Students traveling along Trousdale Parkway
As a clinical training program, the curriculum follows a fixed course sequence, with students moving through the program as a cohort. First year coursework includes rigorous videotaped clinical practice in a classroom setting before students are placed in a real-world practice setting to ensure readiness for work with clients. Students also complete a full year of clinical practice in the field before they graduate.

The MFT program is designed to meet the requirements of the Business and Professions Code (BPC) Section 4980.36 established by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. The program has been accredited by Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) since 1951.


The program includes specific research- and practice-based courses that help students to apply state-of-the-art research to innovative practice.

Component Purposes
Research Methods and Data Analysis for Counselors
Allows students to critically analyze the strengths and weaknesses, as well as the applicability, of research in their field.
The Master’s Seminar
Is an advanced research course in which students identify a problem of practice in their fieldwork and use the literature to develop an understanding of that problem in larger contexts, as well as an intervention/program to address that problem within the urban setting.
The Counseling Process Is an interpersonal process course, in which students learn basic skills in effective communication and interviewing, so that they can develop an understanding of their clients’ needs.
Field Experience
Is the program’s advanced practice course, in which students receive supervision for their practice of marriage and family therapy in the field.

California’s Marriage and Family Therapy license

Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) are mental health professionals trained in psychotherapy from a family systems perspective. MFTs diagnose and treat issues that impede the healthy functioning and growth of adults, children, couples, and families. A licensed MFT has distinct training, duties, and responsibilities, which differ from those of a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), licensed psychologist (PhD or PsyD), or board certified psychiatrist (MD). Applicants should educate themselves about the different mental health professional training models before applying to the Rossier MFT program.

California’s MFT licensing requirements reflect high standards of preparation and are among the most stringent in the country for similar licensure. California requirements will meet most of the requirements for a similar license in many other states. However, each state has different regulations and demands; you must ascertain the requirements of a particular state to determine how closely the California MFT preparation will satisfy their requirements.

Licensure Requirements

In addition to completing course requirements, students must also fulfill the following requirements to be eligible for MFT licensure:

  • 3,000 hours of supervised clinical work (1,700 of which must be conducted after completion of the degree)
  • Passage of both the state written exam (multiple choice) and written clinical vignette exam coordinated by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences.

Optional: Pupil Personnel School Counseling Services Credential

Students can expand their professional opportunities for school counseling positions by completing the requirements to be recommended for a Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) School Counseling credential. The requirements for the PPS credential include the completion of 20 additional units through the School Counseling Post-Master’s Certificate program.

Master of Marriage and Family Therapy vs. Master of Social Work

USC Rossier often gets questions about the differences between the Master of Marriage and Family Therapy and Master of Social Work programs. The chart below highlights the key distinctions. Our Recruiting and Admission staff are also available to help you determine which program is right for you.

Program MFT MSW
Focus Impact of relationships on mental health and wellness Social services, community resources, and case management as a path to mental health
Training Individual and relationship model of mental health (couples, family, and child therapy models) Macro model of mental health
Career Objective Counselors in clinics, healthcare centers, schools, and private practice Counselors in clinics, healthcare centers, schools, and private practice

Expectations for Students

The MFT program requires students to participate in discussions and write about how the concepts taught in program courses apply to their own lives, including such areas as family history and functioning, personal and relationship challenges, counter-transference issues, and views on sexuality. Students are also expected to participate in therapy-like practice sessions where they may reveal personal information about themselves for training purposes. All efforts are made to keep this information confidential, except in the cases of threat of harm to self or others and protecting children or elders from abuse. Students always have the right to determine what information, and how much, they share in these exercises.

MFT students are required to maintain a high level of professional behavior at all times that reflects respect and support for their colleagues, faculty, and staff, whether on campus or at a field site. Professional behavior includes, but is not limited to: punctuality, preparedness, attentiveness, courtesy, submitting best work, taking responsibility for one’s own learning process, integrity, and ethical behavior. Disruptive behaviors, such as side conversations, texting, social networking, emailing, or chatting during class or meetings are not demonstrative of being present and giving one’s full attention, which is required of an MFT. Students should prepare themselves for a qualitatively higher level of commitment and participation at the graduate level.