M.A. Program Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

Addictions Counseling (3 units)

Over 20 million U.S. residents who are 12 and older have a substance use disorder. 9.8 million U.S. residents who are 18 and older have a co-occurring mental health disorder (National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, 2022).This course covers the prevention, assessment, and treatment of substance abuse and dependence, behavioral addictions, and co-occurring disorders. Theories of etiology, protective and compounding factors, and populations at increased risk are discussed. The course reviews the cognitive, affective, behavioral, neurological, and social effects of psychoactive drug use and the impact of addictive behaviors on the family system. Best practices for the screening, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of addictive behaviors and co-occurring disorders are covered as well as community resources for individuals, and their friends and family members. Legal and ethical issues and socio-cultural considerations are integrated throughout the course.

National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics. (2022, June 18). Substance abuse and addiction statistics [2022]. NCDAS. Retrieved September 20, 2022, from https://drugabusestatistics.org/

Aging and Long Term Care (1.5 units)

As the U.S. population ages, mental health professionals are presented with increasing opportunities 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, strength-based model of assessment and treatment, and helps students identify and support predictors of resiliency and healthy aging. This course meets the requirement of CA BPC § 4980.39 for ten hours of coursework in aging and long-term care.

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.

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.

Common Therapeutic Factors (1.5 units)

There are common ingredients that underlie all counseling theories that predict positive outcomes for therapy. This course reviews the research on common therapeutic factors, including the clinical relationship and client expectations, and provides students with core competencies for counseling individuals, intimate partners, 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 a variety of class roleplays to practice building trusting, collaborative, hope-inspiring relationships with clients.

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.

Counseling Theories and Techniques (3 units)

Theories provide a coherent framework for mental health clinicians’ understanding of the therapeutic process. When mental health clinicians and agencies reflect upon and mentalize theories in their work with clients, therapeutic effectiveness is improved and clinician burnout rates are reduced (Alderson, 1998; Morey, 2022). Additionally, mental health clinicians need to be able to practice from a variety of evidence-based theories to best meet the needs of their clients. 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.

Alderson P. (1998). The importance of theories in health care. BMJ, 317, 1007. doi:10.1136/bmj.317.7164.1007
Morey, C. M. (2022). Co-constructing a conceptual understanding of system enactment. Clinical Social Work Journal, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10615-021-00829-5

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 the experience is individual or global, 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 trauma informed care guidelines and research-supported assessment and intervention strategies for addressing the cognitive, affective, behavioral, and neurological symptoms associated with trauma, emergency, or disaster. Additional topics include grief and loss, suicide, homicide, post traumatic stress disorder, complex trauma, racial trauma, vicarious trauma, and compassion fatigue. Throughout, an emphasis is placed on the differential impact of crises and trauma on underserved and oppressed communities. This course satisfies the CA BPC § 4980.396 and § 4999.66 requirements for six hours of coursework in suicide risk assessment and intervention.

Diagnosis and Empirically Supported Treatments (3 units)

Evaluating mental health symptoms and formulating a DSM-5 TR and/or ICD-11 diagnosis to guide treatment is a valuable skill for all mental health clinicians, regardless of clinical setting. This course prepares students to develop a culturally-responsive biopsychosocial framework for diagnosing mental disorders, and and using diagnosis to inform treatment. Diagnostic criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the International Classification of Diseases are reviewed within the context of an historical and socio-political understanding of the development of the reference manuals' diagnostic criteria. Students will learn about current, research-supported treatments for the major disorders. Future changes to the DSM and ICD will be discussed as well as strengths and weaknesses of categorical and dimensional systems of classification.

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, including Cybernetics, Family System, 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. 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 is explored throughout the course.

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)

In America, 14% of children experience child abuse or neglect (Centers for Disease Control, 2019). Among American adults, approximately 25% of women and 10% of men (trans and non-binary populations were not surveyed) are victims of intimate partner violence (Centers for Disease Control, 2019). Older adults who live at home in America experience abuse (including neglect and exploitation) at the rate of about 10% (Centers for Disease Control, 2019). The focus of this course is to understand abuse--emotional, physical, sexual, neglect--within a larger cultural and intergenerational context and apply this understanding to the prevention, detection, and treatment of child, partner, and elder abuse. The course also provides applications of trauma-informed principles that support the reduction of re-traumatization for survivors, enhances and strengthens the therapeutic relationship, and attends to managing secondary trauma typically found in therapists and providers supporting traumatized populations. The course addresses legal and ethical issues related to violence and abuse, including reporting laws, and educates students about crisis case management strategies and community resources. This course fulfills the CA BCP § 4999.33 requirement for seven hours of instruction in child abuse assessment and reporting.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, September 28). Violence prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved March 4, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention

Group Counseling (3 units)

This course introduces students to the theory and practice of group counseling with children, adolescents, and adults. The course focuses on foundational 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. Students will demonstrate their understanding of group theory and interventions by demonstrating techniques to engage group members and facilitate and deepen group process. Throughout, there is an emphasis on inclusive practices for members from marginalized populations and diverse social locations. Group practice in community mental health settings is also highlighted.

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 throughout an individual’s life. The course prepares students to differentiate between typical and divergent development, and to appreciate cultural, 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 and implications for therapy of major family lifecycle transitions such as marriage, divorce, childbirth, childrearing, and step-parenting in varied cultural models 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 identity and stage of growth along individual, cultural, and family lifecycle trajectories, and to consider the impact of their own developmental stages on the therapeutic process.

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, therapist-client privilege, confidentiality, telehealth, 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, ethics relevant to emerging trends in the field are addressed, such as the increasing use of social media and the increasing visibility of people with lived experience of mental health challenges as mental health providers. Throughout, students will be encouraged to develop their professional identity, explore their commitment to the protection of the rights and welfare of those who receive mental health services, and commit to the advocacy necessary to address the institutional and social barriers impeding access, equity, and success within mental health treatment. This course fulfills the CA AB 1759 and BCP § 4980.35 requirement for three hours of instruction in the delivery of mental health via telehealth.

MFT Professional Development Seminar (3 units)

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

Multicultural Awareness and Sensitivity (3 units)

This course seeks to expand students’ understanding of how varied social locations such as ability, class, gender, race/ethnicity, and sexual orientation inform effective mental health care. The goal is to increase awareness of multiple and intersectional 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 and oppressed populations, and eliminating biases, prejudices, and processes of intentional and unintentional oppression and discrimination. Throughout, strategies for communicating effectively and sensitively about emotionally-charged material is emphasized.

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.

Research Based Practice (3 units)

This course enables 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 analyses used in the mental health field and reviews seminal research findings including research on specific treatments and common factors that improve therapeutic outcomes. It also provides students with assessment tools for evaluating mental health programs and the effectiveness of one’s own clinical practice. Throughout, there is an emphasis on the importance of research for advancing the profession of mental health counseling.

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.