Schools Offering Marriage & Family Therapy Programs in California

You can study marriage and family therapy in any state. You can also get a degree online. So, why consider California for your education?

On the one hand, California has plentiful opportunities for recreation and relaxation. You can hit the beach, go skiing, take your bike out for a ride, and play any number of games like tennis and pickleball at a local park. Having a chance to unwind and recharge your batteries is essential for doing well in school.

On the other hand, California has a robust higher education system with hundreds of public and private universities scattered throughout the state. This gives you ample choices for finding the perfect marriage and family therapy program for your specific career goals. That makes California a prime choice from an educational and quality of living standpoint.

Below is a partial list of marriage and family therapy programs that meet the state’s educational requirements. Use this as a guide for starting your search for a program that prepares you for a promising career.

Marriage and Family Therapy Programs in California

Azusa Pacific University

School Information

Azusa Pacific University is a doctoral-level institution just outside Los Angeles. Its serene location puts you in touch with nature and provides easy access to all the amenities a large city like L.A. offers.

This is a religiously-affiliated school with around 8,000 students. Despite the small size of the University, Azusa Pacific still offers nearly 70 bachelor’s degrees, almost 50 graduate degrees, and dozens of certificates, credentials, and doctoral programs.

Your learning takes place in small classroom settings with professors that are experts in their fields. There are opportunities for small-group learning and mentorship with professors. This added level of learning will help you get a solid grasp of marriage and family therapy concepts.

Program Information

The Master of Arts in clinical psychology program at Azusa Pacific University offers a concentration area in marriage and family therapy that gives you a lot of flexibility. You can pursue your degree in a two-year, three-year, or four-year format. Likewise, the program requires anywhere from 63-91 credit hours, depending on the specific track you pursue.

Regardless of how you shape your program of study, you will take classes that include:

  • Theories of Psychotherapy
  • Legal, Ethical, and Moral Issues in Therapy
  • Introduction to Clinical Practice: Group Skills
  • Child and Adolescent Therapy
  • Psychological Assessment

This degree also includes practicum and internship components. Your practicum takes place in a clinical setting where you assist a supervising therapist with counseling sessions. You will also have the opportunity to lead counseling sessions with couples and families in your internship experience.

California State University Bakersfield

School Information

California State University (CSU) Bakersfield is a large, regional university that was founded in 1965. Despite being a relatively young school, CSU Bakersfield has grown into a respected academic institution with more than 11,000 students.

As a student at CSU Bakersfield, you can choose from around 60 degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. This includes programs in the colleges of:

  • Arts and Humanities
  • Business and Public Administration
  • Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering
  • Social Sciences and Education

Over the years, CSU Bakersfield has been recognized for its academic programs and value. This includes top 50 rankings for affordability, graduate programs, social mobility, and return on investment, to name a few.

Program Information

At CSU Bakersfield, you can enroll in a 60-credit Master of Science program in marriage and family therapy. The program’s courses were developed with California licensure in mind. That being the case, you will be eligible to sit for licensure upon your graduation.

While you are in the program, you will take courses on various marriage and family topics, including:

  • Theories of Individual Counseling
  • Theories of Family Counseling
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Career Development Counseling
  • Cultural Intersectionality in Counseling

You will also learn assessment techniques, essential counseling skills, and gain an understanding of ethical principles in marriage and family therapy.

Additionally, you will get field experience at CSU Bakersfield’s University Counselor Training Clinic, which provides affordable counseling for members of the Bakersfield community.

Pepperdine University

School Information

According to US News and World Report, Pepperdine University is one of the best schools in the nation. In fact, the University ranks 49th for value and 55th among national universities. That means you can get a quality education at a great value!

Pepperdine offers other benefits, too. Small class sizes (the school has a 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio) ensure you have opportunities for individualized instruction from your professors. Additionally, there are nearly 90 degree programs from which you can choose.

If you decide to study on campus, the University’s Malibu location is a definite bonus. Malibu is a gorgeous area, and with the Pacific Ocean at the University’s doorstep, you will have easy opportunities to enjoy the beach, surfing, fishing, and other recreational pursuits.

Program Information

The online Master of Arts program in clinical psychology from Pepperdine University features a marriage and family concentration that prepares you to work specifically with couples and families. The program requires a little more than two years to complete, provided you study full-time.

During your studies, you will have the opportunity for classroom and field-based learning. Courses include:

  • Diagnosis and Treatment of Mental Health Disorders
  • Research and Evaluation Methods for Mental Health Professionals
  • Couple and Family Therapy
  • Individual, Couple, and Family Development: A Life Cycle Approach
  • Interpersonal Skills and Group Therapy

Pepperdine’s program also includes an eight-credit practicum component. The purpose of the practicum is to gain experience working in a clinical setting. You will get feedback from your clinical supervisor and have opportunities to share your experiences with classmates for additional feedback. Since this is an online program, field placements occur in or near the community in which you live.

The University of Southern California

School Information

The University of Southern California (USC) is a large academic institution with 22 academic units and colleges. USC is known as an excellent school, as evidenced by the 3.75-4.00 average GPA amongst its most recent freshman class.

Likewise, USC’s acceptance rate for the most recent freshman class was just 12.5 percent. However, if you get into USC, you will have incredible academic opportunities awaiting you.

Needless to say, USC has come a long way. It first opened in 1880 when Los Angeles was a brand-new city that lacked paved streets or electric lights. The first class had just 53 students and the faculty included just 10 teachers. Today, USC has nearly 50,000 students and more than 4,700 faculty members.

As a student at USC, you can pursue many different degrees in psychology and counseling, including school counseling, educational psychology, and marriage and family therapy.

Program Information

The University of Southern California’s Master of Science in marriage and family therapy is specifically designed to prepare you for clinical practice. Upon graduation, you will be eligible for licensure as a marriage and family therapist, and you will have the skills needed to work in public or private sector settings.

This is a 60-unit program that takes two years to complete if studying full-time. If you are a part-time student, you will need four years to finish the program. Both tracks require you to take the same courses, including:

  • The Counseling Process
  • Psychopathology for Marriage and Family Therapists
  • Psychopharmacology and the Effects of Substance Abuse
  • Multicultural Counseling: Research and Practice
  • Counseling Couples in Relationships

As is common for marriage and family programs, you must complete a practicum and field work as part of your studies. The three-unit practicum gives you supervised experience working with children, couples, and families, while field work focuses on group applications and research in marriage and family therapy.

Work Opportunities in California

California has the highest level of marriage and family therapist employment in the United States. This bodes well for you as a prospective marriage and family therapist!

The excellent employment outlook in this field isn’t just limited to California’s largest city, Los Angeles, either. Large numbers of marriage and family therapists work in California’s other large cities – San Diego and the Bay Area.

Carlsbad, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Sacramento also rank in the top ten cities in the U.S. for marriage and family employment.

So, whether you want to work in sunny Southern California, the temperate Bay Area, or move inland and work with couples and families in communities like San Bernardino or Sacramento, you are likely to find opportunities for employment. Likewise, the likelihood is good that you can pursue employment in various fields, such as:

  • Outpatient care centers
  • Health practitioner offices
  • Family services organizations

You might also consider opening a private practice or joining an existing one. Doing so gives you the freedom of being self-employed, which is a lot of work, but the financial benefits often make it worth it.

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