Couple and Family Therapy

The Couple & Family Therapy (CFT, formerly MFT) Specialization within the Kent School of Social Work is dedicated to developing professionals in CFT (MFT) to work with at-risk individuals & families within their community contexts.

The CFT program was the first and is currently one of only two programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) offering combined training in M/CFT and Social Work. COAMFTE Student Achievement Criteria can be viewed here: Link to COAMFTE Student Criteria website.

The University of Louisville has a long history of involvement in marriage/couple and family therapy education. The University began offering its first MFT courses in the 1970s, and in 1983 offered students a post-Master’s certificate. In 1994, the Family Therapy Program became a part of the Kent School of Social Work.

MSSW-CFT students complete coursework, practicum hours and supervision necessary for licensure as Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists in the state of Kentucky, in addition to being eligible to pursue licensure as Licensed Clinical Social Workers. The CFT coursework requires two calendar years to complete and begins in the summer of the first CFT year.

The MSSW-CFT Specialization curriculum meets course requirements for Kentucky licensure and clinical membership in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). CFT coursework focuses on theoretical foundations, practical application, ethics, integration of research, theory and practice and supervised clinical practice.

Commitment to Diversity

The CFT Program strives to integrate issues related to cultural diversity and competence throughout all courses. In addition, the program prioritizes recruitment of a diverse student body with regard to race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability status, religion and national origin. Of the current student body, 44% identify as ethnic minorities. In addition, faculty and supervisors represent diverse backgrounds, with 33% of Kent School faculty, 25% of CFT core faculty, and 14% of CFT supervisors identifying as ethnic minorities.

What will I learn in the CFT Specialization?

The curriculum covers a broad spectrum of knowledge, including individual, couple and family development, couple and family interventions, diversity and social justice, ethics, professional development, research, inter-professional collaborations, intervening in community settings, and contemporary issues in the field of M/CFT.

Students also receive extensive training in the clinical skills necessary for the practice of individual, couple, family and group therapy through intensive supervised clinical experiences.

The CFT program requires two calendar years to complete and begins in the summer of the first CFT year.

Who will teach me?

The CFT Program has nationally recognized, AAMFT-award winning faculty that value clinical work, and the practice of CFT with ethnically diverse and underserved populations. The CFT faculty are scientist-practitioners who do real-world, practical research based in the community.

What is the instruction structure in the CFT Specialization?

CFT course work for two calendar years

Logically sequenced instruction in family systems theories, diversity, couple and family assessment, couple and family intervention, and ethics, as well as other topics critical to the development of students as couple/marriage and family therapists.

Small Class Size (10-16 students per class)

Link to CFT Curriculum Plans

Link to CFT Program Educational Outcomes and Benchmarks

CFT Supervision

  • 5-8 supervisees per group
  • Meets 3 hours weekly
  • Share video of your work

CFT Classes

  • Each class meets for 3 hours once per week
  • Interactive and real-world applicable
  • Tuesdays & Fridays during the day at Shelby Campus


    • All students enrolled in the 81 hour program are required to take practicum.
    • Practicum the foundation year is 16 hours per week, offered as a two consecutive semester course for a total of 450 hours and 6 academic credits. Foundation year practicum sites tend to focus on residential and in-home service delivery, specifically around the children/teen as the identified patient, while second year placements focus more on community mental health facilities treating individuals and families.
    • In the summer between the foundation and advanced years, students attend practicum between 10 and 16 hours per week to continue accumulating CFT client contact and supervision hours. The advanced year practicum is also 16 hours per week in the fall and spring.

      Foundation year practicum sites include:

      • Home of the Innocents: Residential services
      • Maryhurst: Family treatment homes and psychiatric residential treatment facility
      • Brooklawn: Psychiatric residential treatment facility
      • Childplace: Residential treatment, foster care and counseling services
      • Seven Counties Services: Lighthouse Adolescent Recovery Program
      • Transformations: Home-based and group therapists, therapeutic child support specialists
      • Boys and Girls Haven: Residential services, community counseling programs, case management
      • St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities: CASA programs, counseling services and maternity home

      Advanced year practicum sites include:

      • Jewish Family and Career Services: Family Services
      • Institute for Sustainable Health and Optimal Aging
      • The Morton Center: Chemical Dependency
      • Seven Counties Services: Family Recovery Program
      • Family and Children’s Place: Child Advocacy Center

      In their advanced year, CFT students receive live supervision from faculty who practice in the community. In addition to their live supervision with faculty, the advanced students receive weekly individual supervision from volunteer LMFTs that are also currently practicing in the community.

      (Volunteer LMFT supervision complies with HIPAA and Confidentiality policies of the CFT program and the agencies where student trainees are placed.)

      *Students are also expected to attend the Kentucky Association for Marriage and Family Therapy conference during, at least, their foundation year.  Students can volunteer at the conference for a substantially reduced registration fee.

          What recent alumni say about their CFT experience

          "Having the opportunity to complete the Kent School of Social Work CFT specialization program equipped me with vital skills and confidence that are necessary to be a great clinician and researcher. The learning experience provided me with a unique background that distinguishes me from other mental health professionals." Krista Banks

          “The CFT department is genuinely invested in the success of their students, and it shows.  I'm grateful to have had program mentors who held me to the highest standard (even when it was difficult to hear), because it told me that they knew my potential and they were going to do everything in their power to make sure I achieved it." Kristin Armstrong

          "The unique concentration of couple and family systems within a cohort setting while attending social work practice and research classes was my draw to the CFT program. As I reflect back, my favorite part of the CFT program was bonding and establishing relationships with other cohort members.." Rachel Kolodziej

          Faculty - links to bios and CVs

          Emma Sterrett-Hong, Ph.D., LMFT. AAMFT Approved Supervisor; Director
          Eli Karam, Ph.D., LMFT. AAMFT Approved Supervisor
          Laura Frey, Ph.D., LMFT. AAMFT Approved Supervisor
          Becky Antle, Ph.D., MSSW, Marriage and Family Therapy Associate

          Part-time Faculty

          Carol Ann Isbell, MSSW, LMFT, AAMFT Approved Supervisor
          Michael Taylor, M.Div., LMFT, AAMFT Supervisor-in-Training

          Volunteer Individual Supervisors

          Amanda Driggs, LMFT
          Allison Hock, LMFT
          Linda Miller, LMFT
          Jennifer Schinke, LMFT, AAMFT Supervisor-in-Training
          Karen Westbrooks LMFT, AAMFT Approved Supervisor

          CFT Faculty Community Involvement

          In addition to their teaching and research, consistent with the mission of the Kent School of Social Work, the CFT core faculty are also heavily involved in community endeavors.

          Dr. Emma Sterrett-Hong helps co-facilitate an HIV support group at the University of Louisville 550 HIV clinic.  Previously, she was a board member of West Louisville Community Ministries.  Many research projects in which Dr. Sterrett-Hong is involved are run through collaborations with community partners, including the Freedom House project for women in residential substance abuse recovery program, in partnership with Volunteers of America (VOA), and the GLoBAL study examining health and social support among young Latino and African American gay and bisexual men, conducted through partnerships with VOA, the 550 clinic, and the Kentuckiana AIDS Alliance.

          Dr. Eli Karam serves on the National Board of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) and is a Past President for the Kentucky Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (KAMFT). He promotes the profession of Marriage and Family Therapy regularly through his weekly psychoeducational segments on Louisville TV and radio. He also serves on the editorial board on the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, and recently served guest editor on special virtual edition of JMFT focusing on MFT Common Factors.

          Dr. Becky Antle has been involved for the past fifteen years in community-based and community-oriented research, including projects on violence prevention (child maltreatment, domestic and dating violence), relationship education, solution-based child welfare practice, the impact of domestic violence on children, and training/evaluation issues in human services. Currently, she has developed a program of training and evaluation, in advanced issues of marriage and family formation for the child welfare population. She is also conducting an assessment of child care services as well as utilization of key health and community initiatives for children.  Dr. Antle has been involved with numerous community-based organizations, including Board of Trustees for Brooklawn Children's Home, Anchorage Public School (Junior Great Books, Community Connections Chair), Junior League Louisville, Girl Scouts of America, Uspiritus Children's Home, and Maryhurst Children's Home.

          Dr. Laura Frey is interested in family communication about suicide, specifically how suicidal individuals choose whether to disclose suicidal behavior and to whom they choose to disclose.  She currently serves as the program chair for the American Association of Suicidology annual conference and the new professional representative for the Advancing Family Science section of the National Council on Family Relations. She provides continuing education for social workers and marriage and family therapists regarding the assessment, management, and treatment of suicidal behavior. She also provides clinical supervision for marriage and family therapist associates working towards independent licensure.

          Admissions Process

          When applying to the MSSW-CFT Specialization two year plan (plan O), students should apply to the Kent School for admission to the MSSW program and to the CFT Specialization simultaneously.

          If applying to the MSSW three year plan, students may apply for the CFT Specialization simultaneously with the MSSW program or they may wait until January of their first year to apply to the specialization.

          *It is possible to complete a second specialization while completing the CFT specialization, provided the chairs of both specializations agree and a suitable practicum placement can be found.  Some specialization combinations applicants regularly inquire about and that may be possible are CFT and Military, CFT and Substance Abuse, CFT and Mental Health, CFT and School, and CFT and Gerontology.

          **The CFT specialization is not offered online.  However, it may be possible for some online students to specialize in CFT, if they are willing to commute to Louisville to take classes on Tuesdays and Fridays during their foundation year and on Tuesdays their advanced year, and provided a suitable practicum placement can be found in their community.

          Link to Application Checklist

          The following additional items should be emailed to both Graduate Admissions and the CFT Administrative Assistant, Danette Baker ( ):

          • A letter of intent explaining the applicant’s interest in the program, knowledge and understanding of family therapy, work experiences in human services (voluntary or paid) and professional goals and expectations.
          • A five-page summary of significant experiences about the applicant’s family of origin and how those are likely to affect his or her professional development. *Due to Title IX regulations, any mention of sexual harassment or abuse experienced by an applicant will be reported to a University of Louisville Title IX Coordinator to ensure students receive any necessary or appropriate resources or accommodations."

          CURRENT 60-hour students enrolled in the first semester of Curriculum Plan C or D may apply by submitting the materials above to Danette Baker and completing the specialization application by January 30. Click for application.

              Application Priority deadline is January 30th

              Applications received after January 30th will be considered only if space in the specialization allows AND if an appropriate practicum site is readily available.

              Program finalists are invited to interview in-person at UofL Shelby Campus in February.

              Advanced Standing MSSW-CFT Prep Track

              Students with a BSW and applying for Advanced Standing Status (one-year program) are eligible for the Advanced Standing MSSW-CFT Prep Track. In this program, students will receive specialized, competency-based training in couple and family therapy practice and service delivery. Beginning in their first summer, students will be placed in pre-approved clinical practicum settings with community agencies who have agreed to meet the requirements of our Clinical Affiliation Agreement.

              In the Advanced Standing MSSW-CFT Prep Track, students begin their studies in Couple and Family Therapy, and then upon graduation, are eligible to complete the additional coursework needed as a postgraduate which takes a minimum of one year. This coursework completes their preparation to be a Marriage and Family Therapist; Associate Status.

              Once they have their Marriage and Family Therapist; Associate Status, they are able to work under approved supervision to complete the full requirements for licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of Kentucky (LMFT).

              Graduates of the program are very competitive due to the rigor and comprehensiveness of their training.

              Admission to MSSW-CFT Prep Track

              The following are the requirements for application to the specialization:

              • Eligibility: Eligibility to apply is limited to students with a BSW who have applied and been accepted to the Advanced Standing Program at the Kent School of Social Work.
              • Enrollment: Admission is achieved by students submitting the following additional materials to both Graduate Admissions and the CFT Administrative Assistant, Danette Baker, by the Priority deadline of January 30th.
              • A letter of intent explaining the applicant’s interest in the program, knowledge and understanding of family therapy, work experiences in human services (voluntary or paid) and professional goals and expectations.
              • A five-page summary of significant experiences about the applicant’s family of origin and how those are likely to affect his or her professional development. *Due to Title IX regulations, any mention of sexual harassment or abuse experienced by an applicant will be reported to a University of Louisville Title IX Coordinator to ensure students receive any necessary or appropriate resources or accommodations."

                Program Contact Information

                Emma Sterrett-Hong, PhD, Program Director

                Email Dr. Sterrett-Hong

                Danette Baker, Administrative Assistant

                Email Danette Baker

                Link to MSSW-CFT Student Handbook

                Link to CFT Program Policies and Procedures Handbook

                Link to Accreditation Information