Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy program announced

Laura Hooper takes a break from her practicum class, where she joins fellow counseling students to discuss concerns and learning experiences from practicum situations.

Families are complicated. No longer just mom, dad and 2.5 kids, families have become mixed affairs. There are common-law parents, divorced and remarried couples, interracial couples, single parents, homosexual parents, step-kids, step-parents, step-siblings, half siblings, and so on. Needless to say, as families become more complicated, the need increases for counselors specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy.

After several years of hard work and intense research, ACTS Seminaries of Trinity Western University has received official approval from the Ministry of Education for a new Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy (MA MFT). The letter of consent from the Ministry of Advanced Education came in March of this year, signifying a change in name for the Masters of Counseling (MC) program to occur Fall 2009.

The program developer, Ian Verseveldt, has been shaping the program over the past several years to include courses that will ease the transition for students switching from the MC to the MA MFT. One such student is Laura Hooper, a 25-year-old from Smithers, BC who is able to switch smoothly into the new program because her previous courses fit the new focus. When asked why she chose the program, she says, "I really enjoy families and working with families and I am Métis, so my cultural perspective is included in family dynamics."

The main focus of marriage and family therapy involves approaching the person from many different aspects. Verseveldt explains, "We want to understand and treat the person - who they are individually and systemically - which includes who the person is within family, culture and society."

Hooper adds, "For me, family therapy is very active: it is involving each member, giving voice to each individual and empathizing with each individual in the family and working from there."

For Hooper, this means that her cultural heritage is encouraged as a part of who she is, an attitude that she is taught to pass on in her own counseling work and her current internship with Children and Youth Mental Health in Abbotsford.

Putting belief into practice, Hooper is heavily involved in the Métis community. She explains, "I'm part of a Métis community in the Lower Mainland. It's been a big part of my life. I connect with Métis service providers specifically for Children and Family Services. I'm a youth rep for my area, so in terms of even applying what I'm learning to my community, it's huge and I feel very excited and supportive of what I'm learning and bringing back to that community as well."

Emphasizing the importance of this new program, Verseveldt states, "Our society is made up of families in many different forms, and Marriage and Family Therapist's (MFT's) training is uniquely specialized to work with relationships in their unique context. Once the Mental Health community understands what MFTs can do, they often specifically ask for MFTs."

MA MFT students are required to learn counseling theory before they are able to engage in practicing counseling. Hooper explains, "Your theory helps you conceptualize what is going on. It gives you an understanding of the dynamics of what may be contributing, what may be roadblocks for this person, what may be happening internally."

In order to put the theory into practice, Hooper was required to do a counseling practicum in her second semester. No easy task, Hooper says that the practicum was "a journey. You do have to face a lot of fears." And she enthuses, "It became the highlight of my week."

Trinity Western University, in Langley, B.C. is an independent Christian liberal arts and sciences university enrolling approximately 4000 students. TWU offers undergraduate degrees in 40 major areas of study ranging from biotechnology, education, nursing, theatre and music, to psychology, communications and biblical studies. TWU's 16 graduate degree programs include counseling psychology, business, theology and leadership, and offers interdisciplinary studies in English, philosophy and history. TWU holds Canada Research Chairs in Biblical Studies, Biology and Interpretation, Religion & Culture.


Last Updated: 2008-08-25
Author: Jamie Hall