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Family Psychology

Family Psychology


Family Psychologists and Family Therapists


Family psychology is more commonly known as family therapy.  It is a recognized professional category and is practiced by some clinical psychologists.  At least half of the professionals in the field, however, are licensed marriage and family counselors (MFTs).   Marriage and family therapists are state licensed professionals who must first obtain a master's degree with a major in MFT.  The master's programs generally combine immersion in the many psychological theories that are applied to family therapy along with a substantial dose of "fieldwork," which are supervised clinical hours. 


In the case of both psychologists and MFTs their clinical practices are open to both couples and to families.  Couples are families without children; many times problems in a marriage are what trigger internal problems in a family.  In any case, the central issue is working out troubled relationships among people that usually live together and have strong familial ties.


Studying to be a Family Therapist


The master's program for marriage and family program is a two year program of academic study, following completion of a baccalaureate. The University of Oregon has an accredited MFT master's program that addresses theoretical foundations in family dynamics, family development, ecological considerations that influence individual and family function, systemic assessment and treatment, research methods and professional ethics.


The fieldwork program is a clinical practicum and internship which provides students with the opportunity to develop their clinical skills under the observation of supervisors approved by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). The clinical internship experience consists of students who complete 500 client contact hours (50 percent with couples and families) and 100 hours of individual and group supervision.


Below is a summary of the two year curriculum for the UO program.


  • Introduction to Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Children and Family Assessment
  • Marriage and Family Therapy Models
  • Existential and Spiritual Issues
  • Psychopathology & Behavioral Deviations
  • Families across the Lifecycle
  • Research Methods in MFT
  • Family Theory
  • Counseling Diverse Populations
  • Violence in Families
  • Group Psychotherapy
  • Couples Therapy
  • Medical Family Therapy
  • Contemporary Issues in Addiction
  • Advanced Family Therapy
  • Beginning and Advanced Practicum


Family Psychology, the Family and Therapeutic Environments


A careful look at the curriculum for this well established education program for family psychology professionals reveals a couple of interesting areas of focus.  The first is the fact that the description of the program stresses the impact of social, cultural and political forces on family dynamics.  It is incumbent on the therapist to look at external pressures along with the internal relationships. 


The other point of note is that the curriculum has a number of course areas concentrating on theory, therapy models, research methodology - the structural underpinnings of family psychology as a science.  Balancing that perspective are such issues as "Contemporary issues in addiction."  Addictive behavior hasn't changed much in the last couple of thousand years.  The contemporary issue is the fact that our society is awash with addictive substances, legal and otherwise.  The curriculum touches on both spiritual issues with the clients and ethical issues for the therapist.  Both of these areas are somewhat subjective, and well removed from the structural nature of hard science with immutable laws.  Family psychology is a mix of scientific theory and human dynamics.

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