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M.A. MFT Program: Specialization in LGBTQIA+ Studies

two men and child
Location: Pasadena

By exploring the complexities of the LGBTQIA+ identity, clinicians in this MFT degree specialization are better suited to provide affirmative therapy to all communities, which actively promotes self-acceptance of identity as a key part of well-being.

61 credits required for completion
2½ years full-time
This program prepares graduates to sit for the California MFT exam.

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Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy: LGBTQIA+ Studies Specialization

This unique marriage and family therapy degree specialization offers curriculum informed by the strengths and experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community. The LGBTQIA+ Studies Specialization guides future practitioners in developing the awareness, knowledge, and skills necessary to work effectively in clinical settings with LGBTQIA+ individuals and families in addition to other communities.

Graduates who earn their M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy with an LGBTQIA+ Studies Specialization will be uniquely positioned to provide comprehensive and culturally appropriate mental health services at any mental health agency.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness people in the LGBTQIA+ community with mental illnesses often face a perceived double stigma and can benefit from trained, LGBTQ-inclusive therapists who are capable of providing comprehensive treatment and family support.

This specialization seeks to prepare competent professionals through emphasizing a cultural, developmental, and relational framework in marriage and family therapy while also focusing on the diverse mental health needs of LGBTQIA+ individuals, children, and families. Additionally, particular interest is concentrated on the psychological impact of culture, history, heteronormativity, trauma, and intersectionality on the LGBTQIA+ community.

Finally, the Pacific Oaks College educational experience of this MFT program specialization’s cohort model is culturally transformational; it is an intensely dynamic, intellectually relevant process. Together, faculty and students create a learning community that uniquely challenges both the personal and professional development of all participants.

Other Marriage and Family Therapy Specializations

Students pursuing an MFT degree with a specialization in LGBTQIA+ Studies may choose to add a secondary specialization in Trauma Studies. Those interested in this additional specialization must submit a request to their Academic Advisor prior to the completion of their second semester.

MFT Licensure

Students in the Pacific Oaks MFT degree programs satisfy all of the requirements of SB 33 and the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) (Business and Professions Code Sections 4980.36c, d e 4980.39, 4980.40, and 4980.41).

The MFT programs prepare graduates to sit for the California MFT exam to earn a Marriage and Family Therapist License awarded by the California Board of Behavioral Science.

Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor Specialization

Students wishing to qualify additionally for licensure as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) in the state of California may do so via selection of the LPCC Specialization, which includes the following courses, totaling 5 credits:

  • MFT 670 Career Development Theories and Techniques (3 credits)
  • MFT 681 Advanced Topics in Addictions Counseling (1 credit)
  • MFT 683 Advanced Topics in Psychopharmacology (1 credit)

MFT Fieldwork Requirements

Students must complete 225 hours of the pre-graduate portion of the 3,000 supervised hours required for the California MFT licensing exam to qualify for graduation. Most students secure clinical training placements within community agencies in California in the Los Angeles and Pasadena areas.

Sample MFT, LGBTQIA+ Studies Specialization Courses


LGBTQIA+ History and Historical Trauma

In this course, we will examine the historical emergence and construction of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender identities and beyond, beginning with indigenous identities in the pre-colonized world, moving into the 19th and 20th century in the United States and abroad. This course will explore historical trauma and its definitions and origins. Historical trauma, poly-victimization, intergenerational trauma, post-traumatic stress symptoms, and cultural violence will be studied in relation to mental health practice and community well-being. This course will study the impact of conquest, colonization, and genocide on oppressed cultural populations and will expose students to practices aimed at mediating the psycho-emotional impact of historical trauma.

LGBTQIA+ Family Systems

This course is an integration of selected clinical issues, clinical practice, and research in understanding the mental health issues experienced by diverse LGBTQIA+ families. Central to this course is the development of a cultural lens in family work and the understanding of diverse family structures amongst the various LGBTQIA+ communities and their impact on family well-being and mental health. This course will explore issues facing LGBTQIA+ families and the social structures and systems in which they operate. Discussions will center on minority stress, LGBTQIA+ children in heterosexual households, the impact of rejection and acceptance on health and well-being, LGBTQIA+ children in systems of care, marriage equality and mental health, and LGBTQIA+ parents and their children, with attention to cultural, political, gender, racial, and economic dimensions of LGBTQIA+ families.

LGBTQIA+ Psychology

This course will focus on discussions surrounding sexuality and gender diversity and how these issues and ideas intersect with current psychological literature and practice. Students will study the history of psychology, stigma and discrimination in mental health, identity development, protective factors, and resilience. Treatment modalities and best practices will be explored throughout, as students critically examine how these factors shape the lived experiences of LGBTQIA+ people, as well the intersectionality of other identities such as race, religion, and age.

LGBTQIA+ Community Resources and Advocacy

This course will address the traditional structures and current practices of institutions that influence and impact mental health services and well-being in the LGBTQIA+ community. Understanding the historical significance of marginalization of the LGBTQIA+ community in relation to institutional socio-cultural blindness will be evaluated. Particular emphasis is on social justice, advocacy theory, and developing practice skills needed to become change agents in LGBTQIA+ communities.

Admission Requirements

  • Demonstrated commitment to the mission and values of Pacific Oaks College
  • Completed Application for Admission
  • Application Fee
  • Bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution
  • Resume
  • Personal statement
  • Official transcripts from all institutions attended
  • Two letters of recommendation; one must be from a current or previous supervisor
  • Interview
  • Essay for specialization

Graduation requirements

Students are required to submit the Petition for Degree Completion and fee to the Office of the Registrar the semester before they anticipate completing their degree requirements. Students must submit the application, settle all outstanding fees with the Student Finance Office, satisfy any deficiencies, and be in good standing in their program for the degree to be awarded.

Note: A cumulative GPA of 2.0 is required for graduation.

Field Education requirements

All students in Marriage and Family Therapy programs are to complete 225 hours of supervised trainee time at a mental health agency that has been approved by Pacific Oaks.

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