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What is the difference between couples & family therapy and social work?

Generally speaking, there are many similarities between couples and family therapy (CFT) and social work (SW). In Oregon and virtually all states in the U.S., both degrees lead toward a professional license, the ability to provide clinical services in private practice, and the ability to provide clinical services in health care and social service settings. Both disciplines emphasize the importance of understanding individuals in their social context; family therapy’s theoretical roots are in systems theory while social work tends to emphasize an ecological-systems theoretical perspective. Both disciplines give careful attention to diversity, social justice and change.

There are also important differences to weigh as you consider your career path. CFT heavily emphasizes individual, couples and family therapy clinical services, while SW places great emphasis on social systems, social change, social advocacy, and policy. For example, the University of Oregon Couples and Family Therapy program requires extensive live and videotaped direct client contact under the supervision of an AAMFT Approved Supervisor at the program’s Center for Family Therapy. Additional clinical experience is gained at an off-campus, community-based location at a setting of your interest. Individual and group supervision occur on a weekly basis across a 12-month period and include training in assessment, diagnosis, treatment planning and collaboration with other health care providers. CFT students at the University of Oregon participate in applied coursework in content areas such as alcohol and drug assessment and intervention, human sexuality and sex therapy, couples therapy, violence and recovery, child assessment and intervention, medical family therapy, and empirically validated therapies. All courses in our curriculum are designed to provide core knowledge and activities toward the development of talented clinicians who are able to work effectively with a wide variety of client populations. Our training heavily emphasizes preparation for real world clinical practice realities. While SW programs give attention to these issues, the proportion of preparation for clinical practice is generally much higher in CFT programs. In addition, faculty and supervisor participation in students’ clinical training, including direct observation of your work as a developing clinician, is much higher in nationally-accredited CFT programs than in nationally-accredited SW programs.

Both disciplines offer interesting and exciting career opportunities. It is largely a matter of being as clear as you can be about what kind of career you would like to have. A careful review of the overall training program at schools of your interest – what the program offers and what the experience will be like as a student – is a very useful way to know whether the program, and the discipline by extension, is a good fit for you. Nationally accredited programs offer some assurance that rigorous, high quality and standardized training requirements are being met.

Please be aware that our comments here are general; programs do vary around the country. We urge you to visit the websites of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and the National Association of Social Workers for more information. There are some additional legislative differences between the disciplines, though this varies considerably by state and country. We encourage you to investigate these differences in states and countries of your interest.

As someone with significant experience in the mental health field, what core advantages does the CFT degree hold over an MSW?

The two degrees should not have to compete with each other, and it really depends on what you want to do. A social work degree may provide broader options, but the clinical training provided with a CFT degree is much better and more focused. As with any job in human services, there is a case coordination, management component; social work training programs are much better at teaching these skills, and we are improving in that area.

The UO CFT program is known all over the country for how we train clinicians to be competent, culturally sensitive and responsive, and systemic thinkers & agents for change. It is an extremely demanding program both academically and emotionally, and the end product is that our graduates feel trained at a superior level to many of their colleagues in job settings. 

What is the difference between a couples and family therapist and a professional counselor?

Answers below provided by two alumni who obtained both licenses:

• An LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist who treats individuals, couples and families with a focus on relational, and systemic approaches to therapy. An LPC is a licensed professional counselor, who provides counseling services to individuals, groups, and organizations in the areas of personal-social concerns, educational programs, and career decisions. LMFTs receive more specialized training in relational therapy while LPCs have specific training in career and educational counseling. In the State of Oregon, both LMFTs and LPCs are licensed to treat and diagnose mental health conditions, though the licensing requirements for LMFTs are somewhat more stringent.

• This is a tough question. I can offer you my personal reasons and understandings of the differences.

1. LPCs and LMFTs have really different historical backgrounds. Counseling has its origins in guidance counseling while family therapy is an offspring of psychology. There are also differences in their scopes of practice. LMFTs have a broader scope of practice available to them upon graduating because they have been trained in couples and family work. LPCs would require additional training to be qualified to do couples and family work.

2. LMFT work is grounded in a systemic, interpersonal perspective. I have a long background of studying Jungian techniques and self-growth work and I feel more comfortable having both licenses behind my work. For me, having both gives me more flexibility in my scope of practice. But to be perfectly honest, I don't think having both is at all necessary. I think I could do everything that I do and be justified in doing it with the LMFT alone. But I do like not having to worry about whether or not my scope of practice always fits within the parameters of relational counseling.



Do you offer on-line courses?

No. The program does not offer any on-line or distance-learning classes. All coursework is completed in residence at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

Is this program accredited with AAMFT?

Since March 2003, the UO Couples and Family Therapy program has been nationally accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). This means that our courses meet the licensure requirements for any state in the US. Keep in mind that post-graduation contact hours required for licensure vary from state to state.

What is the age of your students?

Students come from all walks of life. In the past, they have ranged from the age of 21 to 58 and have various backgrounds. In recent years, approximately 50% of students enrolled directly from their undergraduate training, while 50% are returning a few or many years post-degree.

How diverse are the student cohorts?

The CFT student body is 84% female, 32% identify as students of color, 5% are international, and the average age is 29 (range of 21-58). Many of the students have had international experience, both before and while in the program. 

Can I attend the program on a part-time basis?

Yes. The Couples and Family Therapy program is a rigorous and time-intensive 7-8 quarter-term commitment, and class times are during the day, usually 9-12 and 1-4. Most students enroll full time and complete the program in 2 years, but there is the option of completing the program in 3-4 years. Part-time students work with their adviser to create a program progression that is designed to fit their personal needs.

Does the CFT program have a thesis or oral exams?

The CFT program is an intensive clinical program. Students are not required complete a formal thesis, but both a written exam and oral case presentation are required for completion of the program. We require proficiency and knowledge of theory and practice of CFT before students begin their practicum. A comprehensive exam is given early in the spring term (April) of the first year, for advancement to the practicum/clinical component of the program. At the end of the second year (May), a Formal Client Presentation is prepared by students to demonstrate their skill and expertise as a therapist in working with clients. A research-based master's thesis track has been added for interested students. If you have an interest in research, there are many program-related opportunities and you may now choose to complete a thesis as part of your research experience. Theses will conform to the graduate school requirements and be evaluated according to those standards ( Students completing a thesis will submit a much shorter version of a Formal Client Presentation than non-research track students.

Are there research opportunities?

The program heavily emphasizes clinical practice. However, there are currently two research courses (and work in progress on adding more), and there are many faculty research studies occurring at any given time. Students with research interests frequently get involved with these projects. You can read more about the faculty research interests on the CFT Faculty page. We have also added a research and thesis track, beginning Fall 2016. Students involved in the research track will have the option to complete a thesis and will engage in additional research focused coursework. This option seeks to connect students seeking meaningful research options in the field fo CFT with projects and advisors that align with their future educational and career goals. For more information about the new research option in CFT, please contact



Can I take classes if I am not in the program?

CFT Graduate courses are available only to students in the program and some doctoral students. However, if you're interested in taking an introductory course to learn more about the field, CFT 410/510 Intro to Couples & Family Therapy is offered every winter and CFT 410/510 Healthy Relationships course is offered every spring term. There are additional courses offered by the department every term and open to anyone interested in taking them.

Are there required courses or pre-requisites that I must complete before entering the program?

No. The program curriculum is carefully designed to provide you with all the coursework you need, even though students are entering with different levels of experience. Applicants do not need to have a background in psychology in order to be eligible for admission.

What can I do to increase my chance of getting accepted?

Volunteer at a center that provides services relevant to the field. Not only will you gain invaluable experience, but you'll have another good source for a recommendation letter. A good place to start looking for volunteer opportunities is United Way of Lane County.

Do you offer conditional acceptance to the program?

No. All applicants must apply and proceed through the standard admissions process.

Can I be accepted into the program in winter or spring terms?

No. Admission to the program is for Fall term only. All newly admitted students begin the following Fall term; we use a cohort model and there are no "rolling admissions."

Do I have to finish my undergraduate degree before I can apply to the program?

You do not have to have graduated to apply, but both the CFT program and the Graduate School require that you complete your undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university before you are allowed to matriculate in fall. See the Graduate School website for admission requirements.

If I am already a student at the University of Oregon, do I still need to send official transcripts?

No. If you completed, or will complete, your degree at the University of Oregon, you do not need to send your UO transcripts.

Can I apply to the CFT master's program, the CPSY doctoral program, and the PREV master's program?

Yes, but recognize they are three very separate programs with different goals. They are in the same department (Counseling Psychology & Human Services), and students from all three programs take some classes together, but the programs function individually. If you apply to multiple programs, you need to create a different application log-in for each application, and complete each on-line application. You only need to send GRE scores to one program, and one set of transcripts to Admissions, and the materials will be transferred into a file for the other program(s). Be sure to email the Academic Program Coordinator and make it known that you're applying to multiple programs in the department. Note: Do not open multiple applications accounts at the same time. Doing so causes complicated technical problems. You only need to pay the $50 application fee once. Contact the Graduate School if you have questions about the fee.

If you are applying to additional programs at the University of Oregon outside of the department of Counseling Psychology & Human Services, you need to complete the applications specific to those programs, and supplemental materials (GRE, Transcripts, etc.) cannot be shared so you will need to provide those as well.

Can the application fee be waived?

We understand that applying to graduate school is expensive. The Graduate School offers application fee waivers for qualified candidates, such as:

*McNair Scholars, Peace Corps participants, veterans, etc.
*Applying to multiple programs within the same academic year (after paying fee once)
*Reapplying within the same academic year, different term (after paying fee once)
*Current or prior enrollment as a University of Oregon Post baccalaureate Graduate Student
*Concurrent degree applicant (Excluding LAW)
*UO employee
*Former University of Oregon graduate student returning for a different graduate degree

To apply, follow the Instructions; the application must be submitted at least 10 days before the January 15 deadline. If you have any further questions regarding the fee, please contact the Graduate School.

Can I provide more than 3 letters of recommendation?

Yes, but this is not necessary. You may provide as many as 5. 

Do the letters have to come from professors?

No. The letters may be from an academic source, but they can also come from a volunteer supervisor, workplace administrator, or any other source that has the qualifications to write a relevant letter.

Do I have to take the MAT or GRE tests? What if I already have an MA, MS, PhD, etc.? Do I have to take the tests if I am an international student applying for admission?

All applicants must take either the MAT or GRE general exam if it has been more than 5 years since your last test date. The testing companies do not keep scores longer than 5 years. The MAT is the Miller Analogies Test, and the GRE is the Graduate Record Exam. We do not grant waivers of the testing requirements.

Can you help with GRE waiver?

The GRE is owned by ETS. All costs associated with the exam are managed by ETS. Some applicants may qualify for the GRE Fee Reduction Program. Eligibility information and the required form are available on the ETS website.

Do I have to have my scores for the GREs or MATs before the application deadline?

Yes, test scores are due at the same time as the rest of the application materials. Scores may take up to 6 weeks to be received so we recommend that you take the test by December 1 or earlier. If you live in the Eugene area, you may take the tests at the University Testing Center.

Where do I send my GRE scores?

Have your GRE scores sent to:
Institution code: University of Oregon  (# 4846)
Department code: Counseling Psychology  (# 2005)

If you do not specify both codes, the program cannot receive your scores. Counseling Psychology is the Department the CFT program is housed in. Paper scores are easier and faster to receive than electronic.

Where do I send my MAT scores?

Send your Miller scores directly to the CFT program, School code 4119.

What is the average GPA of admitted students?

In recent years, the average undergraduate GPA of admitted students is 3.55.

What if I don't have a 3.0 GPA, or minimum V 50% / Q 44% / W 4.0 GRE score or 59% MAT scaled score, or a background in psychology, social service, etc.? Should I still apply and will I be considered for admission?

Yes. For students in the program, the average GPA is 3.54, the average GRE score is V-67%, Q-42%, W-4.0, and the average MAT score is 424; about 20% did not have an undergraduate major in psychology, sociology or related field. If you don't meet the admission guidelines in one or two areas, but are strong in other areas, we encourage you to apply. Individuals who do not meet these criteria should justify admission via other exceptional credentials. The CFT faculty review ALL complete applications.

How are the different components of my application weighted?

All elements (grades, letters of recommendation, test scores, essay response, purpose statement, and resume) are reviewed and given points based on their strength. Particular attention is paid to applicants' letters of recommendation, essay response, purpose statement and resume.



When is the Interview?

The interview is set for Thursday, February 21, and includes meeting faculty, staff and current students, and touring the campus. Each applicant will be involved in group and dyad interviews. International students are interviewed by telephone.

Is everyone who applies invited to interview for the program?

No. After the initial review of application materials, the strongest 40-50 applicants are invited for an interview.

If I am invited to the interview, am I required to attend, or can I schedule a phone interview instead?

Internationally located applicants will receive a phone interview, but all domestic applicants are strongly encouraged to attend. This is not just a time for the program to meet you; it is also a time for you to meet all those involved in UO Couples and Family Therapy training and to experience the program climate and environment. Obtaining a graduate degree is a significant commitment, and the decision about where you want to earn that degree is best made after learning as much as you can about the program and its community. Thus, it is to your advantage to attend interview day, and usually only applicants in exceptional circumstances decide not to participate in person. If you are invited to interview and feel that circumstances will not allow you to attend in person, please let us know at upon recieving word of your invitation to interview.

After the interviews, when will I hear about the admissions decision?

Email letters notifying applicants of their admissions status are sent within three weeks of the interview.

How many applicants are accepted into the program?

Each cohort is 20-24 students. We receive around 100 applications, and offers are made to about 1/3 of the total applicants.

If accepted, how many hours can I transfer into the program?

A maximum of 15 quarter credit hours can be transferred into the program, provided they were graduate level courses and are deemed equivalent to CFT courses. Course transfer decisions are made by your faculty adviser, and are determined after acceptance to the program.

If I am accepted into the program but am unable to attend that Fall, can I defer enrollment?

The graduate school does not offer deferred enrollment. The CFT program may consider allowing a waiver of the program-specific application requirements and offer an automatic admission for the following academic year, but you must still re-apply to the graduate school and pay the application fee.



How much will tuition & fees cost?

The Registrar provides a breakdown of the tuition and fees as a graduate student, both resident and non-resident. [Select 1. Fall-Spring; 2. Resident/Non-Resident; 3. Graduate (Education, Masters in Clinical Sciences)]. Students in the CFT program are registered for 13-16 credit hours each quarter for a total of 7-8 quarters.

What kind of financial assistance is available?

Most CFT students rely on financial aid. However, there are other funding sources. The University offers Graduate Employment that may involve research, teaching, or administrative work responsibilities. Some are program or department specific; others are open to the most qualified student. There are also University scholarships and the College of Education also has many scholarships opportunities (deadlines to apply are usually around January 30). Additionally, part-time work/study opportunities are sometimes available at the Center for Family Therapy and with faculty grant-based projects and research. If you're an international applicant, the office of International Affairs offers many resources for international students, including scholarships and financial aid. Please visit the CFT Student Funding page for more information.

Are there assistantships available?

At the University of Oregon, assistantships are called Graduate Employment. A GE position is a contract for 1-3 academic terms (fall, winter, & spring quarter), and the responsibilities may be teaching related, research, or administrative. The fellowship includes full tuition reimbursement for the duration of the contract, quality health insurance, and a monthly stipend. The amount of the stipend depends on the "weight" of the GE (i.e. how much work time is associated with the position). New graduate students can apply for Level I GE positions. New positions for fall term begin getting posted in mid-February and new positions are posted throughout the summer. Graduate students are not guaranteed funding, and obtaining a GE as a master’s student is very difficult. It can be done—every year a few CFT students successfully obtain a GE. If you see a position that you think you qualify for, apply! It may be a position within the COE or anywhere else on campus.

Is there financial aid available to international students?

The office of International Affairs offers many resources for international students, including scholarships and financial aid.



What will I have when I graduate?

You will graduate with a Master's of Science (M.S.) in Couples and Family Therapy.

Will I then be licensed?

In all counseling-related disciplines, graduates must complete a certain number of post-degree client contact hours under the supervision of an approved supervisor before they can be licensed. In Oregon, for licensure as a therapist in Marriage and Family Therapy (LMFT), one must complete 2,400 client contact hours, 400 of which can be earned in your graduate program. The University of Oregon CFT program meets all degree requirements for licensure in Oregon. Moreover, for students who will move post-degree to another state, the CFT program's national candidacy status places alumni in the best possible position for licensure as a couples and family therapist in any state that has a CFT license provision. (48 states currently regulate marriage and family therapists). For additional information, see the Oregon Board of Licensed Professionals Counselors and Therapists.

After students graduate, do they find employment as therapists? Do they go on to become licensed?

Students are very successful in securing employment in a variety of settings. Alumni are employed, for instance, in hospitals, outpatient non-profit clinics, school-based agencies, private practice, addiction recovery inpatient and outpatient centers, and residential treatment centers. Many alumni have also moved into clinical director positions, clinical supervision, and professional consultation. Although we do not have official records, the alumni who choose to become licensed in Oregon and other states do successfully earn a license.

What is the average salary of a MFT?

According to a 2002 study conducted by the AAMFT, the average salary was $54,936.



I have questions that were not answered on the program website or in the FAQ section. Can I schedule an appointment with the faculty or an academic adviser?

You are welcome to visit the University of Oregon and attend a campus tour, but faculty members are typically not available to meet with prospective applicants because of the large volume of meeting requests and their need to prioritize their time with current students. You may also attend the CFT Informational meetings in fall, winter, and spring. The date, time and location are on the CFT homepage. They are free and open to anyone interested. A RSVP is not needed. Additionally, there is a fantastic 1 credit Saturday workshop offered in fall, winter, and spring that prepares students for applying to graduate programs in the social sciences: CPSY 408 Grad School Prep. You may also send your questions to the CFT Academic Program Coordinator