School of Humanities and Social Sciences


M.S. in Family Therapy

Mission Statement
The SHSS Family Therapy Master's Program is committed to academic and clinical innovation and excellence, preparing students for careers as marriage and family therapists and offering high quality clinical services to the community. Applying a systemic perspective to both our teaching and clinical supervision, we focus on the relational strengths and resources of both students and clients.

Program Description

The M.S. in Family Therapy is designed to help students develop clinical excellence and prepare for careers as marriage and family therapists. Students are prepared to assume professional positions in private practice, employee assistance programs, managed care and health care organizations, child care and child development systems, family service agencies, schools, churches, hospitals, and other clinical and organizational settings.

The 60-credit hour degree program consists of coursework and clinical practice. Training is concentrated on brief, interactional models of family therapy, preparing our graduates to practice in a time sensitive, cost effective manner. The M.S. in Family Therapy has full accreditation with the:

Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT)
112 South Alfred Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

The M.S. in Family Therapy program has been reaccredited to July 1, 2014.

The program fulfills the academic requirements for state licensure in Florida and for clinical membership in AAMFT. Additional post-master's clinical experience is required for both credentials.

Program Formats

The M.S. in Family Therapy is offered on-campus on NSU's Main Campus.

Students may enter the M.S. program in the Fall or Summer trimester. Students may enroll full or part time, taking six to twelve credit hours per trimester. Students who begin in the Summer trimester may be part time for that trimester. Classes typically meet 3-6 pm and 6- 9 pm with the exception of practicum.

Students who attend full-time can expect to complete the program in 2 years approximately. Part-time students will complete the program in 3 years or less depending on the pace of study. Summer attendance is required.

Master’s students are provided NSU computer accounts including email and Blackboard, but must obtain their own Internet service providers, use their own computer systems and have a usable web camera. Online students use the web to access course materials, announcements, email, distance library services, subscription library databases, and other information, and for interaction with faculty and fellow students. Online, interactive learning methods are based on the use of Blackboard as a course management system. Online activities facilitate frequent student-to-faculty and student-to-student interaction. They are supported by threaded discussion boards, white boards, chat rooms, email, and multimedia presentations. In addition, Blackboard enables students to submit assignments online in multimedia formats and to receive their professors’ reviews of assignments online in the same formats.

Degree Plans

Following is a sample of a degree plan for full-time students who begin their studies in the Fall trimester. Degree plans will be modified based on a student’s enrollment date and pace of study.

Table 1: Degree Plan: 60 credits hours
Fall (September) SFTM 5310 -
Introduction to Systems Theories
SFTM 5320 -
Introduction to Marital & Family Therapy
SFTM 6340 -
Legal, Ethical, and Professional Issues
Winter (January) SFTM 6374 -
Human Development and Individual/Group Psychotherapy
SFTM 5321 -
Theories of Marriage and Family Therapy
SFTM 5400 -
Internal Practicum I
Summer (April) SFTM 5400 -
Internal Practicum II
SFTM 6332 -
Human Sexuality and Gender
SFTM 6333 -
Theories of Personality & Psychopathology or
SFTM 6320 -
Assessment in Marital and Family Therapy
Fall (September) SFTM 5322 -
Clinical Practice in Marriage and Family Therapy (must be taken with an External Practicum)
SFTM 6331 -
Diversity in Human & Family Development
SFTM 6300 -
External Practicum I
Winter (January) SFTM 5311 -
Substance Abuse/Addictions and Critical Issues in Systems Theories
SFTM 5350 -
Research in Marital & Family Therapy
SFTM 6300 -
External Practicum II
Summer (April) SFTM 6320 -
Assessment in Marital & Family Therapy (may be taken in 1st year Summer Term if completed SFTM 5400 I)
Comprehensive Examination Graduation

For full course descriptions select current Catalog.

Program Specifics

Students in the program receive clinical training and experience at the Brief Therapy Institute (BTI), NSU's own family therapy clinic, which serves a wide variety of clients from all life circumstances. Please note that all students enrolled in a practicum must provide proof of professional liability insurance. In addition, after this initial training, students are placed in an off campus internship site for two trimesters or more as needed to complete the required hours of clinical experience for graduation. Available internship sites offer students the opportunity to specialize in work with individuals, couples, and families of culturally diverse background, families with a child experiencing school problems, families coping with a chronically ill family member, and other special populations. The opportunity for intense, closely supervised, and widely varied clinical experience is an important feature of our program. Recently, students have been placed in more than 35 locations, including schools, agencies, hospitals, and private practices.

To complete the M.S. in Family Therapy, you must complete 500 hours of client contact, 250 of which must be with couples and families. You also must accumulate at least 100 supervision hours, 50 of which must be based on direct observation, videotape, or audiotape. You are responsible for documenting your clinical and supervision hours, using the forms provided at our clinic, BTI. Your first two practica are at the Brief Therapy Institute, our university clinic; therefore, they are called Internal Practica. If you pass the first two Internal Practica, you will be eligible to continue your clinical training in two External Practica. These practica are internships in the community where students work in school, hospital, agency, private practice and other settings.

Before you begin your External Practica, you must have a copy of the internship contract signed by your faculty supervisor, internship supervisor, and M.S. Program Director. You must also make sure that you are covered by the Department’s professional liability insurance. For your client contact and supervision hours to count, you must be supervised by an AAMFT Approved Supervisor. If the internship site does not provide this, you must receive supervision at least one hour a week from a faculty supervisor. There are four pieces of information that must be provided to the Internship Coordinator before starting an internship: 1. the original signed copy of the internship contract; 2. resume of the on-site supervisor to demonstrate that he or she has at least a master’s degree in a mental health profession (also a copy of the AAMFT Supervisor Certificate, if applicable); 3. brochure or written information about the internship site; 4. written description from the on-site supervisor about internship duties and responsibilities.

You should plan on a minimum of 15 client contact hours a week to be sure of completing the required client contact hours on time; most students will need to schedule additional time at the internship sites to complete paperwork, allow for missed appointments, etc. Thus, 20 hours a week committed to the internship site is realistic. This time may include weekdays, evenings, and, weekends at your and the site's convenience. If you cannot commit this much time to a site, you should prepare for this possibility by accruing more hours with additional external practica, which must be repeated indefinitely for credit until you have accumulated the 500 client contact hours. If you want a more diverse experience, or are not accumulating hours rapidly enough at one internship site, it is quite possible to contract with more than one internship site. A contract for each internship site must be completed. The internship contract should be clearly understood by all parties.

Practica are evaluated by faculty supervisors, using the program's practicum evaluation forms. These forms were designed by faculty to closely assess clinical skills. A copy of the practicum evaluation form will be made available to all practicum students, and students will be invited to assess their own performance as well. A theoretical article detailing the construction of the practicum evaluation form and the reasons for including each item has been written by three program faculty members and is available to students. The article was published in a leading family therapy journal.

Concentration in Family Systems Health Care
Students in the Ph.D. program in Family Therapy may choose to pursue a concentration in Family Systems Health Care. The concentration in Family Systems Health Care Program focuses on the relationships between psychosocial medicine and biomedicine in the treatment and prevention of illness and disease. Students are taught the basics of biopsychosocial theory, practice, and collaboration. The program prepares professionals to offer family therapy in a variety of medical settings, including private practices, hospitals, community clinics, and primary care/specialists' offices.

Students in the concentration program have ample opportunities to gain practical expertise through classroom learning and hands-on clinical, research, teaching, and service experiences. Specific areas of study include: adjustment patterns of clients and their families to chronic and acute illnesses; models of collaboration between medical family therapists and other health care professionals; the role of medical family therapists in the continuum of medical services; the politics and economics of health care; understanding human systems in health care; and brief interventions and systemic assessments useful in the treatment and care of patients and their families. Additionally, the program emphasizes professional development by assisting students in strengthening their personal qualities necessary for successful participation in the medical milieu.

The student's growth as a reflective practitioner is encouraged through clinical research in physician/client/therapist/family communication, adjustments to acute, chronic, or terminal illness, social effects and ethical dilemmas of new medical technologies, and other issues that transcend historical distinctions between physical treatment and psychosocial interventions. Program faculty and students cooperate to publish research findings and clinical experiences. Also, faculty and students of the program contribute to the growth of Family Systems Health Care by supporting and participating in groups like the Collaborative Family Health Care Coalition and the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine.

In addition to degree requirements, students must complete the following coursework to receive a Concentration in Family Systems Health Care:

Examinations and Evaluations
In addition to completing all course work successfully and obtaining the 500 client contact hours as discussed above, you must pass a comprehensive examination in order to be awarded the M.S. degree in Family Therapy. This clinically focused examination tests the student's ability to apply what has been learned. You will be eligible to take the examination when you have completed approximately 400 of your client contact hours and will have completed your course work by or before the end of the trimester during which the examination is taken, unless you have remaining summer courses to complete.

The examination will have 11 questions. You will need to answer 10 out of the 11 questions. A score of 8 out of 10 correct is passing; 7 out of 10 questions correct means that you must partially retake the exam at the next scheduled exam date, repeating only the 3 questions that you previously missed. Less than 7 correct answers is a failing score and means the exam must be retaken in its entirety. Each examination answer is reviewed independently and blindly by three faculty members. Two out of the three faculty reviewers must independently conclude the answer is incorrect before it is so judged. Students may appeal their comprehensive examination grade to the M.S. Program chair. The comprehensive examination may be retaken one time after an initial failure; two failed examinations result in termination from the program. The M.S. Comprehensive Examination is given two times per year, in April and December.