Features Spring 2017

Healing Families: OBU’s Marriage and Family Therapy

OBU’s Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy prepares the next generation to reach the world through the healing power of therapy.

Transforming lives –  a key component of OBU’s mission – is powerfully demonstrated by graduates of the University’s marriage and family therapy program as they apply their skills to bring God’s healing to families, couples and individuals.

What is MFT?

No family is perfect and many marriages and families have underlying issues that contribute to frequent problems and arguments. The job of the marriage and family therapist (MFT) is to identify those contributing factors and work with the family to resolve them. The MFT listens to the family and individuals and assists in identifying where certain problems may lie.

The MFT can offer guidance and assistance to family members to help them work through their issues. This process can help bring families together, encourage effective communication methods and help families work together to establish meaningful support systems.

MFTs are trained to provide a systems-oriented treatment approach to work with mental, emotional, behavioral and interpersonal issues. A therapist may work with couples and families together, or with individuals to address mental health concerns, improve relationships, positively affect the family dynamic and improve communication between loved ones.

“The MFT degree equips you with knowledge and hands-on experience to prepare you for licensure as an MFT and clinical practice,” said Dr. Tara Signs, marriage and family therapy clinic director at OBU. “Because of this extensive training, MFTs can be successful in diverse settings, including community and government agencies, hospitals, religious settings, residential/inpatient and outpatient facilities, and private practices.”

Growing Demand

More than 6.1 million people annually are seen by MFTs, according to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT). Recognizing the growing need for MFTs, and after seeing a steady growth in demand since the
program was established in its current form in 2013, OBU is expanding its course offerings. In addition to classes in Shawnee, the University will begin offering classes in Broken Arrow this fall and in Oklahoma City in January 2018.

“I’m excited that OBU will be expanding its contribution to improving the quality of mental health care in Oklahoma,” said Dr. Canaan Crane, director of OBU’s MFT program. “Offering classes for the MFT program in Oklahoma City and Broken Arrow will afford opportunities for more people who want to consider a degree in marriage and family therapy from OBU.”

A degree in marriage and family therapy is similar to a counseling degree, but with more specialized training in working within a relational context. The curriculum teaches students how to work with individuals and families to address mental health and relationship concerns.

“We train and equip students to solve problems within marriages and families, as opposed to solely within individuals,” said Dr. Jonathan Wilson, OBU MFT professor.

Career Options

Career options are diverse for MFTs. They may work in a government office, for the military, or at a nonprofit or for-profit agency offering counseling and social services to families, seniors and youth. MFTs may also work for substance abuse or mental health centers, providing counseling to people struggling with addiction or serious mental health issues. With a degree in marriage and family therapy, graduates may also find work in education, from elementary schools to colleges and universities. According to the AAMFT, 25 percent of MFTs work in faith-based settings, such as churches or other ministries.

Hospitals also employ a growing number of MFTs, recognizing that physical health is strongly linked to a patient’s environment and mental health. Some of these therapists may be referred to as medical family therapists, working with families through challenges such as a terminal illness or a life-altering diagnosis. OBU has the only MFT program in Oklahoma also offering a certificate in medical family therapy.

Uniqueness of MFT

The field’s growing prominence is partially due to its family-centered approach and demonstrated effectiveness.

“Most counseling takes an individual route, however, in MFT, while we may work with individuals, we always think relationally,” Crane said.

The field of marriage and family therapy is geared toward treating people on more than an individual level, taking into account factors such as family, society, employment and environment, as well as the patient’s emotional, physiological and psychological systems. This approach is an important puzzle piece as a holistic approach to problems, not just treating the symptoms.

“We look at enacting systemic change. You get much better and longer lasting results,” Crane added.

Program Details

The MFT program at OBU equips graduates to practice marriage and family therapy from a Christian perspective. Students frequently discuss how faith may be connected with a career in marriage and family therapy.

“Our classes have regular discussions about how faith is important in both our lives and in our clients’ lives,” Crane said. “We strive to equip our students to understand a biblical worldview and we hope that our students will provide excellent services to clients that incorporate a holistic perspective.”

All courses are taught from an MFT perspective, providing systems-oriented training for excellent preparation to work with families and couples. Students may complete the MFT program in two, three or four years, with class schedules designed to fit the needs of working adults. Students will complete 45 total credit hours, meeting the requirements for licensure as a marriage and family therapist in the state of Oklahoma.

OBU faculty have clinical experience as practicing therapists and teaching experience in MFT programs, giving students a high quality academic experience, resulting in strong licensure pass rates. The faculty are not only experienced in the field, but also are AAMFT approved supervisors and licensed MFTs.

Options are available for OBU undergraduate students to participate in the integrated MFT program, earning up to 12 hours toward their master’s degrees while still in undergraduate studies.

Visit the MFT Website for more information.