M.A. Program Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

Community Mental Health (3 units)

The evidence that recovery from serious mental illness is not only possible but probable, along with the increasing influence of the consumer and family voice in the planning, evaluation, and provision of mental health services is having a profound impact on the public mental health system. This class provides an overview of the public mental health system and gives students the opportunity to understand both mental illness and mental health services from the perspective of the consumer and the family. Students will be introduced to the Recovery Model and other research supported and promising practices currently used in community mental health. The class will provide students with concrete skills in collaborative assessment and treatment planning, case management, client advocacy, and accessing community resources. The relationship of cultural identity, socioeconomic status, and stigma to mental health, access to resources, and treatment will be discussed as well as ethical and legal considerations in community mental health settings.

Research Based Practice (3 units)

The goal of this course is to enable students to become informed consumers of psychological research and to use current research knowledge and tools to improve treatment outcomes. The course provides a basic understanding of research methods and statistical analysis used in the mental health field and reviews seminal research findings including research on specific treatments and common factors across treatments that improve therapy outcome. It also provides students with assessment tools for evaluating mental health programs and the effectiveness of one's own clinical practice.

Counseling Theories and Techniques (3 units)

Theories provide a coherent framework for understanding how people change in therapy. This course covers the concepts and techniques associated with the primary theories of counseling psychology: psychodynamic, existential-humanistic, cognitive-behavioral, and post-modern. Also included are the evidence-based treatments and outcome research associated with each theory. Throughout, careful attention is paid to the historical and cultural context in which the theories were developed and the implications for working with diverse populations in recovery-oriented community mental health settings.

Common Therapeutic Factors (1.5 units)

What works in therapy? Research demonstrates there are common factors or ingredients shared by all counseling theories that make therapy more or less successful. This course reviews the research on common factors and provides students with evidence-based core competencies for counseling individuals, couples, and families. Particular attention is paid to the development of students' relational skills, personal qualities, and characteristics that research shows are likely to increase the chance of a positive therapeutic outcome. Students will participate in class role-plays to develop culturally sensitive techniques for building trusting, collaborative, hope-inspiring relationships with clients.

Individual and Family Development (3 units)

This course covers lifespan and cultural identity development, the family lifecycle, and the biological, cognitive, emotional, and social milestones of childhood and adolescence. The course prepares students to differentiate between normal and abnormal development and to appreciate situational and environmental factors that affect physical and mental health. The course addresses the developmental impact of personal and social insecurity, social stress, low education levels, inadequate housing, and malnutrition. The psychological effects of major family lifecycle transitions such as marriage, divorce, childbirth, childrearing, and step-parenting and their implications for therapy are discussed. Students will learn to conceptualize problems from a developmental perspective and determine developmentally appropriate intervention strategies. Throughout the course, students will be asked to reflect on their own stage of growth along individual, cultural, and family lifecycle trajectories, and to consider the impact of their own developmental stages on the therapeutic process.

Diagnosis and Empirically Supported Treatments (3 units)

Most mental health settings require providers to use the DSM to make diagnoses. This course prepares students to develop a culturally sensitive framework for diagnosing mental disorders, and using diagnosis to inform treatment. Established diagnostic criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders are reviewed within the context of an historical understanding of the development of the DSM and current research on the reliability and validity of the major diagnostic categories. Students will become familiar with structured interview instruments and techniques for increasing diagnostic reliability, and they will learn about current, research supported treatments for the major disorders. Projected changes to the DSM will be discussed as well as the ongoing controversy regarding categorical versus dimensional systems of classification.

Clinical Assessment and Measures (3 units)

Standardized assessment instruments are a fundamental part of a clinician's toolbox. This course covers the use of psychological tests within the mental health field and the practice of marriage and family therapy and professional clinical counseling. Students will become familiar with MFT and PCC assessment tools such as self-report inventories; child, couple, and family functioning instruments; and measures of client progress and therapist effectiveness. Tests commonly used by psychologists -- intelligence, personality, and neuropsychological tests - are also reviewed. Students will learn when to refer to other professionals for testing and how to formulate clinically useful referral questions. The administration, interpretation, and effective communication of findings from standard MFT and PCC measures will be discussed. Thoughtful consideration will be given to the social, cultural, and ethical factors related to assessment and the use of standardized tests within the context of the Recovery Model and community mental health.

Child and Adolescent Counseling (1.5 units)

Approximately one-fifth of clients seen in therapy are children (Duffy, 2006). Integrating and expanding on the child and adolescent portion of Individual and Family Development, this course uses a developmental perspective to inform evidence-based practice with children and adolescents. Students will learn developmentally appropriate assessment, treatment planning, and intervention strategies for infants, toddlers, school-aged children, and adolescents. Guidelines are included for collateral work with family members, teachers, alternate caregivers, and extended networks of care. Special attention is paid to the role of MFTs and PCCs in systems of care available to children in community mental health settings such as residential treatment facilities, group homes, juvenile detention centers, and foster care. Special topics include risk and protective factors, and ethical issues such as informed consent, mandated reporting, and the treatment of minors without caregiver consent.

Family Therapy I: Traditional Models (3 units)

This course introduces the major traditional schools of family therapy to provide a theoretical and practical foundation for counseling families. The traditional models covered include Cybernetics, Family Systems Theory, Bowenian, Strategic, Structural, and Experiential theories. Also included are the evidence-based treatments and outcome research associated with each theory. Students will learn techniques for engaging families in therapy, conducting first sessions, assessing family functioning, developing treatment plans, and providing ongoing treatment. Throughout, careful attention is paid to the historical and cultural context in which the theories were developed and the implications for working with diverse populations in recovery-oriented community mental health settings.

Multicultural Awareness and Sensitivity (3 units)

This course seeks to expand students' understanding of how diversity issues such as ability, class, gender, race/ethnicity, and sexual orientation inform effective mental health care. The goal is to increase awareness of multiple dimensions of diversity in order to prepare students to work sensitively and effectively with California's multi-cultural population. The impact of power, privilege, and oppression on mental health and the therapeutic process will be addressed as well as the counselor's role in promoting social justice, advocating for diverse populations, and eliminating biases, prejudices, and processes of intentional and unintentional oppression and discrimination. Throughout, effective strategies for communicating about emotionally charged material is emphasized.

Family Therapy II: Postmodern Models (3 units)

This course provides advanced training in the theories and techniques of modern and post-modern schools of family therapy including Cognitive Behavioral, Behavioral, Solution-Focused, and Narrative Therapy. Also included are the evidence-based treatments and outcome research associated with each theory. Specific family issues addressed include: transition to parenthood, parenting young and school-age children, household division of labor, and blended families. Throughout, careful attention is paid to the historical and cultural context in which the theories were developed and the implications for working with diverse populations in recovery-oriented community mental health settings.

Family Violence and Protection (1.5 units)

One in four Americans is directly affected by family violence (Melton, 2002). The focus of this course is on understanding abuse - emotional, physical, sexual, neglect - within a cultural context and applying this awareness to the prevention, detection, and treatment of child, partner, and elder abuse. The course addresses legal and ethical issues related to abuse, including reporting laws, and educates students about crisis management strategies and community resources.

Addictions Counseling (3 units)

Substance use disorders are the most frequent co-occurring disorders among mental health populations, but research demonstrates that prevention and treatment are effective, and people can recover from substance abuse disorders (SAMHSA, 2008). This course covers the prevention, assessment, and treatment of substance abuse/dependence, behavioral addictions, and co-occurring disorders. Theories of etiology, populations at risk, and the role of persons and systems in supporting or compounding abuse/addiction are discussed. The course reviews the cognitive, affective, behavioral, and neurological effects of psychoactive drug use and the impact of addiction on the family system. Best practices for the screening, assessment, and treatment of addictions and co-occurring disorders are covered as well as community resources for individuals and family members. Students will learn principles and techniques for the integrated treatment of dual diagnosis including Functional Analysis, Stages of Change, and Motivational Interviewing. Legal and ethical issues and controversies as well as cultural considerations will be integrated throughout the course.

Group Counseling (3 units)

This course introduces students to the theory and practice of group counseling with children, adults, families, and couples. The course focuses on basic group counseling theory including therapeutic group factors, stages of group development, and principles of commonly accepted and research-based group interventions. The course will cover different types of groups, such as support, psycho-educational, and process groups; the tasks, skills, and qualities of effective group leaders; roles of group members; and legal and ethical issues pertaining to groups. Throughout, there is an emphasis on group work within community mental health settings.

Sexual Development and Health (1.5 units)

This course prepares students to work effectively to promote clients' sexual health and satisfaction. It provides an overview of sexual development, identity, behavior, disorders, and research supported interventions. The biological, psychological, and socio-cultural aspects of sexuality are explored in relation to their implications for treatment. Controversies around diagnoses and alternative sexual and gender identity expressions are explored.

Law and Professional Ethics (3 units)

This course familiarizes students with the ethical aspirations, professional standards, and enforceable laws that regulate the conduct of Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Clinical Counselors. Topics include: scope of practice, licensing law and process, privilege, confidentiality, and danger to self or others. Students will learn to identify ethical dilemmas in dynamic, unpredictable clinical situations and to apply models of ethical decision-making to situations where the code is vague, contradictory, or silent. Guidelines for seeking and documenting clinical consultation regarding ethical issues are discussed. Additionally, ethical dilemmas relevant to emerging trends in the field are addressed, such as the increasing use of digital and social media and the growing recognition and visibility of consumers as mental health providers. Throughout, students will be encouraged to develop their professional identity through their commitment to the protection of the rights and welfare of mental health consumers and the advocacy processes necessary to address the institutional and social barriers impeding consumers' access, equity, and success.

Couples Counseling (1.5 units)

This course prepares students to work successfully with couples: to develop skills in couples' assessment, treatment planning, and intervention. In addition to examining and applying the research on common factors related to effectiveness in couples counseling, the theories and techniques of the Gottman Method and Emotion Focused Therapy will be covered. Throughout, the course will emphasize the research base and relevance of each model for culturally diverse couples including LGBTQQI couples.

Crisis, Disaster, & Trauma Counseling (3 units)

Whether through a discreet, personal experience or a large-scale natural disaster, every life is touched by trauma. This course covers crisis and trauma theory with an emphasis on strengths-based and resiliency oriented approaches to recovery from personal trauma and large-scale disasters. The course stresses the importance of a multidisciplinary response and includes research-supported assessment and intervention strategies for addressing the cognitive, affective, behavioral, and neurological symptoms and sequelae associated with trauma, emergency, or disaster. Additional topics include: grief and loss, suicide/homicide, violence in the schools and in the workplace, post traumatic stress disorder, complex trauma, vicarious trauma, and compassion fatigue.

Aging and Long Term Care (1.5 units)

As the U.S. population ages, mental health professionals need to learn how to work collaboratively and effectively with older adults and their families. This course provides an overview of the biological, psychological, and socio-cultural aspects of the aging process and the common mental health challenges faced by older adults. Long-term care, end of life, and grief are discussed, as well as the changing roles of family members and the need for caregiver support. Students will explore personal and cultural attitudes toward aging and how these attitudes impact mental health and treatment. The course emphasizes a collaborative, recovery-oriented care model of assessment and treatment that helps students identify and support predictors of resiliency and healthy aging.

Psychopharmacology & the Biological Bases of Behavior (3 units)

This course provides a basic overview of neurobiology in order to understand the biological bases of behavior and the psychopharmacological treatment of mental disorders. The course includes information about commonly prescribed psychiatric medications for children and adults - indications, contraindications, mechanisms of action, side effects, drug-drug interactions, and variability related to age, gender, ethnicity, and medical condition. Students will learn how to work cooperatively and effectively with clients, family members, and prescribing clinicians. Additionally, controversies related to the medical model and to specific prescribing practices will be explored.

MFT Professional Development Seminar (3 units)

This year long, small-group seminar supports students during their supervised clinical training. Supervised clinical training, also known as a practicum, gives students the opportunity to apply knowledge and skills acquired through academic coursework to real-life counseling experiences with diverse populations. The Professional Development Seminar offers students a place to reflect on both their academic and concurrent practicum experience, and to consolidate their professional identities as culturally sensitive mental health clinicians. The course responds to students' evolving learning needs while providing advanced training in MFT assessment, treatment planning, and intervention. Other topics covered include: documentation of services, making use of supervision, preparing for internship, and developing a career plan. Throughout, students are encouraged to develop a practice that focuses on resiliency, recovery, and social justice.