School of Theology and Ministry
Graduate Degrees

MA in Relationship & Pastoral Therapy

  •  A Couples & Family Therapy Program

    Credits and years

    A Couples and Family Therapy program integrating systems and psychological theories, supervised clinical experience, theological education, and spiritual formation in order to clinically heal and empower diverse families, individuals, and groups from any faith and culture.

    What is Relationship & Pastoral Therapy?

    The Master of Arts in Relationship & Pastoral Therapy (MARPT) program prepares effective, competent couples and family therapists. Courses are designed to meet the educational requirements for licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) in Washington state. Our graduates integrate clinical education and practice with theological studies and spiritual formation.

    Students graduate equipped to be couples and family therapists in both traditional therapy and milieu settings or in a broad array of professional applications (e.g., educators, consultants, and coaches). Graduates contribute to the field of couples and family therapy by seeing clients, joining professional organizations, volunteering in the community, and advocating for justice.

    In our clinical sequence, students therapeutically serve couples, families, individuals, and groups with a variety of mental and physical health issues and diagnosis. Interns are trained to assess, diagnose, consult, and treat under the guidance of a licensed supervisor. Our students understand and adhere to the American Association Marriage and Family Therapy’s (AAMFT) Code of Ethics.

    Why the word "relationship"?

    The program is steeped in a relational/systemic philosophy in order to clinically serve the needs of people in a complex world. Seattle University's School of Theology and Ministry uses the word “relationship” to mean couples and families, but also to telegraph non-traditional ways that people have relationships in this time in history. We value family of origin, extended family, sibling groups, and companies and organizations who refer employees who work together in counseling. Also, our students have the ability to use the insights from systems theory to work with congregations and relationships inside those congregations.

    Relationships are dynamic and complex; they change throughout the lifespan and are influenced by factors such as race, age, gender, ethnicity, spiritual and religious traditions, sexual orientation, military service, socioeconomic status, disability, health, immigration, and other social categories. Graduates of the MARPT program demonstrate skills in working with relationships and with individual clients. We train our students in psychopathology and diagnosis in order that graduates may clinically serve clients with various relationship and mental health issues (e.g., depression, anxiety, parent-child conflict).

    Why the word "pastoral"?

    Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry believes that a pastoral approach is holistic, contextual, and empowering. The MAPRT program embodies a spiritually-integrated model of couples and family therapy, integrating ethical, clinical services with spirituality. Our graduates obtain clinical skills necessary to utilize clients' own faith and belief practices, incorporating at the clients’ request relevant spiritual reflections, rituals, and discussions into the clinical practice in order to help clients live healthier and more fulfilling lives. Additionally, students are able to reflect on and deepen their own spiritual practices while in the program. Many of the clinical classes explore self-of-the-therapist dynamics. Students are given ample opportunity to enliven their own sense of faith and spiritual practice in both theological and clinical classes as well as through programs and events within the school and larger university community.

    Unlike dual degree programs, our program intentionally integrates spirituality and best-practice clinical services. Students synthesize knowledge of clinical therapy competencies with how clients’ faith traditions inform their functioning and relationships. Throughout the program, students are required to demonstrate practical skills in this spiritually-infused model. For example, in STMC 5720's course "Assessment and Diagnosis," students learn the tools of spiritual assessment to accompany their clinical assessment skills. In the couples therapy course (SMTC 5530), students present on various faith traditions in order to consider how beliefs influence relationships. The final two supervision courses in the clinical sequence (STMC 5590 and STMC 5600: Clinical Integration I & II) are dedicated to the formation of students’ spiritually-integrated, therapeutic identity. For additional curricular information, please speak with an academic advisor.



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    Clinical Experience

    The clinical sequence provides basic experience and training in relationship and pastoral therapy: couples and family therapy. Students will be at a clinical site 14-18 hours per week as they advance through six quarters of training. In addition to face-to-face client contact and other onsite clinical work, students will meet at least one hour a week in individual supervision. In addition to the onsite experience, students participate in weekly three-hour faculty-led group supervision. In order to demonstrate clinical readiness, students are required to pass prerequisite classes and must receive passing grades on their clinical skills’ rubrics. Required clinical orientations provide instruction and resources regarding site placement and clinical expectations (handbook provided). While some of our course offerings are during evenings and weekends, students will need to be available for classes and clinical work during some daytime hours. A few examples of where students have engaged this clinical sequence are the following: Asian Counseling & Referral Service, Catholic Community Services, Community Counseling Institute (CCI), Compass Health, Family Life Center / Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Kent Youth and Family Services, Pioneer Counseling Services, Sound Mental Health (King County) and Valley Cities Counseling & Consultation.

    Cohort Model

    Students journey alongside each other throughout the Master of Arts in Relationship & Pastoral Therapy program in a cohort model of study, intentionally designed for community as well as optimized course completion. The School of Theology and Ministry seeks to accommodate students that are not able to begin in summer, though the course outline will vary with a fall start. Please speak with an academic advisor for more details.

    Vocations of Alumni

    • Private Practice, Family Therapy
    • Director of Social Services
    • Hospital Counseling Provider
    • University Resident Director
    • Recovery Program Director
    • Faith-Based Counseling Services  

    Faculty Highlights

    Click below for profile information on some of the degree's core faculty. In addition to Drs. Eppler and Cobb, clinical faculty include Dr. Jeanette Rodriguez, LMFT and AAMFT Supervisor Candidate; Dr. Ethan Schwab, LMFT and AAMFT Supervisor Candidate; March Gunderson, LMHC and State Approved Supervisor; and Drs. Gretchen Gundrum, Eldon Olsen, Ruby Takushi, Fran Ferder, John Heagle, William James. Each of our faculty bring their work with couples and families into the classroom experience. For the complete list of core and adjunct faculty, see here.

    EpplerFacultyButton.jpg CobbFacultyButton.jpg RodriguezFacultyButton.jpg

    Staff Highlights

    Students in the Relationship & Pastoral Therapy benefit from all of the school's staff, particularly Academic Specialist, Kristin Hovaguimian, and Student Community and Admissions Coordinator, Colette Casavant. Click below for the full list of school support staff.

  • I am delighted to be a part of the school and the MA in Relationship & Pastoral Therapy program, as this is a perfect opportunity to connect relationships, spirituality and theology in conversation and in the context of a rich learning community. Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry a special place.

    Dr. Ruby Takushi - Adjunct Faculty Director of Programs, Recovery Café