Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

Recruiting the Next Generation of Marriage and Family Therapists through Undergraduate Internships

Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

Recruiting the Next Generation of Marriage and Family Therapists through Undergraduate Internships

Article excerpt

Although Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) earn a variety of mental health degrees and receive their training in MFT at different times within their professional careers, there is an increase in the number of people earning their first graduate degree in this field (Doherty & Simmons, 1996). There also has been a rapid increase in the number of Master's programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), coupled with a decrease (at least in our experience) in the average age of applicants to graduate MFT programs. All of this suggests that training and recruiting new MFTs at the undergraduate level will be important for the future of our profession. Although Smith and Allgood (1991) review several methods of recruiting undergraduates, we could not find any other discussions about how graduate MFT faculty are recruiting from undergraduate populations. Developing and sharing undergraduate recruitment strategies are thus important tasks for the field. This paper describes an undergraduate clinical internship in our MFT doctoral program that we devised to help introduce undergraduates to the profession of family therapy.

Our doctoral MFT program, like many similar graduate curriculums, is housed in a department of human development. This department offers two undergraduate courses of study, or "options," for majors: early childhood education and human services. While there is a required course in community programs for families, there is no undergraduate course in MFT.

Aside from our responsibilities in the graduate program, the MFT faculty also teach undergraduate courses in the human services option and serve as advisors to human services undergraduates. The humanservices option itself is designed to provide a comprehensive education for those interested in a variety of possible careers. It gives undergraduates a theoretical and experiential grounding in child and adult development, family and relational dynamics, human sexuality, and family and individual support programs, with complementary studies in psychology and sociology, biology, statistics, and liberal arts core courses. For over 20 years, human services students also have been required to undertake a field study during which they typically work as volunteers in a wide range of public and private agencies.

Consistent with Smith and Allgood's (1991) report, our MFT faculty and our doctoral students have developed several methods of introducing MFT ideas: advising, course work, guest lectures, and speaking at undergraduate organizations. However, our most enjoyable-and probably most influential-work comes from our family therapy field study placements for human services students-our undergraduate internships-in our doctoral training clinic.


The undergraduate internships were developed in 1993 and 1994 for three specific purposes. The first was to allow undergraduates to directly observe clinical MFT, clinical supervision and rounds, and to participate in clinical seminars in order to stimulate their interest in the field and help them prepare for graduate work in MFT. The second purpose was to better fill programmatic needs, including the COAMFTE accreditation requirement to have at least one other person present in the clinic when a therapist was seeing clients, especially after regular office hours. A third purpose was to allow graduate students to serve as informal mentors to undergraduates who are interested in MFT, simply through daily interaction between therapists and interns.

This internship program was originally intended to be open to junior- and senior-level students throughout the university from mental health-related fields, including psychology and counseling education undergraduates. Our departmental need for human-services field study placements, however, ultimately restricted it to human services-option students. …

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