M.A. Counseling: Marriage, Family and Child Counseling Emphasis




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The M.A. Counseling with an emphasis in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling (CACREP accredited) prepares students to pursue a license as a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). This master's in counseling degree also prepares students for California Professional Clinical Counseling (LPCC) licensure, with a scope of practice that includes counseling families and couples.

  • California: The Marriage, Family and Child Counseling emphasis fulfills the State of California's educational requirements to pursue licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) or dual LMFT/LPCC licensure, specifically Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) licensure with a scope of practice that includes couples, families and children. 
  • Other States & Territories: The Marriage, Family and Child Counseling emphasis may also fulfill similar educational requirements to pursue licensure in other states and territories (please check with your individual state licensure board requirements).  

The program combines an emphasis on scientific research with extensive clinical training to produce clinicians whose practices are grounded in science and meet the highest professional standards. This scientific and professional rigor makes the program uniquely suited for students from various walks of life and at different stages of their careers who aspire to help families in need of care.

Practicum & Internship

A clinical practicum/internship experience is a required part of the Master's in Counseling program.  Practicum/internship provides students an opportunity to gain experience in the role of a clinical counselor. Students complete a minimum of 700 hours of counseling-related experience over a 9 to 12 month period. This experience includes a minimum of 280 hours of direct counseling experience.  Palo Alto University provides guidance to students in securing a practicum/intership site.  Common types of placements include community and county mental health agencies, school-based mental health centers, and non-profit counseling centers.


California MFT/LPCC Licensure

The master's in counseling degree is the first step to obtaining an MFT or LPCC license. Before and after graduation, students will need to accumulate two years (104 weeks) of supervision and 3,000 pre- and post-Master's hours of supervised work experience. Further information on licensure requirements and exams can be found on the California BBS website

In Other States

This program and emphasis may fulfill the educational requirements for students seeking licensure in many other states and territories. Students who plan to seek licensure in another state or territory should research their region's specific laws and regulations before enrolling. Information on state counseling boards can be found on the AASCB website


What LMFTs Do

Marriage and family therapists are trained, state-licensed professionals who help people of all ages manage or overcome mental health and emotional disorders and problems in the context of the family and relationships. They manage the delivery of mental health care to individuals, couples, families, and other groups, incorporating the principles of recovery-oriented treatment. By listening to clients and asking questions, they help clients to understand their problems and develop strategies to improve their lives. They are directly responsible for ensuring client safety, and remaining compliant with all laws and regulations and moral and ethical guidelines for the profession. In California, LPCCs with training in couples and family counseling can also practice in these areas. 

Employment Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of marriage and family therapists (MFTs) is expected to grow 41 percent between 2010 and 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. Additionally, employment of mental health counselors (LPCCs) is expected to grow 36 percent in the same timeframe.

Job Settings

Marriage and family therapists may find employment in such settings as:

  • Private practice
  • Schools & colleges
  • Social service agencies
  • Health maintenance organizations (HMOs)
  • Inpatient and outpatient care facilities and hospitals
  • Medical and mental health centers
  • Nursing homes and residential care facilities
  • Religious organizations

Non-licensed Career Options

While most graduates of this program pursue licensure, students who defer seeking licensure may find positions in education, research, publishing, administration, advocacy, business, and other fields, or pursue further educational opportunities at the doctoral level.

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