M.A. MFT, African-American Family Studies Specialization

Program Description

Through Pacific Oaks' African-American Family Studies (AAFS) Marriage and Family Therapy program, students explore mental health theory and practice from a deeply culture-centered perspective. Graduates gain a broad understanding of marriage and family therapy as well as specialized knowledge of the diverse mental health needs of African-American children and families. 

Curriculum is informed by the UJIMA model of collective work and responsibility, with the goal of developing marriage and family therapists who are highly competent in serving and advocating for the mental health needs of African-American families.

Pacific Oaks' master's program in Marriage and Family Therapy prepares students to use a culturally relevant approach to therapy and utilizes an historical lens in the learning style that will help individuals, couples, and families of African descent build on their strengths, improve their relationships, and generate solutions to relational problems. 

MFT-AAFS students complete their clinical training hours in community agencies serving African-American families, and are supervised and mentored, when possible, by licensed African-American mental health professionals. Students also complete a Master's Thesis Project focusing in an area of relevance to the mental health needs of African-American families. The student body consists primarily, but not exclusively, of self-identified African-American students, and the faculty consists primarily, but not exclusively, of mental health specialists and academics with intimate knowledge and experience of the African-American community's mental health needs. 

The program is open to all people who wish to specialize in serving the mental health needs of African-American families and communities.

  • May be completed in three years full time.
  • Offered in a "cohort" model in which all students progress through the program together at the same pace, creating a growing trust, intimacy, and bonding among students within the specialization.


POC:Pasadena, CA


Cultural and Family Psychology

Total Credits



Prepares graduates to sit for the California MFT licensing exam.

Fieldwork Requirements

100% of students secure clinical training placements within community agencies—enabling students to complete the pre-graduate portion of the 3,000 supervised hours required for the California MFT licensing exam.


  • Bachelor's degree from an accredited College or University

Sample Courses

Advocacy in the African-American Community

This course will explore the current health status of African Americans, and in particular examines the impact of the mental health systems and their policies, practices, and structures. The role of mental health professionals in advocacy with health systems in the Black community will be discussed.

African American Families, Historical Trauma and Recovery

This course will address emotional and physical wounds associated with historical trauma, including slavery, segregation, racism, social stratification, current inequities and experiences of violence, as it relates to the African American family and community. The course will explore emerging theories of historical trauma and will also address issues of access and culturally appropriate resources as well as interventions and treatment from multigenerational, community and strengths-based perspectives.

Clinical Skills in Group and Family Therapy

This is a course for advanced students focusing on group theory and the clinical aspects in the practice of group and family therapy. This class is designed to provide students with direct experiences of the group therapy milieu and assist in the development of a working knowledge of the clinical skills of family therapy. This course will include the principles of group dynamics, developmental stage theories, therapeutic factors of group work, pertinent research family and group methods along with the sociocultural context on family and group therapy.

POC:Pasadena, CA POC