The Department of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT), in existence for nearly five decades, is the longest-standing department of its kind in the country and accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE).
Addressing the substantial need for trained professionals able to provide mental health services, Syracuse University’s accredited 60-credit master of arts degree in marriage and family therapy prepares students for rewarding work in marriage and couples counseling and family therapy in private practice, mental health facilities, social service agencies, and school districts, among many other organizations.
The Syracuse University MFT MA program’s mission is to educate and train clinicians, scholars, and researchers in the ethical and systemic practice of MFT with a commitment to diversity and inclusion.
The Department of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) is housed in Peck Hall, which offers advanced teaching technologies and learning environments that further distinguish Syracuse’s program in marriage and family therapy from others across the country. With extensive hands-on training, both at the Couple and Family Therapy Center, an on-campus clinical training and research facility, and at local community sites, students complete 500 hours of supervised clinical practice with individuals, couples and families. To conclude their studies, students complete either a one-day comprehensive examination or a master’s project.
From working with LGBTQ clients, issues of trauma, and challenges of childhood and parenting to marital and couple difficulties, moving beyond family violence, or easing relationship and communications struggles, students have specialized skill sets upon completion of the program that set them apart in the job search process. Our comprehensive clinical training prepares graduates well in the marketplace for jobs in marriage and couples counseling and family therapy.
Why this degree makes a difference in society today…tomorrow…
Today more than 50,000 marriage and family therapists treat individuals, couples, and families nationwide. Membership in AAMFT has grown from 237 members in 1960 to more than 25,500 in 2015. This growth is a result, in part, of renewed public awareness of the value of family life and concern about the increased stresses on families in a rapidly changing world.
Students take basic clinical courses in theory and practice during their first year in the program. From core courses in family therapy, systems dynamics, couple therapy and psychopathology to elective explorations into trauma studies, play therapy, and therapy with LGBTQ couples and families, Falk College’s marriage and family therapy courses challenge students to find new solutions to meet society’s needs. Our offerings include classes such as:
- Marriage and Family Therapy Ethics and Issues
- Family Therapy Perspectives on Cultural Diversity
- Family Therapy Across the Life Cycle
- Alcohol and Other Drugs in Social Work Practice
What Our Students Are Saying
Blessed Unami Sikhosana ’11, G’12, G’17
Working in an attorney’s office, Blessed Unami Sikhosana recalls, “we dealt with families and children who were hurting.” Sikhosana realized that she was a humanitarian, an advocate for the voiceless. “That’s what drew me in—the love for those who can’t speak for themselves. The refugee communities that have experienced war in their home countries and now suffer from PTSD. Bringing hope to adults who are in nursing homes and providing them with therapy coping skills, especially those who are faced with mental health challenges.”
So, Sikhosana began her studies in marriage and family therapy at Falk College, home of the first accredited master’s degree of its kind in the country. Students in the program complete rigorous coursework in addition to 500 supervised clinical hours, during which students work directly with clients at both the Couple and Family Therapy Center located at Peck Hall, and at an approved community site. For Sikhosana’s internship, she worked at Catholic Charities in Syracuse.
Seeing 27 clients each week was certainly challenging, but Sikhosana treasures the joy and fulfillment she gets from her work. “To be a marriage and family therapist is a rewarding career. You touch lives,” she says. “The bottom line of being a marriage and family therapist is helping individuals with mental health challenges reframe their thinking. Most clients walk into my therapy room defeated. My job is to help them to walk out into the world feeling like a champion. I really want to thank Syracuse University for empowering me to be the marriage and family therapist that I am today,” she says.
Peck Hall is a five-story, 30,000 square-foot facility that houses MFT faculty and administrative offices, classrooms, a student lounge/kitchen, and a seminar room. Other key features include a children’s clinic and expanded counseling rooms for the Couple and Family Therapy Center, which serves clients referred from mental health and human service agencies and school districts throughout the area. The facility is equipped with state-of the art technologies, including smart classrooms with video conferencing, and counseling rooms with digital video imaging for clinical training purposes.
Peck Hall is situated adjacent to the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center, enhancing collaborations with the Department of Marriage and Family Therapy specifically around issues of child and family trauma and giving students a technologically advanced, interdisciplinary training environment working with highly skilled and very dedicated mental health professionals. Additional long-standing community partnerships provide experience-rich learning opportunities for MFT students, including St. Joseph’s Hospital, Jewish Family Services, Vera House, and the Brownell Center at Liberty Resources, among many others.
All students spend one year providing therapy in the on-campus Couple and Family Therapy Center, which is well equipped for videotape and live supervision. They also see clients in off-campus practica sites after their first semester of client contact. Our site supervisors are all AAMFT approved supervisors who maintain regular contact with our internship coordinator to assist in evaluating and training students’ clinical work in the field.
The Couple and Family Therapy Center offers no cost, confidential therapy services to families, couples, and individuals who are coping with life’s challenges. Some of the issues most frequently addressed at the Center include resolving marital and couple difficulties; easing relationship or communication struggles; helping a troubled child, teenager, or family; moving beyond family violence or substance abuse; or dealing with emotional distress such as anxiety or depression, grief, and loss. The Couple and Family Therapy Center serves diverse clients from across Central New York.
It is located in Peck Hall, which provides a comfortable therapeutic atmosphere. Rooms provide flexibility in treatment options, from talk therapy to play therapy and sand tray interventions. Therapists are masters and doctoral students in the Marriage and Family Therapy Department at Syracuse University who work closely under the supervision of licensed faculty. Advanced technology affords students excellent training oversight and ultimately improves the quality of service to clients.
The Center also features the Gender Expansive Support Team (GEST), which provides a unique opportunity for students who want to gain training and experience working with transgender people and their loved ones. In addition to their general caseload, therapists on the GEST team work with transgender individuals, couples, and families, providing general therapy, helping families become more attuned to their transgender family member, navigating with clients through the process of gender transition, and providing letters of support for medical gender transition.
What's next after this degree
MFT graduates are licensed or certified in all 50 states and are recognized by the federal government as members of a distinct mental health discipline.
Many students consider enrolling in a Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS) program simultaneously to complement their MA in marriage and family therapy degree, not to mention their marketability after graduation, with additional knowledge, skills, licensing and credentials in a specialized area. Falk CAS programs that fit well for marriage and family therapy students include Addiction Studies, Child Therapy, and Trauma-Informed Practice. Additional licensing and credentialing strategically positions students in the counseling and mental health fields. Falk College also offers a dual master’s degree program in social work and marriage and family therapy, allowing students to complete the master’s degree in two distinct professions in three years
- Addiction Studies, CAS
- Child Therapy, CAS
- Trauma-Informed Practice, CAS
- Social Work and Marriage and Family Therapy Dual Degree, MA/MSW
A doctoral degree is required for university-level teaching and research positions. Learn more about our Marriage and Family Therapy, Ph.D.
According to U.S. News & World Report, marriage and family therapy is one of the fastest-growing mental health disciplines in the U.S. today. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists is projected to grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth is expected in both occupations as more people have mental health counseling services covered by their insurance policies. Graduates of the Marriage and Family Therapy program are equipped to work in a variety of different settings including:
- Inpatient and outpatient centers and hospitals
- Government, military, and veterans facilities
- Substance abuse and addiction treatment facilities
- Mental health and counseling programs
- Schools and social service agencies
- Community based non-profits
- Private Practice
- Adventure based programs or camps
- Research centers
Students should maintain membership in AAMFT throughout their enrollment in the M.A. and doctoral programs. M.A. students should apply for Student Membership in AAMFT their first term in the core program and maintain registration until receiving their degree. Students interested in working with faculty on research projects will find numerous projects available to them. Additionally, specialized opportunities based on a student’s interest are also available to broaden his or her professional skills. For example, the Gender Expansive Support Team (GEST) involves student therapists providing LGBTQ affirmative therapy and assisting clients who are preparing for gender transition. The GEST team provides a unique opportunity for students who want to gain training and experience working with transgender people and their loved ones. Students volunteering for this team attend specialized training, where they learn about a gender-affirmative approach to therapy and how to support transgender clients through the readiness process for medical gender transition.
Commitment to Diversity
Syracuse University’s Marriage and Family Therapy department demonstrates commitment to diversity and inclusion. Faculty and staff prepare students to value the creation of socially-just, anti-racist, LGBTQ-Affirmative and anti-discriminatory environments. Students are expected to engage in cultural humility, awareness of self in relation to others, and an understanding of psychosocial and cultural contexts of issues presented in clinical practice and research. We believe that valuing each other’s similarities and differences helps us to deepen our understanding of relationships in systems. Students are required to see clients with diverse backgrounds/experiences and may not choose their caseloads based on race, class, gender/gender expression, sexual orientation, religion, culture, age, or other diversity category.