The price of professional accreditation

Shopify Partners / Burst / Used under licenseThe California School of Professional Psychology was the country’s first free-standing professional school of psychology. It was one once known for radically transforming the training mental health professionals. And at the 2013 Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in Anaheim, its founding President said the school made a major mistake by choosing to pursue APA accreditation for its Clinical Psychology programs.

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Online MFT programs

Are you interested in getting your marriage and family therapy degree through an online program? Here are five MFT programs that are mostly or fully online.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Computer and screenOnline education holds the promise of extending the reach of marriage and family therapy training. Champions of these programs argue that they make advanced education available to those who otherwise might not have access to it, due to scheduling, geographic, or other barriers. It is possible that the growth of online MFT programs will particularly help bring cultural diversity and rural practitioners into our community of licensees.

Of course, there are also general concerns about online education, including dropout rates, profit motives (as many online schools are for-profit), and overall effectiveness.

In the MFT field, online education seems to be an especially challenging proposition: We need to train practitioners in the art and science of relating, face-to-face, in a way that will heal clients and their family relationships. That is a skill set, and one that would seem to require a fair amount of face-to-face interaction to be best developed, shaped, and observed.

Online graduate programs in MFT are experimenting with a number of creative ways to resolve this dilemma — and also keep themselves eligible for COAMFTE accreditation. COAMFTE has tried to walk a difficult middle ground in its educational standards, saying that MFT programs can employ some distance education but not be fully online; since “fully” means “fully,” it would seem a program could get around the letter of this requirement simply by requiring a one-hour meeting on campus at some point during the educational process. But many of the online MFT programs appear to be genuinely interested in maximizing the potential benefits of online education alongside a recognition of the need for in-person work to develop relational skills. As such, many have integrated in-person events and coursework into their online curricula.

Below you will find a list of five MFT programs that are mostly or fully online. Some things to know about all of these programs: 1, As of early December 2012, none of them have yet earned COAMFTE accreditation. (Here’s why COAMFTE accreditation matters to you.) That is only one consideration in choosing the right MFT program, but it is worth considering. [Update 2013: Northcentral is now COAMFTE-accredited.] 2, The information here is drawn from the universities’ web sites. Information can change quickly. 3, Any cost statements do not include books, supplies, living expenses, or the cost of travel or lodging for any required in-person events. 4, It is always the responsibility of the student to ensure their academic program will meet the requirements for licensure in the state where they wish to be licensed; check with your state’s licensing board before choosing a program and remain up-to-date as state requirements change. 5, States typically require hours of supervised experience in a clinic setting as part of the graduate degree; the schools also have this requirement, and offer varying levels of assistance in locating placements. 6, And of course, requirements and costs can change quickly; the information here is as of December 2012, and you should check with the schools for current information.

  • Touro University Worldwide is based in Woodland Hills, CA and has been rapidly growing their Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy program. Part of this is due to cost; at $500 per unit, Touro’s program is less expensive than some of their competitors. Their 60-semester-unit program is delivered in eight-week terms (six of them per year). This program is fully online.

  • Northcentral University is widely considered a pioneer in online MFT education. Members of their faculty have spoken at past AAMFT Annual Conferences about their efforts to comply with COAMFTE standards [Update 2013: Northcentral is now COAMFTE-accredited]; it looks to me like they do so by utilizing site supervisors as co-instructors with university mentors for the practicum courses, which would then be considered in-person instruction. The Northcentral MA in MFT program is a 45-semester-unit program that can be bumped to 48 or 60 units for those living in states requiring more units for licensure. They also offer a PhD in MFT that requires an additional 72 semester units.

  • Capella University offers a Master of Science degree in Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy. They have quickly grown this program to national prominence and notably earned CACREP accreditation. To their credit, they list cost information plainly and prominently on their site: Their 92-quarter-unit degree, at $458 per credit, will run about $40,000 in total tuition. The program requires two six-day colloquia in to accompany the online instruction. Like many online schools, Capella is for-profit, which may or may not matter to you. (I’ll do a separate post in the next few months on non-profit versus for-profit schools.)

  • Liberty University promises an affordable online MFT masters degree with a Christian perspective. They advertise themselves as the nation’s largest private, nonprofit online university. Their MFT program requires four one-week intensives to accompany the online instruction. Unfortunately, the information on their web site is surprisingly thin — I could not locate a program plan (curriculum) or specific cost information anywhere on their site.

  • Cal Southern University offers a Marriage and Family Therapy concentration within its Master of Arts in Psychology program. This 63-semester-unit program is entirely online.

There are other online programs out there as well, I’m sure. Feel free to share info on them in the comments, and I’ll update this post every once in a while with more recent additions.

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Your comments are welcomed; you can email me at ben[at]bencaldwell[dot]com, post a comment below, or find me on Twitter @bcmft. I regret that I cannot answer every comment personally, but I do chime in on the comments when I can!