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M.A. MFT Program: Specialization in African American Family Studies

Location: Pasadena

Students in the M.A. Marriage and Family Therapy: African American Family Studies specialization program will not only gain knowledge of principles and issues to work with clients from a variety of backgrounds, but also develop a deep understanding of the needs of the African American community in addition to other communities.

2½ years full-time
62 credits needed for completion
This program prepares graduates to sit for the California MFT exam

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M.A. Marriage and Family Therapy: African American Family Studies Specialization

The M.A. Marriage and Family Therapy: African American Family Studies Specialization degree program explores mental health theory and practice from a deep culture-centered perspective, preparing students to become professionals who use a culturally relevant approach to therapy.

The African American Family Studies specialization was developed to specifically address the lack of mental health service providers equipped to respond to the unique emotional needs of ethnic minorities—African Americans in particular. Students will learn how to advocate for the improvement of, and access to, effective mental health care for African American communities.

This program is offered in a “cohort” model, providing a culturally transformational educational experience. Students start the program at the same time and, except for students who take a break in their studies, continue with their fellow cohort members throughout their educational journey. Together, faculty and students create a learning community that challenges both the personal and professional development of all participants. Students in this marriage and family therapy program also receive intensive supervised field experience that can help prepare them to move directly into the workforce as a Marriage and Family Therapy Associate after graduation.

Other Marriage and Family Therapy Specializations

Students pursuing an MFT degree with a specialization in African American Family Studies may choose to add a secondary specialization in Trauma Studies. Those interested in this additional specialization must submit a request to their academic adviser prior to the completion of their second semester.


The master’s in MFT satisfies 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).

Pacific Oaks’ Marriage and Family Therapy degree programs prepare graduates to sit for the California MFT exam and to earn a Marriage and Family Therapist License awarded by the California BBS.

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 requires 280 face-to-face hours of clinical training before graduation and 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 Courses

Advocacy in the African-American Community

This course will explore the current health status of African Americans, and in particular examines the impact of the mental health systems and their policies, practices, and structures. The role of mental health professionals in advocacy with health systems in the black community will be discussed.

African-American Families, Historical Trauma and Recovery

This MFT course will address emotional and physical wounds associated with historical trauma, including slavery, segregation, racism, social stratification, current inequities, and experiences of violence, as they relate to the African-American family and community. The course will explore emerging theories of historical trauma and will also address issues of access and culturally appropriate resources as well as interventions and treatment from multigenerational, community, and strengths-based perspectives.

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
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