Mission, Philosophy, and Diversity Statement
The MFT program at Valdosta State University is an educational program that leads to a Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy. The program is shaped by an established set of Educational Outcomes that comprise the following:
- VSU Mission
- MFT Program Mission Statement
- MFT Program Diversity Statement
- MFT Program Objectives
- MFT Program Outcomes (measurable)
- Faculty Outcomes (measurable)
- Student Learning Outcomes (measurable)
- Four important areas that the MFT Program emphasizes
Valdosta State University is a regional university committed to outstanding programs that have a magnet effect well beyond the region.
The core characteristics of VSU as a regional university include:
a commitment to excellence and responsiveness within a scope of influence defined by the needs of a specific region of the state and by particularly outstanding programs or distinctive characteristics that have a magnet effect even beyond the region;
a campus-wide commitment to a technologically enhanced learning community that promotes student success, sustains instructional excellence, serves a diverse and well-prepared student body, offers academic assistance, and provides learning enrichment for all students;
a range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary academic programming at the baccalaureate and masters levels, as well as a range of professional programs at the baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate levels, including a limited number of professionally oriented doctoral-level programs;
a commitment to public service, continuing education, technical assistance, and economic development activities that addresses the needs, improves the quality of life, and raises the educational level within the university's scope of influence;
a commitment to scholarly and creative work to enhance instructional effectiveness and to encourage faculty scholarly pursuits and a commitment to research in selected areas of institutional strength and focused on regional need.
The mission of the Valdosta State University Marriage and Family Therapy Program is to provide students the academic and clinical training required to practice relationally informed clinical work and ready graduates for work in a variety of mental health settings.
It is in the best interests of our clients, ourselves, and society as a whole that we follow paths that connect people, rather than generate new separations. Valuing the myriad ways that we humans are both different and the same is at the heart of diversity. Family therapy training and practice are relationally connective in nature. In the course of our work, family therapists engage in connective activities—sense making, metaphoric and narrative understanding, and contextually driven story building. Similarly, embracing diversity is, by its nature, inclusive. It is connective. In fact, inclusive thinking and acting are unable to be separative or oppositional. Racism, heterosexism, classism, religious discrimination, and other “isms,” on the other hand, are always separative, intended to set a group of people apart and away. The “other”—that “other” race, that “other” sexual orientation, that “other” class, that “other” religion—are established as exclusions to a preferred default race, sexual orientation, class, or religion. Just as estrangement and hate are forged through separation, love, understanding, respect, safety, and appreciation are forged through connection.
In this program, students learn that problems and clients’ attempts to solve problems make sense when viewed through relevant contexts such as age, culture, environment, ethnicity, gender, health, physical ability, nationality, race, religion, sexual orientation, spirituality, socioeconomic status, and languaged meaning. These give shape and meaning to clients’ lives. That these contexts are embedded in more encompassing cultural contexts of privilege, power, subjugation, and susceptibility is a notion that is infused throughout the entire curriculum. Through coursework, practica, and internships, we emphasize the way these contexts inform human experience and meaning systems, giving rise to multiple perspectives.
The faculty of the VSU MS in MFT program regard issues of diversity to be of utmost importance in the training and practice of family therapists. It is a foundational premise of this program that mere tolerance of the differences (which are often based on class, race, gender, sex, gender expression, gender identity, religion or non-religious age, ethnicity, nation of origin, immigration status, language abilities, sexual orientation, veteran status, socioeconomic status, spirituality, physical or mental disability, health status, and political beliefs) between ourselves and others is wholly insufficient. This means that the differences that make up the rainbow weave of humanity are most properly embraced, cherished, and celebrated. Mary Catherine Bateson (1994, Peripheral Visions) reminds us that insight is “that depth of understanding that comes by setting experiences, yours and mine, familiar and exotic, new and old, side by side, learning by letting them speak to one another (p. 14).” After all, “it is," she goes on, “contrast [the relationship to 'otherness'] that makes learning possible” (p. 27).
The relationship between diversity and the variety of dominant cultural discourses such as ageism, classism, racism, sexism, heterosexism, and gender are woven throughout the fabric of our curriculum. MFT faculty members strive to explore with our students the ways that cultural and institutionalized discrimination are embedded in culture and language, exacerbating the treatment issues that clients present. We also examine the ways that issues of diversity and discrimination shape the context of therapy. By the time students graduate from our program, they are able to situate themselves in the relational web of issues—class, privilege, and disenfranchisement—that are always at work in the therapy room.
Appreciation for the unique perspectives, life experiences, and values of clients, students, and faculty members is a prerequisite for respectful and safe relationships, whether in treatment, with colleagues, or in our personal lives. Based on the above diversity statement and in concert with the Valdosta State University mission and the MFT Program mission, it is the program’s responsibility to provide non-discriminatory services to clients (see AAMFT Code of Ethics, Standard 1.1). Faculty and students are expected to work with any family, couple, or individual seeking services at FamilyWorks or an internship. Students do not have the option to opt out of work with clients based on discriminations of class, race, gender, sex, gender expression, gender identity, religion or non-religious age, ethnicity, nation of origin, immigration status, language abilities, sexual orientation, veteran status, socioeconomic status, spirituality, physical or mental disability, health status, and political beliefs. The Valdosta State University MFT program subscribes to the following:
- Clients have a right to treatment that is “without discrimination on the basis of race, age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, gender, health status, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status.” (AAMFT, 2015, Ethical Standard 1: Responsibility to Clients)
- The MFT program expects students to adhere to this diversity statement. Prospective students will be asked to read and give thoughtful consideration to the diversity statement. If a student finds that his or her beliefs conflict with the statement or personal beliefs preclude him or her from working with certain categories of clients, this program may not be a good fit, and the faculty suggest that training be sought elsewhere.
- The MFT faculty believe that person-to-person relational connection is the best way to forge and deepen understanding, respect, safety, cultural humility, and appreciation for those we view as different from ourselves. We are committed to teaching courses that often ask students to participate in difficult or uncomfortable discussions about race, culture, class, sexuality, or that bring out differences in political belief. We assume that our students are able to engage respectfully in such conversations, orienting themselves toward listening and hearing, rather than debate, persuasion, or contest. We assume that our MFT students can conduct themselves with patience, maturity, and thoughtfulness.
- We believe that to be successful, MFT’s must possess therapeutic curiosity, be aware of ethical and therapeutic limitations, have a genuine interest in their clients, and be willing to talk openly about anything a client might wish to discuss regardless of age, sex, sexual practices and preferences, religion, race, sexual orientation, physical disadvantage, political leanings, and level of education.
The program will recruit, train, and graduate students from diverse backgrounds.
The program will educate students by promoting an understanding and respect for diversity.
The program will provide education from a relational perspective that values the importance of context in making sense of human behavior.
Recruit, train, and graduate students from diverse backgrounds
Train graduates who report that the program helped them develop an understanding and respect for diversity.
Graduate students who embrace a professional identity as Marriage & Family Therapists
Graduate students who obtain licensure in MFT or related mental health field.
Graduate students who work in mental health careers that help individuals, couples, and families
Recruit, train, and graduate students from diverse backgrounds
Graduate students who report that the program helped them develop an understanding and respect for diversity.
Graduate students who claim the professional identity of Marriage & Family Therapist
Demonstrate that at least 70% of graduates will be pursuing doctoral degrees or employed in a mental health field within three years of graduation
Demonstrate that at least 70% of graduates will pass the AMFTRB or become licensed as a mental health professional.
Demonstrate that at least 80% of enrolled students will graduated within the advertised length of program completion.
Recruit, train, and graduate students from diverse backgrounds
Participate in scholarly activities that contribute to the field of Marriage and Family Therapy in accordance with university, college, and departmental requirements
Establish and sustain a professional identity as an MFT as demonstrated by obtaining and maintaining licensure in the state of Georgia as a Marriage and Family Therapist or mental health provider (or associate licensure for not more than four years while working toward full licensure).
Establish and sustain a professional identity as an MFT as demonstrated by obtaining and sustaining status as an AAMFT Approved Supervisor or an Approved Supervisor Candidate.
Establish and sustain a professional identity as an MFT by regularly providing supervision that promotes and evaluates the following clinical skill areas: (1)the a relational assessment and conceptualization of client problems, (2) implement a systemic perspective, (3) develop interventions that reflect a relational understanding of human dilemmas (4) articulate a coherent therapeutic stance that is grounded in a variety of philosophical or theoretical informed frameworks, (5) discuss cases in ways that are informed by relevant contextual factors, and (6) demonstrate professionalism, including adherence to legal and ethical standards as well as follow policies and procedures relevant to each clinical setting.
SLO 1 - Practice from a culturally sensitive lens.
SLO 2 - Practice from a systemic lens.
SLO 3 - Be prepared to obtain entry-level employment in mental health agencies.
SLO 4 - Claim the professional identity of Marriage and Family Therapist.
- SLO 5 - Recognize the way research shapes the field of Family Therapy.
- SLO 6 - Practice informed by ethics.
- The Student/Trainee
- A success based approach
- Available, supportive faculty
- Build on strengths
- Teach an eco-systemic/relational perspective
- Understand developmental issues
- Understand language in interaction
- Multiple Perspectives
- Develop critical thinking
- Develop a unique clinical style
- Develop respect for varying value systems
- Work collaboratively with client systems
- Develop awareness and sensitivity to difference
- Develop awareness of issues of social justice
- Seek diversity among trainees and in clinical experiences