Post-Master’s Certificate in Medical Family Therapy and Counseling
The Medical Family Therapy and Counseling program is a professional training program/post-master’s certificate designed to address the family therapy and counseling needs of the medical and health care industries in general and, specifically, the patients treated at the Northern Illinois Proton Therapy and Research Center (NIPTRC). The College of Health and Human Sciences and the College of Education have collaborated to create this program, based upon existing strengths in counseling and family therapy in the two colleges.
Rationale and Overview
Medical family therapy is an approach to treatment that is based on family systems theory, which assumes that relationships play a key role in the treatment of mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health problems of patients. The goal of the post-master’s certificate program is to provide education, research and practical experience for students to help patients and their loved ones to understand and cope with cancer and other diseases. Although the discipline is called medical family therapy, NIU’s certificate program will be called Medical Family Therapy and Counseling because NIU’s certificate involves the collaboration of two separate graduate programs (Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling) which lead to licensure: Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), respectively.
Post-master’s degree certificates in medical family therapy are available at five other institutions (Mercer University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Seattle Pacific University, Nova Southeastern University [now called certificate in family systems health], and since September 2008, at Drexel University. Several universities (East Carolina University, University of Rochester, and Nova Southeastern University) offer a Ph.D. in medical family therapy, and other universities offer specializations within marriage and family therapy programs or within counseling programs that offer specializations in family counseling.
NIU’s post-master’s certificate will differ from certificate programs offered at other universities in that it will be housed at a proton therapy treatment center, thus creating synergy among the university’s missions of teaching, research, and service. Graduate courses will be designed specifically for licensed mental health practitioners and will build upon their previous course work and practice experiences. Students will take three didactic courses in medical family therapy and counseling before beginning a supervised practicum at the NIPTRC. Following completion of the practicum and a co-requisite didactic course, students will be placed in a wide variety of medical settings for an off-campus internship.
Development and implementation of a new post-mater’s certificate that will support the teaching, research and service missions of the university requires the collaboration of faculty members and chairs from the two departments, Counseling, Adult and Higher Education, and the School of Family, Consumer and Nutrition Sciences and of their respective colleges, as well as collaboration with the NIPTRC. The strategy was to examine the curricula of existing graduate certificate programs in this field and create a curriculum that will draw on the strength of a cutting-edge research and teaching facility as well as the strength of the Chicago metropolitan area.
It was discovered that curricula of existing programs were quite similar. Normally, one would look at “cutting edge” programs, but the working group judged that the discipline of medical family therapy itself is cutting edge, and that no certificate program has yet emerged as the leader. Therefore, the task was to design a curriculum that would equal the other programs’ curricula and add to it the unique feature of affiliation with a proton therapy treatment center.
In Fall 2008, a committee was convened to design the curriculum and make initial plans for implementation of the program. The committee consists of one senior faculty member who is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and an approved supervisor, one faculty emeritus who is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and the chairs of the two departments. The group developed a GANNT chart to graphically display the time-line for the project.
The committee met weekly to (1) examine curricula from the existing medical family therapy programs, (2) gather information about behavioral and mental health services at existing proton therapy treatment centers, and (3) develop a curriculum proposal package for new courses and for the certificate. In Spring 2009, the committee continues to meet to shepherd the curriculum proposals through the various levels of the curriculum process, prepare the position announcement and other paperwork related to hiring, and to begin to plan a marketing strategy.
Timeline and Outcomes
2008 (Fall Semester)
- Identified courses for certificate
- Finalized courses for certificate
- Course proposals drafted and sent to department/school faculty
2009 (Spring Semester)
- Prepared catalog copy for certificate and new courses
- Sent proposals to department/school curriculum committees
- Present proposals to college, graduate council, and university council curriculum committees
- Prepare position justification & position announcement
2009 (Summer and Fall)
- Develop marketing plan
- Plan steering committee and external advisory committee
- Search for new faculty member
- Begin to advertise and solicit student applicants
- Schedule summer and fall 2010 classes
- New faculty member starts
- Continued marketing
- Review applications
- First class matriculates May 16
2010 (Fall) – 2011 (May)
- First class continues (Fall)
- First class completes program (May)
- Second class begins (May)
- Faculty member begins to seek external funding