M.A. MFT, Trauma Studies Specialization

Program Description

The Trauma Studies Specialization, within a social ecological context, is keeping with the School of Cultural and Family Psychology’s social justice mission that underscores urgent societal issues that have long term disabling effects on the family health, child development and well-being. 

Students in the M.A. Marriage and Family Therapy, Trauma Studies Specialization program at Pacific Oaks College will develop skills to work in: 

  • mental health settings, 
  • veterans’ hospitals, 
  • gang intervention programs, 
  • continuation schools, 
  • immigrant detention centers, and 
  • domestic violence and child abuse centers.

Trauma and its effect on family functioning and well-being is an ever expanding concern in the mental health field. Trauma is pervasive in our society, within the family, the community, and globally. 

Trauma expertise is critical in addressing and understanding issues of interpersonal violence, community violence, abandonment, neglect, abuse and assault, in the context of complex trauma, Post traumatic disorder and active military deployment and its effect on families. Trauma and its effect on the brain and capacity for attachment and relationship development are examined with a special focus on healing and therapeutic intervention practices that are either evidence based or holistic and nontraditional in nature and scope.

Students may choose the M.A. MFT, Trauma Studies Specialization program at the time of admission. Additionally, students in the traditional M.A. Marriage and Family Therapy program may elect to add this specialization within completion of the first 21 units of their program. 

Current students in the Marriage and Family Therapy program who elect to add this specialization must be in good academic standing and have their faculty advisor sign a form supporting their admittance into the program.

  • May be completed in 2 1/2 years full time
  • Offered at our Pasadena, California campus


POC:Pasadena, CAPOC:San Jose, CA


Cultural and Family Psychology

Total Credits



Prepares graduates to sit for the California MFT licensing exam.

Fieldwork Requirements

Students in the Trauma Studies Specialization will be required to secure clinical training placements with the partner community agencies that serve trauma clients. The clinical training staff has a protocol designed to prepare and assist students with their clinical training placements and professional responsibilities for clinical training.


  • Bachelor's degree from an accredited College or University

Sample Courses

Culture, Attachment, and Trauma

Poly-victimization and the cumulative effects of multiple trauma experiences are examined from the perspective of attachment theory, neurobiological development, and affect regulation. This course will critically address the context of poverty, culture, gender and community neglect and isolation as key domains in relation to understanding the cultural manifestations of assessment and treatment of trauma for individuals and communities. In addition, this course uses mindful approaches in addressing participant’s cultural worldview, value systems and lived cultural identity development to assess how it informs perceptions of trauma in diverse communities. An overview of the history of trauma theory and contemporary directions in theory, research and practice will be included. The works of Bowlby, Siegel, Levine, van der Kolk along with a selected group of early and contemporary theorists will be examined in this course. This is a seminar course in which each student will actively lead discussion on a major theorist.

Complex Trauma and Recovery

This course will examine family systems and how Latina/o families are affected by their experiences in the United States. The varied constellation of families including the monocultural traditional family structure, as well as the emerging bicultural/biracial family structure, are among those to be studied. Issues, such as acculturation and generation, class, changing values and beliefs, gender roles, language, religion, spirituality, within group discrimination, the effects of immigration and status, health care, myths, taboos, and traditions will be included in developing a framework in which to understand Latina/o families.

Historical Trauma

This course will explore historical trauma and its definitions and origins. Historical trauma, poly-victimization, intergenerational transmission of trauma and models of recovery will be studied, as well as the adaptive behavior related to the trauma which may be present and affecting family functioning. Post-Traumatic Stress disorder and ethno violence will be studied in relation to mental health practice and community well-being. A discussion on Epigenetics will also be included in this course. The limited access to clinical treatment and resources will be identified and discussed as sources of present day traumatic experiences. This course will study the history of the conquest, the colonization and/or annihilation of indigenous people, the history of African slavery, and the history of other oppressed ethnic populations. The traumatic impact this history has had on families and communities will be explored and discussed. In addition to specific historical events, genocide, imprisonment, and the prevention of cultural or spiritual practices are among the many examples of historical trauma to be examined.

POC:Pasadena, CAPOC:San Jose, CA POC