved program by engaging in their own personal therapy with a licensed MFT, LCSW, Clinical Psychologist or MD Psychiatrist. Students may get up to 100 hours of credit for personal therapy, and each hour counts triple toward the 3,000 hours. Furthermore, WISR strongly encourages all MFT students to undergo individual, marital or conjoint family or group counseling, or psychotherapy.
  3. The State does a criminal background check on all applicants for the MFT.

license. “The Board shall not issue a registration or license to any person who has been convicted of any crime in the United States that involves the sexual abuse of children or who has been ordered to register as a mentally disordered sex offender . . .”

  1. To obtain the license, one must pass an initial written exam and a subsequent written clinical vignette exam which has replaced the oral exam.

Prospective students who are considering moving to another state should investigate the licensing requirements of that state to determine whether or not that state has “reciprocity” with California. That is, if you obtain a California MFT license, will you be able to meet the licensing requirements of the state you move to with little difficulty, or will it involve doing a lot of additional work, schooling and/or training? CAMFT has information about the licensing requirements in other states.

Similarly, those students who wish to also obtain licensing as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor should investigate and stay informed about the State of California’s latest decisions about exam, practice and supervision requirements for the LPCC license.  And, as is the case with the MFT licensing, prospective students who are considering moving to another state should investigate whether or not that state has “reciprocity” with California, regarding the LPCC license. 

WISR offers faculty and curriculum resources to help each student fulfill academic requirements toward MFT licensure, but each student is expected to take responsibility to monitor her or his own progress toward licensure and to be in compliance with State requirements. WISR faculty are eager to help students identify and clarify questions they may need to ask of the BBS.

**Note:  Throughout this Program Description, the term, “MFT student” will also include students who are working toward the LPCC license, unless a specific comment is made at that point in the Program Description to distinguish between MFT and LPCC requirements.

Program Content, Descriptions of Courses and Requirements

Programmatic Themes

The following overarching concerns and themes are consistent with WISR’s educational philosophy and State-mandated programmatic emphases:  1) Study of MFT principles, and especially a concern with the application of knowledge to real world practice, recovery-oriented care, and methods of service delivery in recovery-oriented practice environments, 2) counseling preparation that is multiculturally oriented,cross-culturally informed,  and concerned with the impact of poverty, social injustice and societally created stress on individuals and families, 3) development of innovative and progressive approaches by each student, along with amply opportunity to develop areas of expert specialization reflective of each individual student’s concerns, 4) an individualized program of learning that provides for self-awareness, nurturance and development of the personal qualities required for expert and sensitive professional practice, and 5) exposure to and experience with those in need of mental health services, to better understand the needs for appropriate mental health services and counseling strategies, in line with WISR’s long-standing emphasis on learning and using participatory action-research methods in order to develop one’s knowledge and expertise.

Description of Courses Required for MFT Students

MFT 551: Theories and Methods of Marriage and Family Therapy and Professional Counseling—Part I. Introduction to Theories and Methods of MFT and Professional Counseling (5 semester units)

Introduction to theories and methods of marriage, family and child counseling, and individual professional counseling. Study of major theories and a consideration of such varied schools of thought as psychodynamics, humanistic, behavioral, and system theories. Study of theories, principles, and methods of a variety of psychotherapeutic orientations directly related to marriage and family therapy and marital and family systems approaches to treatment and how these theories can be applied therapeutically with individuals, couples, families, adults, including elder adults, children, adolescents, and groups to improve, restore, or maintain healthy relationships. Included in the study of counseling and psychotherapeutic techniques is an orientation to recovery-oriented practice and environments and wellness and prevention, selection of appropriate counseling interventions, models of counseling suggested by current professional practices and research, the development of a personal model of counseling, interdisciplinary responses to crises, emergencies and disasters, and the many considerations involved in conducting professional counseling practice in a multicultural society.

MFT 553: Theories and Methods of Marriage and Family Therapy and Professional Counseling—Part II. Contemporary Family Dynamics and Issues (5 semester units)

Study of the sociocultural context of the family; problems, issues, and circumstances affecting the family as a unit; relations among its members; and strategies for effectively intervening in family dynamics to build on strengths, solve problems, or minimize the problems’ impact. Students will become familiar with the broad range of issues and matters that may arise within marriage, family and couples’ relationships, and within a variety of California cultures, including:

  • Child and adult abuse assessment and reporting (To obtain an overview of clinical skills developed by practitioners who have treated abused children and adults, offenders, and adult survivors who were abused as children; statutes, issues for professionals, indictors and assessment of child and adult abuse, resources/agencies, prevention, statistics on incidence of abuse, publication about abuse, issues pertaining to reporting, developmental theories and issues, evaluation and treatment of offenders, and self-help efforts by adult survivors. Includes study of the methods for preventing child and adult abuse).
  • Spousal or partner abuse assessment, detection, intervention strategies, and same-gender abuse
  • Cultural factors relevant to abuse of partners and family members.
  • Childbirth, child rearing, parenting, and step-parenting.
  • Marriage, divorce, and blended families.
  • Long-term care.
  • End of life and grief.
  • Poverty and deprivation.
  • Financial and social stress.
  • Effects of trauma.

And, among all these, study of the psychological, psychotherapeutic, community, and health implications of these matters and life events.

MFT 555: Theories and Methods of Marriage and Family Therapy and Professional Counseling—Part III. Advanced Counseling and Psychotherapeutic Theories and Methods (5 semester units)

Study of advanced theories and methods of marriage and family therapy, and professional counseling, including the use of counseling constructs, assessment and treatment planning, clinical interventions, therapeutic relationships, psychopathology, advanced recovery-oriented care and service in recovery-oriented practice environments, and other clinical topics. Study of treatment methods and issues for such special populations as in working with clients affected by HIV and AIDS.

MFT 513: Research Methods (4 semester units)

A study of research design and methods, including such topics as logic of design, scientific paradigms and epistemology, ethical issues in research, strategies for reviewing, using and critiquing literature in psychology and related fields, and methods of data collection and analysis. Study of the use of research to inform practice, and the use of practice to build knowledge and contribute to research, including uses and limitations of statistical analyses. Special emphasis is put on qualitative and action-oriented research methods, including participant observation, interviewing, needs assessments and program evaluation. Study and use of participatory action-research methods in building knowledge, evidence/experience-based expertise, and empathy—and in understanding of needs, of clients, and their families and communities. This includes meeting with, and having informing dialogue with, mental health consumers, their families and others in the community, in order to better understand their experience of mental illness, life challenges, treatment, recovery, and attainment of well-being. This includes the use of these research methods in the conduct of one’s thesis.

MFT 557: Human Development (4 semester units)

Study of developmental theories, events, and issues covering the entire life-span from infancy to old age, including parent-child relations, child development and adolescence, and various phases, crises, and transitions to adulthood. Emphasis is on critical examination of a range of theories, such as those of Freud, Erikson, Piaget, Mahler, Kohlberg and others. Study of normal and abnormal behavior and an understanding of developmental crises, disability, psychopathology and situational and environmental factors that affect both normal and abnormal behavior. This involves a study of developmental influences on and consequences of individual circumstances–interpersonal relationships, and family dynamics, as well as the larger social context–from infancy to old age, including:
• The effects of developmental issues on individuals, couples, and family relationships.
• The psychological, psychotherapeutic, and health implications of developmental issues and their effects.
• Aging and its biological, social, cognitive, and psychological aspects.
• A variety of cultural understandings of human development.
• The understanding of human behavior within the social context of socioeconomic status and other contextual issues affecting social position.
• The understanding of human behavior within the social context of a representative variety of the cultures found within California.
• The understanding of the impact that personal and social insecurity, social stress, low educational levels, inadequate housing, and malnutrition have on human development.

MFT 559: Psychopathology and Diagnostic Principles (4 semester units)

Study of the diagnosis, assessment, prognosis and treatment of mental disorders. This includes a study of the characteristics and dynamics associated with various pathologies, ranging from neurotic styles found among “normal,” functioning adults to severe disorders–an examination of different systems of diagnosis, including the current edition of the DSM, and the strategies of treatment associated with these various diagnoses. Study of evidence-based practices and promising mental health practices from peer reviewed literature, as well as study of differential diagnosis, the impact of co-occurring substance abuse disorders or medical psychological disorders, established diagnostic criteria for mental or emotional disorders, the role of diagnosis in recovery-oriented care, and the treatment modalities and placement criteria within the continuum of care.

MFT 561:  Human Sexuality (3 semester units)

A study of personal and interpersonal dimensions of sexual experiences and behavior, including such topics as anatomy and physiology of human sexuality, normal and abnormal sexual behavior, sexual dysfunction and its causes and treatment, psychosexual development, sociocultural and family influences on sexuality, sexual orientation and identity, and sexual counseling. Includes a minimum of 10 hours of seminar participation in the study of human sexuality. Human sexuality, including the study of physiological, psychological, and social cultural variables associated with sexual behavior and gender identity, and the assessment and treatment of psychosexual dysfunction.

MFT 563: Cross-Cultural Counseling (4 semester units)

Study of the importance of cultural, racial, ethnic, and subgroup values and beliefs, and how they affect individuals, interpersonal relations, family life, and the therapeutic process. An examination of the wide range of ethnic backgrounds and the cultural mores and values common in California, including the general values and diversity within each of the following groups: African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, Native Americans, whites of European ancestry, and people who identify themselves as bi-racial or bicultural. Study of multicultural development and cross-cultural interaction, including experiences of race, ethnicity, class, spirituality and/or religion, sexual orientation, gender, and disability and their incorporation into the psychotherapeutic process. Study of multicultural counseling theories and techniques, including counselors’ roles in developing cultural self-awareness and cultural competency and sensitivity, identity development, promoting cultural social justice, individual and community strategies for working with and advocating for diverse populations, and counselors’ roles in eliminating biases and prejudices, and processes of intentional and unintentional oppression and discrimination. This includes the study of human behavior within the social contxt of socioeconomic status and other contextual issues affecting social position and an understanding of the effects of socioeconomic status on treatment and available resources.

MFT 565: Theories of Social Analysis and Change for MFTs (4 semester units)

Study of several theories/perspectives on social change, and analysis of the strengths and limitations of these ideas as they pertain to some of the issues and problems of special concern to the student in his or her planned areas of professional practice. [Required for WISR Students, even though not required for MFT or LPCC licensure.  Can count as Advanced Study for LPCC students.]

MFT 567: Professional Ethics and Law (3 semester units)

Study of legal and ethical issues and standards involved in the professional practice of marriage and family therapy in California, in particular, and in the field of mental health and professional counseling in general. This includes an examination of ethics and laws that regulate and delineate the profession’s scope of practice; therapeutic and practical considerations involved in legal and ethical practice as a licensed MFT; licensing law and process in California, study of the broader legal trends and ethical debates in the health, mental health, and human service professions; ethical and legal issues bearing on counselor-client relationships (e.g., scope of practice, counselor-client privilege, confidentiality, treatment of minors with or without parental consent, and when a client may be dangerous to self or others); and issues arising out of the counselor’s sense of self and personal values, in relation to professional ethics and law. Includes the study of regulatory laws and functions and relationships with other human service providers, and of strategies for collaboration and advocacy processes needed to address institutional and social barriers that impede access, equity and success for clients, as well as the study of differences in legal and ethical standards for different types of work settings.

MFT 569: Aging and Long-Term Care (2 semester units)

Study of aging in contemporary society, elder abuse, long-term care, intergenerational relations, and the biological, social and psychological aspects of aging, including the assessment and reporting of, as well as treatment related to, elder and dependent adult abuse and neglect. Study in this area requires at least 10 hours of seminar participation and/or mentoring instruction.

MFT 571: Addictions Counseling (3 semester units)

Study of theories and research on addiction and abuse of a variety of substances, including alcohol, prescriptions and illegal drugs, as well as such process addictions as the internet and gambling. Study of co-occurring disorders and major approaches to identification, evaluation, treatment and prevention of substance abuse and addiction, legal and medial aspects of substance abuse, populations at risk, the role of support persons that compound or support addiction, as well as support systems and community resources offering screening, assessment, treatment, and followup for the affected person and family. Special consideration is given to recovery oriented care and methods of service delivery in recovery-oriented practice environments.

MFT 575: Psychopharmacology (3 semester units)

Study of the use of psychotropic medications in the treatment of various psychological disorders. Examination of the role of the psychotherapist and psychotherapy in the use of such medications. Study of the biological bases of behavior, basic classifications, indications and contraindications of commonly prescribed psychopharmacological medications so that appropriate referrals can be made for medication evaluations and so that the side effects of those medications can be identified. Study of specific medications that are used in the treatment of psychiatric disorders, including antidepressants, mood stabilizers, anti-obsessional, antipsychotic and antianxiety drugs, and how they are used in conjunction with psychotherapy, as well as the abuses of drugs in each category.

MFT 577: Psychological Testing and Therapeutic Appraisal and Assessment (3 semester units)

Study of theories and applications of commonly used psychological tests for family and individual assessments. Covers cognitive and personality testing as well as looking at specific tests related to assessing for depression, anxiety and other DSM IV axis 1 and 2 disorders. Also, the study of statistical significance in psychological testing, and the uses and limitations of such tests. Includes basic concepts of standardized and non-standardized testing and other assessment techniques, norm-referenced and criterion-referenced assessment, social and cultural factors related to assessment and evaluation of individuals and groups, and ethical strategies for selecting, administering, and interpreting assessment instruments and techniques in counseling. In addition, the study of assessment and appraisal of client needs, including but not limited to the client’s strengths and available resources, and also their family, social/contextual and personal challenges. Furthermore, students receive guidance in studying assessment and appraisal “across the curriculum”—that is, for example, by studying how “assessment and appraisal” is practiced and used in such areas as alcoholism and substance abuse, cross-cultural counseling, and human development.

MFT 579: Case Management, Advocacy and Collaborative Treatment (3 semester units) 

Study of case management, systems of care for the severely mentally ill, public and private services and supports available for the severely mentally ill, community resources for persons with mental illness and for victims of abuse, disaster and trauma response, advocacy for the severely mentally ill, and collaborative treatment. Study of the role of case management, advocacy and collaborative treatment in providing recovery-oriented care and service in recovery-oriented practice environments.

MFT 581: Crisis and Trauma Counseling (3 semester units)

Examination of types of trauma and crisis—resulting from such varied causes as natural disasters, social upheaval and unrest, car accidents, interpersonal violence, secondary trauma (e.g., observation of trauma), loss of home or loved ones, among others. Theories and methods of immediate, mid-term and longterm interventions. Includes crisis theory, multidisciplinary responses to crises and therapeutic responses to trauma. Assessment strategies for clients in crisis and principles for intervention for individuals with mental or emotional disorders during times of crisis, emergency or disaster. Specifically, the study of somatic, physiological, and neurological dynamics, as well as cognitive, emotional and behavioral considerations—and the interrelations of all these. The role of multidisciplinary assessment and treatment, and strategies for helping trauma survivors to identify and access their own individual, and community, sources of strength and resilience, in order to cope with adversity, trauma, threats, tragedy, or other stresses. Consideration of the impact of trauma and crises on entire families, communities and societies, and the role of larger scale interventions. Examination of complications from multiple traumas and/or traumas experienced by people with pre-existing emotional challenges and conditions. Study of resilience, including the personal and community qualities that enable persons to cope with adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or other stresses.

MFT 591: Supervised Practicum in Psychotherapeutic Techniques  (minimum 6 semester units*)

This involves supervised work by the student in the assessment, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of premarital, couple, family, and child relationships, within the scope of practice of a marriage and family therapy trainee.  Students also discuss and critically reflect on issues, challenges and insights arising out of their practicum: 1) in seminars, which regularly allocate time to for faculty to teach about and for students to reflect on and discuss clinical cases, 2) in individual advising sessions with WISR faculty, and 3) in the two papers they write on their practicum experience. In the practicum and in the reflective papers, students learn about applied psychotherapeutic techniques, assessment, diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, issues of development, adjustment and maladjustment, health and wellness promotion, professional writing (including documentation of services, treatment plans and progress notes), how to find and use resources, and other counseling interventions.  Students are encouraged to seek out a practicum that will give them experience in working with low-income and multicultural populations.Through the practicum experience, students are expected to give great attention to developing those personal qualities that are intimately related to the counseling situation, including integrity, sensitivity, flexibility, insight, compassion and personal presence.

*Credit:  Minimum of 6 semester units based on completing the required 306 hours of supervised practicum, along with the required term paper and seminar participation. One additional semester unit awarded for each additional 51 hours of supervised practicum, over and above the 306 hours minimum required.

MFT 597: Master’s Thesis (8 semester units)

The Master’s thesis is an in depth study of a topic of strong interest to the student, and one that generally helps the student build bridges for him/herself to the next important things she or he wishes to do with her/his life—as a professional, and a leader. The student makes use of what he or she has learned at WISR about action-research methods to do a serious and substantial inquiry that involves some original data collection by the student. It is an inquiry that is based on action and/or that has action implications of some significance to the student and/or others. In particular, Master’s thesis makes a worthwhile contribution to the professional field. [The Master’s Thesis may, in some cases, qualify as advanced studies toward the LPCC license–see criteria for MFT 587.]

Description of Courses Required for LPCC Students

These Courses are Required for Students Pursuing the LPCC license, recommended but not required for other students.

MFT 583:  Career Development (3 semester units)

Career development theories and techniques, including career development decision-making models and interrelationships between work, family and other life roles and factors. Includes study of the role of multicultural issues in career development, what is a career, points where people seek career counseling, and issues involved in successfully providing career counseling.

 MFT 585: Group Counseling (3 semester units)

Group counseling theories and techniques, including principles of group dynamics, group process components, developmental stage theories, therapeutic factors of group work, group leadership styles and approaches, pertinent research and literature, group counseling methods and evaluation of effectiveness. Includes history of group psychotherapy, creating successful therapy groups, therapeutic factors and mechanisms, selection of clients, preparation and pre-group training, group development and process, therapist interventions, reducing adverse outcomes and the ethical practice of group psychotherapy, concurrent therapies, and termination of group psychotherapy.

MFT 587:  Individually Designed Advanced Studies (5 semester units)

The student designs, with faculty guidance, further advanced studies in the treatment issues and needs involved in working with special populations and/or in working with clients (including families or groups) with special needs and who face special challenges.

MFT 589: Advanced Study of Cross-Cultural/Multicultural Counseling and Needs/Issues with Special Populations (4 semester units)

This course involves further, advanced study of the complexities of the topics initially addressed in “Cross-Cultural Counseling.” Includes in-depth, advanced study of specific needs and treatment issues involved in working with one or more special populations.

 

Transfer of Credit and Admissions

Admissions

Entering students must hold a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Students with undergraduate degrees from unaccredited institutions may apply for special admission—by submitting evidence of the quality of their previous academic study (e.g., copies of papers, or recommendations from academicians who hold accredited doctoral degrees).  Such applicants may also submit information about successful community projects in which they have played a key role, as well as professional or scholarly papers or projects that they have produced. In these cases, we are looking for evidence that suggest that their previous undergraduate study, and their resulting competencies, are at the level expected of accredited programs. In some cases, such students may be admitted provisionally, and  be on probation for a six-month period, during which time they can demonstrate their preparedness for study in WISR’s MS in Psychology.

In addition to transcripts of previous academic work, and an affidavit where they attest to the details of their high school graduation or passage of the GED, all applicants must submit a one-page application form, and a brief statement of their interests and reasons for wanting to study in WISR’s MS program in Psychology, along with two letters of recommendations from academicians, professionals, or community leaders familiar with the student’s accomplishments and abilities.  Quite importantly, all applicants must have an interview with WISR’s President or a faculty member in the MS program in Psychology—to determine if WISR’s program will address the student’s needs and purposes, and if there is a good fit between the student’s desired approaches to learning and the “WISR way.”

Transfer of Credits

Entering students may submit for faculty approval, up to 12 semester units of previous Master’s level work (that is, up to 20% of the minimum units required by the BBS, or 60 semeste units) for transfer. Such credit will be subject to the same process and criteria of review that was discussed above under “Admissions.” In addition, students must document, subject to approval of two WISR faculty, that the courses submitted for transfer credit are comparable in subject matter, scope and demands to courses approved by WISR as meeting BBS-mandated licensure requirements.