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Marriage and Family Therapy: Training a New Generation of Therapists

Oklahoma Christian University’s Marriage and Family Therapy program has recently installed a new clinic to offer unique clinical opportunities to its students.

“The Marriage and Family Therapy program is only a year old. But the great thing about the program is it has good teaching to start people out,” Professor Julie Kellogg said. “For the first six months, they are only in class, and then they move into class plus the clinic.”

Clinical opportunities allow students seeking degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy to practice their skills and learn how to understand the needs of a client. 

“Our program personally challenges people. There’s a lot you have to learn academically, but being a therapist requires a lot from you as a person and asks you to examine yourself. As a therapist, you need to bring a clean slate to your client so you don’t give them any of your problems,” Professor Jennifer Patterson said. “Our students have to work on that themselves, so my best strategy is for them to be open to that and to work on being uncomfortable and to know that it is just part of the process.”

The Marriage and Family Therapy clinic, which is located in the Heritage Plaza building, finished construction about a year ago.

“The clinic we have here is really cool,” Kellogg said. “We have six therapy rooms there, which can see people almost everyday and on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, so we’re just hoping to increase the number of community people who we are serving.”

The new clinic allows students to serve members of the university community by offering reduced-cost therapy services.

“They’re getting on-site practice here in their final year and a half of their program. And for that final year, they’re also at a practicum site,” Kellogg said. “So we have students who are getting a great education for the entirety of the two year program and an increasing clinical component, so that as soon as they leave and start their job, they’re equipped to hit the ground running.”

Looking to the future, the Marriage and Family Therapy program wants to increase community outreach to provide all the possible services they can.

“We have about 30 clients a week there right now, but we want to increase those numbers and then eventually expand our clinic so we can have space for all of our providers to be working at capacity,” Kellogg said. “We want to provide even more services to the community at large because mental health is underserved.”

As well as educating future therapists about the needs of the client, the Marriage and Family Therapy Program also focuses on understanding the needs of the therapist. 

“One of the things we’re working on with this group is self care for therapists,” Patterson said. “One of the things I tell students is that you are your tool, as a therapist, so you have to take care of yourself, otherwise, you aren’t going to be useful down the road. Ultimately, I don’t want them to do this job for five years, I want this to be their career.”

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