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The turn of the century saw a shift from input-based to outcome-based education in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) training. An attempt was also made to establish core competencies that practitioners of MFT should attain to provide effective client care. These developments had a significant impact on version 11.0 and 12.0 of the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) Accreditation Standards. Since then, MFT educators have used these standards and guidelines to transition their programs from input-based to competency-based education. The MFT program at a West Coast University was the first COAMFTE accredited program to propose an alternative competency model requiring the completion of 300 direct client contact hours instead of 500 h for all students in the program, when it went through the process of reaccreditation in 2019. The program was granted renewal of accreditation in May 2020. Since then, version 12.5 of the COAMFTE Accreditation Standards have been released and this University’s competency model is aligned with these new standards. This article provides an overview of the competency model used by the MFT program at this University which can serve as an example for other MFT programs. Trends and future directions in competency-based MFT education are also discussed.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Contemporary Family Therapy, volume 45, in 2021 following peer review. The final publication may differ and is available at Springer via

A free-to-read copy of the final published article is available here.

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