Iowa State MFT program closing; Saint Louis U. may do the same

While some family therapy graduate programs fight to survive, others open or expand.

Abandoned 4The Iowa State Daily is reporting on the pending closure of the university’s marriage and family therapy program and associated clinic. While there are only four students remaining in the program, the Daily reports that the clinic continues to serve a beneficial role in the community, as one of very few low-cost service providers in mental health.

Meanwhile, the Saint Louis Beacon is reporting that Saint Louis University’s COAMFTE-accredited MFT PhD program could stop accepting new students as early as next year, with plans to close completely in 2015. A document the newspaper described as a “draft memo” circulated to a faculty retreat outlined the proposed changes, which would also include the shuttering of several other programs. The university responded to the newspaper by saying the recommendations were preliminary, and faculty would have the opportunity to respond to them before final decisions are made by the university’s board of trustees. Last week, the Beacon reported that the trustees took no immediate action, which could leave the door open for the targeted programs to survive.

If both MFT programs do ultimately close (and the Iowa State closing appears certain, while Saint Louis is more in the air), they would join a small but significant list of MFT program closures in recent years. Although accreditation in MFT is growing, with more than 100 programs around the country now COAMFTE accredited (hey Californians, COAMFTE accreditation matters), even these programs are sometimes threatened with closure. Last year, the University of Nevada Las Vegas threatened to close its MFT program, though the program survived after a reorganization.

Saint Louis and Iowa State would make at least the third and fourth closures of COAMFTE-accredited MFT graduate programs in recent years. Syracuse and Purdue both shuttered their MFT doctoral programs, though both continue to have strong masters degree programs. In addition, the MS in Clinical Psychology program at San Jose State University, which was not COAMFTE-accredited but had been producing graduates headed for MFT licensure, is on at least a two-year hiatus. According to its web site, the program will reopen as an LPCC program if it reopens at all.

It would be a mistake, though, to presume that means that opportunities for high-quality education in MFT are decreasing. As I mentioned above, COAMFTE accreditation is growing, and as some programs close, others open or expand. Alliant International University (where I teach) will be expanding its COAMFTE-accredited PsyD program in Couple and Family Therapy to my beautiful new hometown of Los Angeles this fall.

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