How to: Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy Program

February 7, 2022

by Greg Henson, CEO, Kairos University and President, Sioux Falls Seminary; Janet Stauffer, Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy at Evangelical Seminary; Robb Palmer, Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy at Evangelical Seminary; Jennifer Ransil, Lecturer in Marriage and Family Therapy at Evangelical Seminary; and Joy Corby, Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy at Evangelical Seminary


For the past several weeks, we have been talking about the various programs available within the Kairos community. Today is our last article in that series, and we will be looking at the Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy (MAMFT) program. As with the Doctor of Theology, this program is offered by Evangelical Seminary, a legacy partner within Kairos University.

As we have in the other articles about the other various programs, we will reflect on what students enroll, what the journey entails, and how the program has served students.

The Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy provided by Evangelical Seminary is currently designed to train students toward professional licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT). Due to its robust design and its accreditation by the Commission on Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), students can pursue licensure in 40 states in the United States and in several provinces within Canada. In addition to the opportunity to seek licensure, let’s take a look at some of the other reasons people choose to enroll.

Why Do People Enroll in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program?

When prospective students are interested in the MAMFT program, they are often seeking a place where they can integrate their faith and the practice of psychotherapy. In many cases, students have had a time in their lives when a therapist has served them well, and they are now sensing a desire to serve others in the same way. Choosing to pursue a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy often comes from a felt need to engage not only in a degree program but in a relationally-based, enriching, and dynamic journey. They see this program as an opportunity to be formed in the likeness of Christ as a community of people who are learning how to walk with others and not as a series of hoops to jump through. While there is a great need for therapists in the world right now, and the MAMFT program provides a viable path toward a lifetime career, those who consider the program within our community are drawn toward the rich meaning behind integrative and relationally-based therapy. Such therapy is not just about “me and my career.” Rather students are aware of the fact that engaging in the work of marriage and family therapy has great meaning because healing between persons has a ripple effect across other relationships beyond those in the therapy room. Healing between persons in the here and now builds a foundation for trustworthy relating for future relationships and generations.

In addition to the relational and Christ-centered nature of the program, several students find their way to this program because of its recognized quality. As a program accredited by COAMFTE, the Marriage and Family Therapy program has met a series of rigorous standards to ensure students are professionally prepared for clinical work. They not only learn the required theoretical knowledge but also apply it in therapy centers where they have the opportunity to engage with, learn from, and be supervised by professionals in the field.

The Aspects of the Journey

A student’s journey through the MAMFT program is perhaps best understood by looking at three phases within the program: program entry, honing skills and understanding, and developing proficiency.

Program Entry
As students begin the program, they participate in a few introductory learning experiences that expose them to the various processes and systems that support the program (e.g., what software they will be using) and begin to build foundational understandings of the field (e.g., basic theories, introduction to the profession, etc.), one’s faith (e.g., what it means to be a follower of Jesus engaged in the work of therapy), and oneself (e.g., who I am as a person and what impact this has on my work in the field).

Honing Skills and Understanding
After students successfully complete the first phase, they begin to move, step-by-step, through learning experiences that help them dive deeper into various content areas relative to the field and the practice of therapy. In addition, they begin to practice the work of therapy through practicum experiences. They meet with clients and then reflect on those engagements with supervisors and peers.

Developing Proficiency
In the final phase, students develop and demonstrate proficiency by integrating content (i.e., cognitive awareness), character (i.e., who they are as therapists), and craft (i.e., the practice of therapy). This process includes participating in advanced learning experiences, continuing practicum hours of therapeutic engagement with clients, doing an “oral presentation” of a clinical case, and a capstone course. Throughout this practicum/internship phase, student interns are evaluated and assessed by professors, supervisors, and peers in order to continue to develop their skills, enhance their understanding of the field, recognize God’s presence in the work, and appreciate their gifts, calling, and personhood (something we call the “self of the therapist”). In the oral presentation, using state-of-the-art video recording clips, each student intern presents a case wherein they use specific forms that explain: how they conceptualize the case, what is the diagnosis, and the treatment plan, as well as outline the theory and processes they used in therapeutically guiding a family or couple toward relational healing. Peers and faculty celebrate their growth as emerging therapists and identify areas for continued development.

Having read about the three phases, you might be wondering how students make progress within the program. That’s a great question. In addition to the assessment that is happening within each learning and/or supervision experience (e.g., feedback from supervisors, professors, and/or peers), students engage in periodic and holistic assessment throughout the program. These holistic evaluations serve as opportunities for students and professors to take stock of how the student is experiencing the program, what they are learning, where they need to grow, and what next steps to take.

How Has The Program Served Students?

Rick’s Story
Working as a pastor in the past and a counselor for children and youth, I have come to understand that we are never alone in our struggles and never alone in our overcoming. With this program, affordable and reachable came together for the perfect timing. A true God moment for someone in rural South Dakota with a passion for families. I appreciate the extensiveness of the training, the personal touch of expert professors, and the materials suggested.

Diana’s Story
I was looking for an MFT program that could provide quality training through a biblical lens. Kairos’ values aligned with mine, and I believed it would best prepare me to be the kind of therapist I hope to be. I love the classroom size and the opportunity to get to know classmates on a deeper level. The professors foster a safe environment to be curious, challenge your beliefs, and learn the true heart of therapy.

Sarah’s Story
I have a good friend who is currently working on her Master of Divinity, and she was the first one to tell me about Kairos. After exploring many options, I chose the MAMFT program because it’s Christ-centered, convenient for a working parent going back to school, and has an incredibly affordable price. I have appreciated the professors being so personable and professional. I’ve learned so much. I have been stretched and grown, and I’m absolutely loving it!

Brielle’s Story
I am a registered nurse and throughout the past couple of years it became clear to me that I was often interacting with patients who were dealing with psychosocial, systemic challenges. Because of the lack of resources for these patients, I started looking for a professional route that would allow me to be a catalyst for systemic change. I landed on the MAMFT program as it invites therapists to work with systemic change rather than an individualized focus. My faith was pivotal in my own healing journey, so I desired a program that would take into account this part of the therapeutic process. I have appreciated the professors’ professional experiences, spiritual awareness, and systems-based worldview – all of which are interwoven into class.

Caelwen’s Story
I fought the calling to pursue this vocational path for many years, for a variety of reasons. Then during a personally challenging time, I felt a very clear call that it was time for me to share whatever strengths I have been given with those outside my family.

This particular program appealed to me because I have felt so sustained by my relationship with God, especially during the darkest times in my life. I wanted to be allowed to bring my whole self to the learning and becoming process. I appreciate the genuine care of the professors for the field itself and for the students – it is clear they want us to be well prepared to help people. It is a rigorous program, and I believe I am getting an excellent education — while also being allowed to consider some of life’s most important questions.

Carmen’s Story
There are many things that I appreciate about my experience in the MAMFT program. First of all, I appreciate the integration of spirituality and psychology. I am studying biblical theology and marriage and family theories. I also appreciate how the program has encouraged my own personal growth. Class assignments and internship supervision encouraged me to reflect on my life experiences and how they impact who I am as a therapist. I am thankful for all I have learned about myself during my marriage and family therapy studies; I have been shaped as a person as well as a future therapist.

all stories