5 Reasons Why You Should Do an MFT Program in Sacramento
Why become a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFTs)? If you have a passion for helping people navigate intimate relationships—both platonic and romantic—a career in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) could be an ideal choice.
Whether assisting a couple through a disagreement or helping a teenager communicate with their parents, MFTs are equipped to help. In Sacramento, the Marriage and Family Therapy program at Alliant International University is designed to set you up for success on your career path.
In this short guide, we’ll cover the reasons for pursuing a degree in MFT as the first step towards achieving your long-term goals.
Before exploring why you should become an MFT, it helps to know what the marriage and family therapist job description is. MFTs are highly trained professionals able to evaluate and treat problems in marriages and families. Being an MFT could mean that you're a marriage counselor, a family counselor, a mental health counselor, etc.
#1 Develop Foundational Core MFT Skills
According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, MFTs are “mental health professionals trained in psychotherapy and family systems.1” Most people who pursue MFTs share a goal of eventually practicing therapy.
At Alliant, we strive to foster skills and qualities that will prepare aspiring MFTs for licensure exams and improve their ability to help others.
A solution-focused approach is one of the foundational skills required by MFTs. Clients who see MFTs usually schedule their appointment to address a specific problem, like financial struggles. While an MFT cannot make financial problems go away, they can help a couple communicate their goals and needs with themselves and one another.
Other common couple issues that marriage therapists are trained to handle include:
- Sex and intimacy
- Parenting struggles
- Tensions with other family members
In addition to the common romantic relationship issues, there are common family problems that MFTs encounter and skills that therapists hone to utilize with their clients.
Learn Common Family Issues
Within the family unit, there are many dynamics, each with their own tensions. These include relationships between siblings, between parents and siblings, between parents and grandparents, and more once you account for inlaws and family outside of the household.
Some common family issues, which can overlap with couples issues, include:2
- Coping with a family member’s mental illness
- Supporting a family member through their mental illness
- Adjusting to difficult or new situations
- Navigating sibling conflicts
Due to the sensitive nature of the issues that clients bring to Marriage and Family Therapy, MFTs must be close listeners and observers. To develop trust with clients, therapists must show them that they care about and respect the information confided to them.
By asking open-ended questions before pin-pointing solutions, therapists can learn more about families and show them that they are supported.
Learn to Establish Boundaries
For young and early-career therapists in particular, it can be easy to grow too involved in a family even with the intentions of maintaining a healthy therapist and client boundary.3 Furthermore, over-eagerness to help and offer suggestions can curtail listening. Skills and techniques learned in class and clinicals can prepare beginning therapists to practice with experience.
An MFT program can teach you not only to help couples and families but also how to prevent feeling overwhelmed by the client’s emotions during therapy sessions. All the skills and techniques to protect the therapist result in higher quality therapy for the patient.
#2 Accreditation You Can Take Everywhere
The MFT graduate programs at Alliant pass a rigorous, multi-year review process to earn accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE).
The elite COAMFTE accreditation for graduate degree programs signals excellent education quality as well as:
- The ability to work in the Department of Veterans Affairs, which requires COAMFTE accreditation.
- Easier transition to earning a license outside the state of California since COAMFTE accredited degrees are recognized in every state.
This can provide an advantage in obtaining employment post-graduation.
Students with families or full-time jobs need a flexible course schedule. When you earn your MFT degree through Alliant, you can tailor your schedule to work for you.
Alliant offers two accredited marriage and family therapy graduate programs. In both of the MFT programs at Alliant, you’ll learn how to assess and treat diverse individuals, couples, and families. Once you work in the field, your goal will always be to aid those people through difficult times for them individually and as couples or family groups.
There are day and evening courses available to students as well as online courses for the virtual degree program. The master’s degree can also be completed online.
Alliant Graduate MFT Degrees
The degrees offered at the Alliant Sacramento location include:
- Master’s Degree – Offered on-campus and online, the Master’s degree generally takes 2-3 years to complete. For those students juggling family and work life, pursuing a Master’s online may be the best option.
- PsyD Degree – The Doctor in Psychology Program, offered at California campuses such as San Diego, Irvine, and Sacramento, generally takes 4-6 years to complete. From social work to family counseling, a PsyD degree can help prepare you for a variety of career paths in MFT and also for leadership roles in mental health-care settings.
#4 Learn Cultural Competency
Cultural competency prepares aspiring therapists to treat family units composed of people from a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds.
The components of cultural competency are complex and many therapists and other healthcare professionals disagree on what constitutes cultural competency in the field.
In the midst of the ongoing discussion over the definition of cultural competency, Marriage and Family Therapists need to have a working knowledge of how to interact with and treat people from different cultural backgrounds than their own. The more that MFTs can learn about different backgrounds, the more effectively they can treat their patients’ issues.
MFTs who are educated in cultural competency can help eliminate these issues in healthcare:
- Ethnic discrimination
- Socioeconomic disparities
Cultural Competency at Alliant
The MFT programs at Alliant understand the need to center cultural competency in the curriculum so that future mental health professionals are prepared to serve a variety of communities and to create positive social change.
Our graduate programs respect the multicultural, socioeconomic, and international backgrounds of our students. Since cultural competency is ever-evolving, we strive to stay at the forefront of the conversation surrounding it and to provide you access to that dialogue.
Above all, cultural competency is about making an impactful difference for clients and the larger community through Marriage and Family Therapy.
#5 Distinguished Faculty and Rigorous Courses
During your time in an Alliant MFT program, you’ll learn foundational therapy skills and cultural competency from distinguished psychologists in the field and experience a rich curriculum.
In Sacramento, Sean Davis, PhD, is a distinguished professor of Couples and Family Therapy. He is also the Online MFT Program Director and a recognized author. He co-authored Family Therapy: Concepts and Methods, which is a foundational theory textbook in the field. He won the Article of the Year Award from the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy.
While Jay Haley doesn’t work on campus in Sacramento, his ideas are at the core of the curriculum of the Alliant MFT programs. Many family therapists are inspired by his work to pursue their own careers. Haley is known for participating in the creation of strategic therapy, which is a therapy that identifies goals before and after therapy with couples.
Professor Sean Davis and Jay Haley are only examples of the kinds of individuals that students may have the opportunity to learn from in MFT programs in Sacramento.
In general, any student who pursues graduate education in MFT must take courses in couples therapy, domestic violence, family systems, the counseling process, lifespan development, and the theory and practice of therapy, amongst other topics.
The course requirements for the two graduate degrees offered at Alliant vary.
MA in Marital and Family Therapy
The Marital and Family Therapy Masters program includes courses that prepare students for parent-child therapy, group therapy, and trauma and crisis intervention. Potential courses include:
- MFT Law and Ethics
- Diversity and the Family
- Individual and Family Life Cycle
- Preparing for Community Practice
- Parent-Child Therapy Technique
- Trauma and Crisis Intervention
- Couples Therapy
PsyD in Marital and Family Therapy
The PsyD in Marital and Family Therapy can be completed in as little as three years. The PsyD is a longer commitment than the MA in MFT. The coursework includes many of the same courses as the MA, however, the PsyD builds on the MA with additional courses. Some of the courses that may be available are listed below:
- Personality and Affect
- Advanced Couples Therapy
- Advanced Intergenerational Therapy
- Biological Aspects of Behavior
- Social Basis of Behavior
- History and Systems of Psychology
- Advanced MFT Research: Quantitative
- Internship in MFT
- Internship Supervision
- MFT Dissertation
Take a look at the online proposed curriculum for both the Master’s and PsyD in MFT to learn about all the courses offered for the respective degrees.
There are different routes of continuing education as an MFT, whether that's continuing family therapy education, a PsyD degree, or a PhD in clinical psychology. Either way, a marriage and family therapy program can be very rewarding if it's a profession that interests you.
Pursue an MFT Education at Alliant
Completing a graduate degree in MFT is a necessary step on the path towards becoming a marriage and family therapist and beginning to help family units navigate their challenges.
Both the Master’s and PsyD in Marriage and Family Therapy at Alliant are designed to provide a value-centered, thorough, and research-driven education in MFT. Learn from distinguished faculty to gather the experience you need to be an empathetic and skillful therapist.
With a focus on cultural competency and flexibility for students, you’ll prepare to handle the needs of your daily life and to help diverse communities as you continue pursuing your career.
- “About Marriage and Family Therapists.” AAMFT. American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. 1/4/2022. https://www.aamft.org/About_AAMFT/About_Marriage_and_Family_Therapists…. Accessed: January 4, 2022.
- Vargese, Mathew et. al. “Family Interventions: Basic Principles and Techniques.” Indian Journal of Psychiatry 62 (2020). S192-S200. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32055062/. Accessed: January 4, 2022.