Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

Gender and Diversity Topics Taught in Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education Programs

Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

Gender and Diversity Topics Taught in Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education Programs

Article excerpt

This article explores how the topics of gender and diversity are being taught and defined in accredited marriage and family therapy programs through syllabi content analysis and interviews with selected faculty. We examined findings by program (master's and doctoral) and type of training (those that taught specific gender and culture courses and those that attempted to infuse gender and culture throughout the curriculum). We examined 39 syllabi from 21 master's and 18 doctoral training programs. In addition, we conducted 20 interviews with faculty members. (Eighteen were White/Caucasian, one was African American and one was Asian Indian.) Some variation in topic areas was found between master's and doctoral programs and between those programs that offered specific course content and those that offered infused course content. However, qualitative interview data reflected many similarities. Particularly apparent was the level of commitment, transparency, and experiential learning methods professors used, regardless of program level or type.

In the last decade scholars in the field of marriage and family therapy (MFT) have been calling for a curriculum emphasis on issues of diversity, gender, social, and racial sensitivity (Green, 1998; Hardy & Laszloffy, 1992; Killian & Hardy, 1998; McDowell, Fang, Brownlee, Gomez Young, & Khanna, 2002; McGoldrick, 1998; Wilson & Stith, 1993). However, many scholars and accrediting bodies remain unclear as to how to address these issues in the core curriculum. Leslie and Clossick (1996) suggest that programs offer both a specific course on gender and address gender issues throughout the course material. Others have suggested changing the MFT curriculum by adding guidelines for multicultural transformation of training (Green, 1998).

The Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) has challenged accredited MFT training programs to demonstrate compliance with specific standards that address, among other topics, gender and diversity. The present study explores how gender and diversity topics are being taught, explored, and defined in course curriculum. Historically, the field of marriage and family therapy has struggled with the inclusion or infusion of topics related to gender and diversity. Most agree that training in these topic areas is needed but do not agree how they should be taught.

Within the last 10 years a number of versions of the accreditation standards related to gender and diversity have been voted on by the commissioners of the COAMFTE, passed and later discontinued. In all cases, the COAMFTE commissioners advocated that gender and diversity topics be taught in the MFT curriculum, but have not always agreed on how. Long and Serovich (2003), suggest that this may be due to a resistance.

In a qualitative content analysis of textual representation of diversity, Lawless, Brooks, and Julye (2006) found that many COAMFTE-accredited doctoral programs represent programmatic information about diversity that appears to be incongruent with cultural sensitivity. More recently, COAMFTE Standard, version 10.3 - 300.01, states, "programs are expected to infuse their curriculum with content that addresses issues related to diversity and power and privilege as they relate to age, culture, environment, ethnicity, gender, health/ability, nationality, race, religion, sexual orientation, spirituality, and socioeconomic status" (American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, 2002).

Statement of the Problem

The COAMFTE's call for compliance to this particular standard suggests a need for therapists to be trained in a way that will address gender and diversity effectively. How are COAMFTE-accredited MFT programs addressing this requirement? We need to know more about appropriate course content, particularly because of the increasing racial and ethnic diversity of the consumers of marriage and family therapy. …

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