This 60 credit doctoral degree is designed to equip church leaders and mental health practitioners with skills to create positive change in families, individuals and church communities by integrating theological insights with Marriage and Family systems theory and pertinent psychological perspectives. 

MRFM 810 Theology of Marriage and Family   3 credits
This course introduces the student to theological consideration in the study of Marriage and Family Systems theory and practice. An authentically Christian understanding of marriage and family must be informed by Scripture and the Christian tradition. Students will explore these theological resources as they develop a confessionally informed and academically rigorous perspective on marriage and family.

MRFM 815 Introduction to Systems Theory   3 credits
This course will introduce the student to the foundational theories and concepts in the field of family therapy. Readings in current family and marriage theories, assigned personal reflection and interactions with aspects of one’s own family experiences, as well as lectures, class discussions, and video presentations will be employed to foster a deeper understanding of family and marriage dynamics at both the personal and professional levels.

MRFM 820 Human Development and Family Systems    3 credits
This course reviews human development across the lifespan and explores developmental processes from a family systems perspective. A special emphasis will be given to the understanding of the parent-child relationship in one’s own family of origin and the construction of the self.

MRFM 825 Adult Personality and Character Development    3 credits
This course will provide students with a comprehensive framework for understanding adult personality/character organization, considering the individual within the family system. Assessment of adult personality with psychopathological and functional dynamics will be explored. Biblical and theological insights, as well as cultural issues that affect adult personality development and function will be integrated into readings, lectures, and class projects/discussions.

MRFM 835 Human Sexuality   3 credits
This course will provide students with a developmental model of sexuality and investigate the following topics: developmental impacts on sexuality, intimacy, sexual desire, sexual dysfunction, sexual trauma and sexual identity. Current secular concepts will be explored and compared with Christian concepts related to human sexuality and how these intersect in marriage and family counseling settings.

MRFM 840 Theology of Marriage and Family Professional Paper    3 credits
This course directs the student in the formulation of a theological and theoretical framework for counseling based upon reading, course work, and continuing research in the field of family systems. The paper length is 40-50 pages. The formulation of a theology of marriage and family must consider biblical exegesis, biblical theology, and the history of Christian thought with reference to marriage and family and integrate these with perspectives and insights from systems theorists on these issues.

MRFM 845 Advanced Family Systems Theory and Practice   3 credits
As a continuation course from MRMF 815, this course builds upon the theoretical base of Marriage and Family systems through exposure to the process and techniques of counseling couples, individuals and families. Therapeutic interventions based on multigenerational systems orientations will be emphasized. Opportunity is provided for clinical involvement through simulated family and marriage configurations.

MRFM 850  Couples Therapy Theory and Practice    3 credits
This course will examine theories, models and processes of couples counseling and assessment. Students will develop skills through interactions with practice clients and exploration of case studies.

MRFM 855 Holistic Approaches to Prevention and Enrichment in Family Systems 3 credits
This course trains students in prevention models and enrichment methodologies with special emphasis on the pedagogy of psychoeducational interventions.

MRFM 860 Trauma and Family Systems   3 credits
This course examines the psychological impact of trauma on children, teens, adults, and family systems. Topics include: emotional regulation, cognitive processing, psychopharmacological treatments and strategies to engage a family in counseling.

MRFM 865 Assessment and Treatment of Addictions & Co-occurring Disorders   3 credits
This course provides students with an analysis of the various definitions of addiction and considers etiological theories and models in the addiction treatment field. Topics include: the impact of addictions, the medical model, the self-medication hypothesis, family collaborations, behavioral family therapy modalities, the influence of environment, spirituality and addiction, the biopsychosocialspiritual approach, Motivational Interviewing, functional analysis and treatment planning, and substance abuse and severe mental illness.

MRFM 870 Diversity Issues in Marriage and Family Therapy    3 credits
This course identifies the foundational concepts of race, culture, and gender in family therapy.  Topics include: gender roles, family structures, class, spirituality, race, migration, oppression, cultural identity, grief and loss within cultural contexts, sexuality within cultural contexts, and white privilege.

MRFM 875 Professional Standards and Ethics     3 credits
This course describes the ethical principles of the AAMFT Code of Ethics and their application. Topics include: professionalism, ethical decision making, multiple relationships, competency, integrity, dangerousness, abuse, neglect, moral values, spirituality issues in counseling, and ethical practice management.

MRFM 880 Systems Theory and Group Dynamics    3 credits
This course examines Group Therapy theories, dynamics and ethical standards. Students will be given a framework drawn from systems theory for applying group theory to intervention strategies. Topics include: treatment factors, interpersonal learning, group cohesion, process dynamics, stages of group formation/function and others.

MRFM 885 Qualitative Research Methodology  3 credits
This advanced graduate research methodology course introduces doctoral students to a variety of qualitative research methods and the qualitative research process of creating suitable research questions, doing fieldwork, analyzing and interpreting data, and the procedures for writing a report. Students will gain knowledge in qualitative research approaches, such as narrative study, grounded theory, phenomenology, and case study; develop a workable research design pertaining to an area of interest, and write a prototype research report.

MRFM 886 Quantitative Research Methodology  3 credits
This course introduces students to the process of quantitative research and basic statistics, including an exploration of designing, conducting, and reporting quantitative research studies. The course examines alternative approaches to experimental, quasi-experimental, and field studies using quantitative measurement.   It includes formulating testable hypotheses, assessment of measurement reliability and validity, and use of descriptive and inferential data analysis. Additionally the evaluation of quantitative research studies published in various journals will be conducted. Finally, students will develop appropriate research proposals demonstrating their mastery of the course content.

MRFM 905 Practicum in Marriage and Family Therapy    3 credits per semester
This Field Supervision course is offered in three consecutive semesters, Spring, Summer and Fall. Students may repeat this course for credit. Each semester students accrue a minimum of 100 supervised hours of direct service to clients in an approved clinical setting. The course covers topics of: professional roles and functions in clinical settings, ethical decision making, strategies for providing marriage and family therapy with diverse populations. The course also examines issues of pedagogy for the Marriage and Family practitioner. This course is pass/no credit. 

MRFM 910 Dissertation Proposal  3 credits
This course guides students through the process of creating their dissertation proposal and gathering their dissertation committee. Utilizing online discussions, student evaluations, and faculty feedback, this course will provide students with the opportunity to apply the knowledge obtained in previous research courses to develop their dissertation proposal and to critically evaluate their peers’ research proposals. By the conclusion of the course, each student will gather his/her dissertation committee and complete his/her dissertation proposal. This course is pass/no credit.

MRFM 920 Dissertation I  3 credits
This course is a continuation of MRFM910 and guides students through the Proposal Defense, IRB approval process and data collection phase of the dissertation process. Utilizing online discussions, student evaluations, and faculty/committee feedback, this course will provide students with the opportunity to apply the knowledge obtained in previous research courses and MRFM910, to complete the Proposal Defense, IRB Approval and data collection of their dissertation and to critically evaluate their peers’ research data collection work. By the conclusion of the course, each student will defend their proposal, achieve IRB approval and begin the data collection for their dissertation. This course is pass/no credit.

MRFM 921 Dissertation II   3 credits
This course is a continuation of MRFM920 and guides students through the completion of data collection, data analysis and the writing phase of the dissertation process. Utilizing online discussions and faculty/committee feedback, this course will provide students with the opportunity to apply the knowledge obtained in previous research courses and MRFM910 and 920 to complete the data collection, data analysis and Dissertation Defense process. By the conclusion of the course, each student will defend their dissertation and complete the archival process. This course is pass/no credit.

MRFM 922 Thesis/Dissertation Continuation  2 credits
Students who have not successfully defended their thesis/dissertation by the end of MRFM921 must register for MRFM922 until the project is completed.

Comprehensive Examinations

Successful completion of comprehensive examinations is necessary for progression to Ph.D. candidacy in the program and D.A. candidacy in the program. Comprehensive Examinations are conducted following completion of course work in both programs, usually in the spring or summer residency period. Students may not delay their Comprehensive Examinations without permission of the director. If a student has extreme or extenuating circumstances, they may appeal to the director for a delay, not less than one month prior to the scheduled Examinations.

The purpose of the doctoral comprehensive examination is for students to independently demonstrate:

  • Thorough mastery of the content of the curriculum supported by literature and/or related research.
  • The ability to demonstrate critical thinking through application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of knowledge.
  • The ability to present material in an organized and grammatically acceptable format.
  • The ability to present clinical analysis and therapeutic application appropriately.

The Comprehensive Examinations have three components:

  1. A written case presentation from the student’s clinical caseload, including a transcript of a clinical session with analysis and case formulation, and a 30 minute oral defense of the case presentation during the residency period in which the Comprehensive Examinations are being conducted.
  2. A spontaneous written case analysis and formulation based on a case given by the MFT Faculty during the residency week to be completed and submitted electronically by the student within four days.
  3. A written multiple choice examination administered on campus during the residency period in which the Comprehensive Examinations are conducted.

Students who are unsuccessful in passing the Comprehensive Examinations in their first attempt are allowed one additional attempt at one, two, or three of the components the following year. Students who do not pass the Comprehensive Examinations after a second attempt are dismissed from the program.