The field of couples and family counseling is growing, both in the supply and demand of licensed marriage and family therapists. An estimated 54,800 licensed marriage and family counselors worked in the U.S. as of 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. California employs a good number of these counselors, with 25,870 LMFTs employed in the state. These numbers are expected to grow in the next 10 years. Students hoping to be a part of that growth need to satisfy certain education requirements to be eligible for licensure. For those interested in completing their academic training in couples and family counseling in California, here are the MFT programs in California.
All couples and family counseling programs that satisfy the requirements for licensure as an MFT will include a combination of foundational coursework in marital and family counseling theory and technique and practical application of learned content. There are many California couples and family counseling programs, some with more resources than others yet which offer the training needed to become a skillful MFT.
Asuza Pacific University: MA in Clinical Psychology with a Focus on Marriage and Family Therapy
Students of Asuza’s MFT master’s focus take 66 units of coursework and apply their learning in fieldwork experiences. They have the option to get hands-on experience at the on-campus Community Counseling Center, which is approved by the American Psychological Association. Students in the program can earn additional certifications during their time in the master’s program, including a Gottman Couples Therapy Level 1 Certificate; the Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) option, which is earned with one additional three-unit course; and the Substance Use Disorder Certificate.
California Southern University: MA in Psychology with Emphasis on Marriage and Family Therapy
California Southern’s Psychology program with an emphasis on MFT is 60 credits. The program takes four years to complete, which is much longer than most graduate MFT programs. However, students can accelerate this timeline by taking more classes, taking courses during summer semesters, or by transferring credits (up to 12 credits can be transferred). Students complete a practicum in community placements. Coursework is completed remotely, though the practicum is done on-site.
California State University Chico: MS in Marriage and Family Therapy
CalState Chico includes 60 units of coursework as well as a practicum and internship. The practicum-level skills practice is done in laboratory courses and on-campus training in the Counselor Training Center. The internship/traineeship is done off-campus at local agencies, community centers, and clinics. Coursework introduces students to the study of family systems, postmodern, cognitive behavioral, multiculturally sensitive, and integrative models of counseling. The GRE is not required for this program.
California State University East Bay: MS in Marriage and Family Counseling
This MFT program is only offered at CalState East Bay’s Hayward campus. The cohort-style program takes two years to complete full-time and is actually a specialization of the MS in Counseling program. Students complete fieldwork training at placement sites throughout the Bay area. Students who complete this program will have satisfied academic requirements for both MFT licensure and LPCC licensure in the state of California.
Loyola Marymount University: MA in Marital and Family Therapy
Loyola’s MFT program with a focus on art therapy is a two-year program completed on a full-time basis or a three-year program if completed part-time. The 60 credits required in the course teach the fundamentals of MFT counseling and art therapy. Students also complete a traineeship during the program, receiving between 350 and 840 hours of therapy work with individuals, groups, and families. The program has been approved by the American Art Therapy Association.
Notre Dame De Namur University: MS in Clinical Psychology, Marriage and Family Therapist
This 60-credit concentration has students taking courses in psychopathology; child and adolescent psychopathology and psychotherapy; neurophysiology and psychopharmacology; lifespan development; human sexuality; professional ethics and law; cross-cultural issues; diagnosis and treatment of addictions; clinical assessment and treatment; psychodynamic psychotherapy; cognitive behavioral therapy; group psychotherapy; couples psychotherapy; family systems; research; and positive psychology and mindfulness. Students also take a practicum and case seminar. Students who finish the program are academically qualified for MFT licensure in California, and they are also prepared for doctoral work.
Palo Alto University: M.A. in Counseling with a Marriage, Family, and Child Emphasis
Palo Alto’s counseling program is fully accredited by CACREP, which means the emphasis on marriage, family, and children is also accredited. Students can choose between online and on-campus learning formats for most courses. Science and professionalism are key principles in this program, and students train in research and hands-on clinical practice through coursework and fieldwork. Over a nine to 12-month internship, students earn a minimum of 700 hours in counseling-related experiences with a minimum of 280 hours in direct contact with clients in agencies and clinical placements in the community.
Southern California Seminary: MA in Marriage and Family Therapy
This 72-unit program is on-campus with online options. Sixty-three of these credits are graduate-level courses on MFT theories, techniques, and skills application while another nine credits are biblical foundation courses. Graduation further depends on the agreement of six Behavioral Health faculty, who judge students’ readiness and suitability for entrance into the MFT profession based on clinical competency and moral integrity.
University of La Verne: MS in Marriage and Family Therapy
ULV’s on-campus MFT program is based on the Recovery Model, which holds that every individual is capable of healing. The program is 61 credits and can be completed in three or four and a half years, depending on full-time or part-time enrollment options.
University of Southern California: MS in Marriage and Family Therapy
This on-campus option is 60 credits and takes 24 months full-time to complete or 48 months part-time. The curriculum is based on research-supported interventions, cultural sensitivity and social justice, and therapy skills, which are practiced in the fieldwork portion of the program.
For a complete list of Master’s in Psychology programs in California, click here.
Accredited MFT Programs in California
A program with accreditation is one which has been examined by an accrediting agency to make sure it meets a minimum set of standards. Generally, those standards are decided in whole or in part by the state requirements for educational training. There are two well-known accrediting agencies that examine marital and family therapy programs. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs is the accrediting body that examines programs related to clinical mental health counseling, including marital and family counseling programs. The Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) is another well-known agency that examines MFT programs exclusively. Programs accredited by either of these two agencies are assumed to meet standards for licensure, but programs that are not accredited can also qualify as long as they meet minimum requirements set by the state.
Alliant International University – Irvine: MA in Marital and Family Therapy
Alliant International offers MFT programs in multiple locations, including Irvine, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, and online. Each program provides the same coursework and training, with classes in areas like parent-child therapy, couples therapy, MFT theories and techniques, and sex therapy, among other courses. Practicum training includes 600 to 1,300 hours of hands-on clinical work, with at least 300 hours of direct client contact and 100 supervision hours. The exact hours depend on the student and what the requirements for licensure are in the state where students plan to apply for a license. This program is COAMFTE-accredited.
California State University – Northridge: MS in Marriage and Family Therapy
This program takes around two-and-a-half to three years to complete the 64 to 67 units of coursework. Coursework is on-campus except for some classes which have hybrid options. Students are put into cohorts, which is a small group of students who complete coursework and move through the program together. While this COAMFTE-accredited program is not designed for students working full-time, the workload is meant to accommodate a 10 to 30-hour part-time job. In the program’s second year, students enter a clinical practicum in which they will work gaining practical experience as a therapist working with clients for 15 to 25 hours per week. Students can expect to earn 200 to 250 hours of clinical experience.
Chapman University: MA in Marriage and Family Therapy
Chapman’s COAMFTE-accredited program takes two-and-a-half to three years to complete and has 60 credits worth of coursework. During the program, students complete a clinical internship on-campus for one year at the school’s MFT training clinic, Frances Smith Center for Individual and Family Therapy. Its new clinic was opened in 2011 and includes eight observation rooms. Each of these rooms is equipped with cameras for recording, which can be used for instruction on students’ performance during live sessions. This MFT program is one of only two in California which is part of the International Marriage and Family Therapy Honor Society chapter Delta Kappa.
Chicago School of Professional Psychology: MA in Marriage, Couples, and Family Therapy
This Los Angeles MFT program is accredited by COAMFTE. It takes two to three years to complete and includes coursework in couples therapy, theory, and technique; family therapy diversity; and community recovery, trauma, and crisis counseling, among others. During the hands-on internship portion of the program, students complete 500 client contact hours in field placement sites. When the field portion is complete, students will do a Clinical Competency Evaluation which consists of a clinical case report, recording, and transcripts of the session. Students must present the case to the class and instructor.
Hope International University: MA in Marriage and Family Therapy
This program, accredited by the COAMFTE, offers 60 credits worth of coursework in theory, practice, and research, all from a Christian worldview. Students are also required to complete a supervised practicum in community placements. Courses are offered in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings and last from eight to sixteen weeks. It can be completed in two to three years. Students also get practical experience in the on-site counseling center, Hope Counseling Center. This center offers counseling to local community members as well as school faculty, staff, and students.
Loma Linda University: MS in Marital and Family Therapy
Loma Linda’s MFT program is offered both online and on campus. The online program offers the same coursework but with lectures and projects done both asynchronously and synchronously. The online program takes 2.5 years to complete full-time or 3.5 years part-time. The on-campus program takes two to three years to complete. Students complete internships across the Loma Linda University Health system or in the local community. Students do not need to submit GRE scores for admission. With a Christian-centered approach to counseling, students learn foundational principles, theories, and techniques in classes and translate that learning into the real world in their internship field work with clients.
National University: MA in Marriage and Family Therapy
National University’s MFT program takes place mostly online. Accredited by the COAMFTE, the program also says it has no residency or group work requirements, and it takes 45 to 60 credits and 33 months to complete. Students do have to complete a supervised, in-person practicum in a community setting where they work with real clients. Students have the option to specialize in Couples and Family Therapy, Couples Therapy, LGBTQ Couples and Family, Military Family Therapy, Systemic Treatment of Addictions, Child and Adolescent Family Therapy, General Family Therapy, Medical Family Therapy, Trauma Informed Systemic Therapy, and Systemic Sex Therapy.
San Diego State University: MS in Marriage and Family Counseling
This full-time program accredited by COAMFTE takes 2.5 years to complete and operates under the cohort model. Students complete the program with the same group of students to encourage collaboration. Students earn required clinical training hours through community placements, practicums, and traineeships, as well as through early training in the Center for Community Counseling and Engagement. GRE scores are not required for admission.
Touro University Worldwide: Online Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy
Students in the online, COAMFTE-accredited MFT program at Touro University Worldwide will complete 54 to 82 credits during their time in the program, depending on which track they choose. Students can pick from three tracks, including the Clinical Track, Non-Clinical Track, and Licensed Professional Clinical Counseling Track. Both the Clinical Track and LPCC Track require students to complete 300 practicum hours and at least 100 supervision hours. At least 100 practicum hours should be completed in session with couples and families. Students will also need to conduct 50 practicum raw data live, video, or audio hours. No more than 25 hours can consist of only audio recordings.
University of San Diego: MA in Marital and Family Counseling
Students of this COAMFTE-accredited MFT program can complete coursework in two years if done on a full-time basis. During this time, students can earn up to 1,000 of their required 3,000 practicum hours for licensure as an MFT in California. Students have the option to specialize in family-based care; integrated behavioral health; culture, diversity, and global mental health; training and education; couples therapy; and interpersonal neurobiology. The 12-month clinical practicum is completed in community clinics, which students may choose based on pre-approved locations which are listed by the program. Students do not need to submit GRE scores to be considered for admission.
California State University Sacramento: MS in Marriage, Couples, and Family Counseling
CalState Sacramento’s CACREP-accredited counseling program has an MFT concentration which takes three years and 60 credits to complete full-time. Coursework is taught in conjunction with 100 hours of clinical practicum and 600 hours of field experience. Students go through the curriculum with a set cohort, or group of students. This same group goes through the whole program together in this cohort model. Students’ practicum training is on-campus, and the field study is an off-campus placement in the community. Students have other opportunities to get involved and are encouraged to do so through participation in professional organizations, research, presentations, CSUS Multicultural Conference involvement, or Counselor Education Student Counseling Society involvement, among other experiences.
California State University Fresno: MS in Marriage, Couples, and Child Counseling
CalState Fresno is CACREP-accredited and holds a strong focus and philosophy in training students who are sensitive to the cultural and ethnic diversity of the region in their clinical practice. The program is 60 units long and takes at least five semesters to complete. Students earn their internship hours in the on-campus Fresno Family Counseling Center. The Center is equipped with technology which allows students and faculty to view live and pre-recorded sessions done by other students and professionals as a way to further real-world learning.
San Francisco State University: MS in Counseling with a Concentration in Marriage, Couples, and Family
San Francisco State University is a CACREP-accredited program with 60 credits worth of classes for students to attend. What makes this program unique is the network of community agencies with which the school collaborates to ensure students are placed in clinical settings for their fieldwork experiences. With connections to 150 different community agencies, schools, colleges, and universities, students will have no shortage of options for where they can earn their required fieldwork hours. In classes, students can expect to learn about human development, theoretical framework, generic counseling, socio-cultural factors, career development, assessment, evaluation, research, professional development, and personal growth factors.
No GRE Required MFT Programs in California
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a standardized test taken by college graduates who wish to continue their education into graduate school. It assesses student readiness for continued education, and traditionally schools have required students to earn a minimum score and submit those scores along with their application to be considered for admission. However, in recent years, many schools have temporarily waived GRE score requirements, and others have removed the requirement completely. Here are MFT programs that do not require GRE scores with the admissions application.
Biola University: MA in Marriage and Family Therapy
This program from Biola prioritizes cultural sensitivity, therapist identity, and counseling through a Christian lens. Students are trained in many areas, including crisis intervention and trauma response, theory and process of group counseling, law, ethics, professional issues, child and adolescent therapy in family contexts, and clinical issues in human diversity. Using the cohort model, students go through their classes with the same core group. However, students complete the year-long internship independently with supervision from faculty and mental health professionals at their placement site. The program is 67 credits and takes three years to complete. This program does not require GRE scores for admission.
California Lutheran University: MS in Counseling Psychology (MFT)
Students of California Lutheran’s Counseling Psychology MFT program can complete required 60 units of coursework in two to three years, depending on whether they are full-time or part-time. The program is offered in Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village, and Oxnard, and students can complete their one-year clinical training experiences in one of the university’s on-site Community Counseling Center program locations. The centers are low-cost community counseling clinics. Students can choose to specialize in a specific area of counseling, including psychological trauma, attachment theory, recovery model, Latino/a counseling, or family mediation. GRE scores are recommended but not required for admission.
Cambridge College: ME in Marriage and Family Therapy
This 60-credit Master of Education program from Cambridge College prepares students for work with individuals, families, groups, and organizational and community consultation. Coursework prepares students in areas such as human development, dysfunctional behavior, mental illness, assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and family systems theories and techniques. Students complete 51 credits in coursework and 9 credits in fieldwork in which they must obtain 150 hours of experience working with clients and an additional 75 hours of client-centered advocacy or face-to-face experience working with families, couples, or groups. The program does not require the GRE for admission.
Dominican University: MA in Marriage and Family Therapy
Students of Domincan’s 63-unit program can complete the program in three years full-time, though students can choose to work part-time as well. Students in the program have access to workshops and continuing education for alumni; practicum training with supervisors from the Advisory Council of Agency Supervisors; a network of art therapy alumni; small classes; individual faculty advising; annual art shows with work from students, alumni, and faculty; and the option to join the Graduate Art Therapy Student Art Therapy Association. Students qualify for licensure as an MFT and as a Registered Art Therapist (ATR). The GRE is not required for admission.
Pacific Oaks College: Master’s Degree in Marriage & Family Therapy
Students of the Pacific Oaks MFT program graduate from the college with a degree that meets the academic requirements for licensure as an MFT in California. Students can choose to specialize in one of four areas, including African American family studies, Latinx family studies, LGBTQIA+ studies, and trauma studies. The program is 60 credits worth of coursework and takes between two and a half years full-time and four years part-time to complete. Students earn their required 225 hours of fieldwork experience in clinical agencies in Los Angeles, Pasadena, and other parts of California. No GRE scores are required to apply.
California State University Dominguez Hills: MS in Marital and Family Therapy
CalState Dominguez Hills takes two and a half to three years to complete and includes a practicum worth 300 hours of client contact. The program has 63 units of coursework, and classes are primarily offered in the evening to accommodate working students. The GRE is required for many students who apply for this program, but those with at least a 3.5 GPA or a previously obtained master’s degree do not need to send GRE scores for admission.
St. Mary’s College of California: MA in Counseling, Specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy/Professional Clinical Counselor
St. Mary’s Specialization in MFT can be completed in two and a half, three, three and a half, or four years, depending on enrollment type. Students take 40 units of core coursework that are part of the MA in Counseling and then an additional 28 credits specific to their specialization in MFT. The practicum experience is also a part of these credit requirements. Students are placed in practicum locations within the community and are expected to work with individuals, groups, families, and couples. No GRE scores are required to apply.
Fresno Pacific University: MA in Marriage and Family Therapy
This program is offered on Fresno’s main campus and has some online classes. Coursework trains students in clinical assessment, human development, cross-cultural counseling and discipleship, and other subjects taught from a Christian worldview. Students have the opportunity to gain fieldwork experience in diverse populations, and multicultural opportunities through study abroad in Israel or the Hispanic Summer Program. The program is 65 units of coursework. The student capstone year includes the practicum, advanced family studies, and thesis completion. No GRE is required for admission.
Accelerated California MFT Programs
An accelerated MFT program is one which takes less time to complete. MFT programs generally take between 45 and 60 credits to complete, which usually takes between two and three years. Accelerated programs can be completed more quickly, often within 12 months. This can be accomplished by taking more credits at once or completing courses year-round without long breaks. Another way to attend an accelerated program is by completing a dual degree program, which allows students to earn multiple graduate degrees or a master’s and a doctorate in a shorter amount of time. Most MFT programs in California are two and a half to three years in length, so programs that are two years in length are quicker options, though not necessarily accelerated. Currently, the majority of MFT programs in California do not offer 12-month programs, but a number of programs have options to make the program only two years long.
Fuller Theological Seminar: MS in Marriage and Family Therapy
Fuller’s MFT program is grounded in Christian principles and is offered on both a full-time basis, which takes two years to complete, or a combination of a part-time and full-time, three-year program. While not explicitly an accelerated program, the two-year program is quicker than many similar programs, which often take two and a half or three years. A select number of students are able to have faculty-led practicum experience in which direct supervision is given by licensed faculty with a focus on a specific therapy model. The cohort model allows students to complete the program with the same group of students in hopes of fostering collaboration.
Mount St. Mary’s University: MS in Counseling Psychology (MFT Specialization)
The counseling graduate program at Mount St. Mary’s offers three specializations: General Counseling Psychology, Marriage and Family Therapy, or Marriage and Family Therapy with an ¡Enlaces! Certificate. Regardless of which is chosen, the program is designed to be flexible and meet student’s needs. Those who need more flexibility for work or other responsibilities may choose the weeknight format, which takes three years to complete but allows students to take classes at night. The fall and Spring semesters are sixteen weeks long, and the summer sessions are eight weeks. The daytime enrollment option, on the other hand, is quicker because it is done on a full-time basis and takes two years to complete. During this time, students complete a year of fieldwork in which students work for 15 to 20 hours a week at a placement site.
Pepperdine University: MA in Clinical Psychology (MFT Emphasis)
Pepperdine’s MFT emphasis program can be taken in the day format, the evening format, or the online format. The evening format takes two to three years to complete and between 60 and 66 credits. The day format takes two years to complete and 62 credits. The online program takes 27 months to complete. Students take part in supervised clinical practicums at one of the at least 130 site partnerships which the university has made with local agencies and clinics. With choices for length and delivery, this program is one to consider for those hoping to complete their MFT academic training as quickly as possible.
Phillips Education Center of Campbellsville University: Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy
Students of Phillips Education Center of Campbellsville University’s MFT program can choose to enter the program full-time or part-time. Full-time students can complete the 60 credits worth of courses in two years. The Clinical Placement Office is dedicated to placing students with community mental health agencies and clinics for practicum experience. Students complete 375 hours of practicum.
University of Massachusets Global: MA in Marriage and Family Therapy and Professional Clinical Counseling
U-Mass Global offers a dual degree program that gives students the unique opportunity to earn both their MFT degree and clinical counseling degree. Students can finish the program faster by transferring up to 12-semester credits. Classes are 100 percent online, and students will be academically qualified for licensure as both an MFT and LPCC. Students take a practicum as well as foundational courses in both general clinical counseling and MFT counseling for a total of 69 credits.
Affordable California MFT Programs
Generally, for a graduate degree to be considered affordable, tuition should cost around $10,000 a year or less. This may seem impossible, considering that most public graduate school programs start at $12,000 a year in tuition, and that is at the lower end. However, there are programs that make keeping costs low a priority, and others offer student aid and scholarships at a higher rate to increase students’ ability to earn their degrees.
California State University Los Angeles: MS in School-Based Family Counseling
This program’s focus on school-based family counseling trains students to be competent in counseling multicultural communities. Students who go through the program will not only qualify for MFT licensure, but they will also earn their Pupil Personnel Services Credential (PPS) and Advanced Authorization in Child Welfare and Attendance (CWA). Students of this in-person program focus on foundational coursework in their first year and then have fieldwork experience in the second year. There is additional coursework for the extra credentials and for finishing fieldwork requirements. Four semesters of full-time work, one summer semester with two classes, and two semesters of fieldwork in the third year make up the overall map of the program. The total cost for the program’s tuition is $24,380, which comes out to less than $10,000 a year, with the four semesters costing $4,200 per semester, the two summer classes costing $990 each, and the final year of fieldwork costing $5,600.
Daybreak University: MA in Marriage and Family Therapy
While not accredited by CACREP or COAMFTE, Daybreak’s MFT program says it satisfies all requirements for licensure in California for licensure. Students complete 90 credits, including a practicum. In the practicum, students earn 300 hours of client contact as well as 100 hours of supervision and an additional 50 hours of observable data gathering (such as video or audio recordings or live observations). Students can earn hours in the on-campus Couples and Family Therapy Center. The program can be completed in between two and a half to five years, depending on how the student chooses to spread out their coursework. This program costs $300 per credit, which is half the per-credit cost of many graduate schools. Because there are 90 credits required in this program, the total tuition cost is still $27,000, but because students are in control of how many courses they take in a year, there are many options for students in terms of how much they are spending per year. Furthermore, even with more credits than most programs, the cost per year is still just above $10,000 per year if students take the quickest completion option, putting this program in the affordable category.
University of Phoenix: MS in Counseling/Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy
For optimum flexibility, students may want to consider the University of Phoenix’s MS in Counseling/MFCT program, which has students take courses one at a time. Because students are encouraged to make a schedule that fits their life, the school prioritizes keeping fixed tuition that does not change for the individual student even if they take longer to finish their degree. Each unit is $698, but since students take courses one at a time over a long period of time, it is possible to make a schedule that accommodates paying over time.
Institute for Social Research: MS in Psychology, Marriage and Family Therapy
This program is approved by the State of California’s Board of Behavioral Sciences, and its coursework and practicum requirements satisfy academic requirements for California licensure as both an MFT and an LPCC. Made up of 67 units, the program can take between two and three years to complete full-time and up to six years part-time. This program is among California’s most affordable, with yearly tuition costing about $8,400 per academic year.
A similar program under the umbrella of mental health would be an online MSW program, with a few options available in California.
Western Seminary: MA in Counseling: Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling Specialization
Western Seminary’s Master’s in Counseling with MFT specializations is 71 credits worth of biblically centered coursework which examines the most recent and research-backed MFT techniques and theories. Students put their learning into action while gathering a minimum of 280 hours in direct client contact in the fieldwork portion of the program. The school attempts to make tuition approachable, and the website states that most of its students pay out of pocket using scholarships or monthly payment plans. Their flexible scheduling and payment plans make the $642 per unit cost more accessible to students.