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Counseling Program

Department of Counseling and Human Services

Couples & Family

Working with families has been part of therapeutic practice for almost 100 years. 

Starting with Alfred Adlers family and community interventions in Vienna, systemic perspectives have gradually taken hold in almost all of the helping professions.  In the last thirty-five years, the fields of family counseling, family therapy, social work with families, family psychology, psychiatric nursing with families, and family psychiatry have really come into prominence.  It promised greater effectiveness than had been achieved with either individual or group counseling and therapy.  Because these relational approaches sought to change the very systems in which individuals actually lived, many professionals hoped that the changes enacted would be more enduring and that both individual and system relapse would decrease.  While these hopes have not been fully realized, family practice has had enormous success, and it is now a fully integrated part of most treatment programs.

Couples and family practice is fundamentally different from individual counseling and therapy.  While it shares some similarities with group interventions, the intimacy and intensity of couples and family systems make it a treatment unit unlike any other.  Individual therapy tends to focus on the development of the individuals self, coping responses, and problem-solving.  People are seen in isolation from the systems in which they live. Family system therapists, in contrast, see individuals as part of larger systems, heavily influenced by their social context.  They focus on transactions, sequences of interaction, interdependence, recursion, and mutual influence. It involves seeing the purpose and systemic logic in what often appear to be paradoxical processes.  It is learning to see how a problem affects the family and how the family maintains the problem.  In short, couples and family practitioners seek to address systems embedded in systems that are embedded still further in other systems.  They seek to explore the meaning and purpose of interactions and transactions, and engage in processes that support the kinds of solutions that individuals and families seek for their own lives. 

Systemic therapists do not deny the importance of the individual in the family system, but they believe an individuals systemic affiliations and interactions have more power in the persons life that a single therapist could ever hope to have.

If systemic thinking and interventions intrigue you, if you would like to learn to work with larger therapeutic units in an effort to embed change in the lives of your clients, or if you would like to engage in relational work as much or more than individual work, then training in couples and family therapy may just be what you are looking for.

The faculty members who teach in the Couples and Family Therapy concentration have over 100 years of combined experience.  We bring perspectives to our work that include and encompass Adlerian counseling, Bowen therapy, conjoint family therapy, narrative/postmodern/social constructionist models, structural/strategic therapy, emotion focused therapy, and symbolic-experiential family therapy.  Our faculty members contribute to both AAMFT and IAMFC professional activities and publish articles, chapters and books in the field. 

Our graduates complete all of the coursework required for becoming an LMFT, lacking only the additional hours of post-graduate client contact and supervision in order to be licensed by the state. As of July 2015, our Couples and Family Concentration is CACREP accredited! We are the only university in the region to have a CACREP accredited Couples and Family concentration. Graduates from the updated Couples and Family program beginning May 2015 are considered graduates of an accredited program. Couples and family therapists work in human service agencies, mental health centers, psychiatric and general hospitals, religious organizations, counseling agencies, substance abuse centers, and private practice serving the emotional and relational needs of individuals, couples, and families. In addition, students may add additional coursework to prepare them for eligibility as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).

Couples and Family Program of Study

As of July 2015 - our Couples and Family Concentration is CACREP accredited!


Dr. Jean McLendon, a specialist in Satir methods, taught a weeklong summer course in collaboration with Dr. Jim Bitter. This is an example of the many special course offerings the faculty develop that enriches our curriculum.

Drs. Jim Bitter and Brent Morrow advise new MFT students.



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