5351 Spring Syllabus

COUN 5351:

Current Issues in Marriage and Family Counseling

Spring 2015


Instructor: Dr. Shawn Patrick, LPC           , NCC                           Classroom: ED 4007

Office Phone: 512-245-8130                                             Meets: Thursday, 3:30p – 6:20p

Email: sp27@txstate.edu                                                 Office: ED 4017

Office Hours:

Course Description
This course provides students with information regarding special issues in marriage and family therapy, including: grief and loss, domestic violence, substance abuse in the family, GLBT issues, divorce, and re-parenting.

NOTE: This course has an optional study-abroad component offered in conjunction with the IAMFC Northampton Summer Institute. Please see the NSI section of the syllabus for more information on this option.

Course Objectives

Course Objective Activity1 CACREP Standard
  1. Understands how living in a multicultural society affects couples and families.
Field trips III MCFC E1
  1. Recognizes societal trends and treatment issues related to working with multicultural and diverse family systems (e.g., families in transition, dual-career couples, blended families, same-sex couples).
Poster presentation III MCFC E2
  1. Understands current literature that outlines theories, approaches, strategies, and techniques shown to be effective in working with diverse family systems.
Conference participation III MCFC E3
  1. Understands the effects of racism, discrimination, sexism, power, privilege, and oppression on one’s own life and that of the client(s).
Field trips III MCFC E4
  1. Understands the effect of local, state, and national policies, programs, and services on diverse family systems.
Field trips III MCFC E5
  1. Understands how to critically evaluate research relevant to the practice of marriage, couple, and family counseling.
Poster presentation III MCFC I1
  1. Knows models of program evaluation relevant for the practice of marriage, couple, and family counseling.
Poster Presentation III MCFC I2
  1. Knows evidence-based treatments and basic strategies for evaluating counseling outcomes in marriage, couple, and family counseling.
Conference participation III MCFC I3
  1. Gain knowledge of the impact of addiction, trauma, psychopharmacology, physical and mental health, wellness, and illness on marriage, couple, and family functioning.
Conference participation III:MCFC:G3
  1. Develop the ability to use procedures for assessing and managing suicide risk.
Conference participation III:MCFC:D4
  1. Understand the ethical and legal considerations specifically related to the practice of marriage, couple, and family counseling.

1These activities differ from the non-study abroad version of this course
Required Text

1) Walsh, F. (2012). Normal Family Processes (4th Ed.). New York: Guilford.

2) Other readings as provided via TRACS or in-class supplements.

Supplemental Texts (not required, but could be useful):

Gurman, A., & Jacobson, N. (2002). Clinical handbook of couple therapy (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford.

Madsen, W. (2007). Collaborative therapy with multi-stressed families (2nd ed). New York, NY: Guilford.

McGoldrick, M., Giordano, J., & Garcia-Preto, N. (2005). Ethnicity and Family Therapy (2nd Edition). New York: Guilford.

Monk, G., Winslade, J., & Sinclair, S. (2008). New horizons in multicultural counseling. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

White, M. (2011). Narrative practice: Continuing the conversations. New York, NY: Norton.

Methods of Instruction

Lecture, experiential activities, field trips/activities, video, large and small group discussion, journaling, presentations, literature reviews.




Course Requirements (Traditional Classroom Format)

  1. Attendance/Participation:

Attendance is required at all scheduled class meetings. This course includes a heavy discussion and in-class activity component that cannot be made up outside of class. Students will be asked to participate in several practice and role-play scenarios. Excessive absences or failure to participate in these scenarios will result in a reduction of one’s overall course grade by at least 1 letter grade.



  1. Ethics debate:

Students will form groups of 5-6 and locate a case describing a potential ethical dilemma or dilemmas. The cases should focus on situations involving couples or family work and highlight laws or ethical guidelines pertaining to work with families, systems, children, or couples in partnered relationships. These cases can be found in existing literature, websites, or consultation with practicing counselors. Cases also do not have to be solely from counseling contexts; for example you may learn of a situation being described in a news story. If using a case described by a practitioner, please take every effort to change identifying information so as to not reveal the identity of those who may have been involved. Groups should not invent a case. Ideally groups will choose cases that do not have obvious resolutions.


Groups will present this case to the class by engaging in an ethics “debate.” Group members will split in half and each half will take a particular “side” and discuss the issues involved, pose possible resolutions, and debate whether or not a particular code is applicable or culturally appropriate. Groups will have up to 45 minutes to present the case and engage in the debate. Groups should also provide a handout/document that includes the case and lists relevant ethical codes and/or state laws that are being examined. At the conclusion of the debate, the class will determine which side “wins.”


Note that “winning” does not lead to a higher grade; the degree to which groups present their ideas fully, examine the nuances the codes connected to the case, develop potential courses of action, and address the potential implications of an action, determines the grade for the group and/or individual. Individuals who participate minimally or not at all during the debate will have a reduced grade compared to others in the group.


  1. Topic Role Play:

Based off of chapters in sections II, III, and Ch. 19, students will form 5 groups and find a case that pertains to one of the areas listed in the sections identified. Cases can come from the text, other counseling literature, or actual client situations students are working on (with identities altered). Please do NOT use fictional cases.


The group will then portray this particular case in front of the class. Students who are not in the group will then experiment with specific kinds of practices during the role-play. These practices could include assessment-related skills, goal setting and treatment planning, interviewing practices, or techniques geared towards a specific theoretical approach. The length of role-play and practices attempted will vary based on the cases selected. If a group uses a client situation currently being seen by a student, try to use information as current as possible as the role-play can provide supervisory insights into your work with that client. Students will need to form groups and identify which chapter they will “represent” as early as possible as this will set the schedule of topics post-spring break. Groups need to provide a copy of the case to the instructor.


Note: Students attending the NSI do NOT need to join groups. Participation at NSI counts towards this requirement. However students attending NSI are still welcome to attend class and participate in the activities.


  1. Family Interview and Poster Presentation:

The “family interview” is the culminating project for the course and results in a poster that will be presented in class (OR at the NSI institute). Students will locate a “family” to interview based on a semi-structured format (to be provided). Ideally students will find a family who does not represent a culture, circumstance, or condition the student themselves already personally identifies with. Consider sections II, III, and IV in the text when determining what may constitute this “family.” Note that it is possible to interview an individual, a large group of people of different ages, or even a group of biologically unrelated people as the definition of “family” varies greatly.


The purpose of the interview is to understand the lived experience of the people you are interviewing. The chapter that corresponds to the family situation being explored is to be thought of as “background material” that might inform your questions. However, families are not to be seen as merely “representative;” rather the interview may reveal areas that concur and diverge from the text material. These interviews should result in “rich portraits” of these families rather than one-dimensional images.


The interview process itself reflects a particular way of coming to understand potential clients and their lives. As such these interviews are not intended to identify “pathologies.” Instead, you should view the family as the people who will instruct you on how to be a better counselor for working with a client like them. It is possible you will need to meet with the “family” on more than one occasion.


The interview and supporting material will be collected into a narrative paper and also presented in a poster format. The paper should be clearly organized but can be written to tell the “story” of your family. Professional literature should be used to support themes and concepts addressed in the story, but the focus is on the family interviewed. An APA-style reference page should be provided. Papers can be turned in AT ANY POINT up to the last class day. Given the nature of this paper, page limits can vary a great deal; an estimate of 5-8 pages of written text (typed, double-spaced, APA-style) is offered but papers longer than 8 pages will not be penalized.


The poster is based on the paper and can also include descriptions, photographs taken by you (with interviewee permission where needed), citations supporting the concepts and themes identified in the interview, and counseling considerations. A reference list should be included, and also a bibliography of suggested readings. Your families are invited to collaborate on what you present! An ideal poster is one that the interviewee/family themselves would want to show in a public setting. Consider this poster presentation as an “exhibition” of the people you have come to know.


Note those attending NSI will need to submit their poster proposal to the institute early in the semester, thus students going to NSI will want to determine their intended area of study by beginning of February. Please see TRACS site for a general interview outline, sample permission forms, and further resources.



Course Requirements (Northampton Institute Option)



Students must complete all course requirements listed in the Traditional Course option. Attending the NSI constitutes the following alterations:


  1. Attendance:

      Attendance at the Northampton Summer Institute includes attending and participating in all scheduled presentation sessions (see NSI schedule for specific time and day of sessions). Please note that during the NSI, some sessions occur at the Sunley Centre in Northampton, and some are scheduled in Oxford during the Oxford day excursion. Attending NSI sessions counts for XX traditional class meetings; after spring break you are no longer required to attend classes on campus. However you are welcome to continue attending if you would prefer; if you are uncertain as to whether or not you will attend NSI, then attending class as scheduled would be recommended. A student who decides later in the semester to attend NSI needs to inform the instructor as soon as possible and register for NSI in order to receive credit for attendance at NSI.


If you stop attending after spring break AND fail to attend the scheduled sessions at NSI, this will result in a failing grade in the course.


Please note that NSI is a professional conference, and you must register for the conference ahead of time (your course tuition does NOT include NSI registration). Verification of your registration must be provided to the instructor. NSI is limited to 50 registrants, so you are encouraged to register as early as possible to guarantee a spot.


  1. Contact Information and REGISTRATION:

Provide your travel and contact information (for when you are in the UK) to the instructor.  We will also create a list to be shared with others in the course attending NSI.


      You must also complete a Travel Application with the graduate school prior to leaving for the institute; it is recommended you complete this as soon as possible. Even if you are not requesting funding assistance, you are required by the University to complete this form. This form verifies your intent to travel outside the country. If you are also requesting travel funding assistance, you will be asked to provide information regarding your poster presentation. If you have never completed a travel application with the university prior to this point, you are encouraged to begin the process immediately as it takes some time to open an account for you. Even if you do not have verification of your poster presentation, please begin this process so you are not delayed in getting approval for funding.


  1. At the Institute:

Students are expected to attend all institute presentations and participate in activities, discussions, and so on. Given that this is an institute, the educational environment differs from the traditional classroom; attendees are viewed as colleagues and are not required to “take notes” or refrain from discussions. All institute participants are encouraged to engage in dialogue in and out of sessions to foster learning, develop professional relationships, and enhance their overall institute experience. Dress is casual; breaks are also offered after each session.

To track attendance at institute sessions, students will maintain a daily journal for the duration of the institute.  At a minimum, students will write about each educational session attended. Students will use the “blog” section of the course TRACS site to complete their entries. Think of these entries as a “session review”; focus on what was learned, your personal experience of the session, and any questions or other critiques that came up as a result. For example, what would you want others to know about the experience? Would you recommend it or caution against it? (The Sunley Centre has wifi/internet available, thus you can complete your blogs on a daily basis while you are there.)

Students are encouraged to share their honest opinions and feelings! Grading is based on completing an entry per session, not on whether or not students give a “favorable review”. Students may also journal other parts of their trip, but this is optional. This feedback will assist the conference organizers in preparing future conferences.

  1. Field Trips:

Several field trips are scheduled during the institute. Students are expected to participate in these field trips. For some trips students may have options as to where they choose to go and each student can select whichever option they prefer. In other words, students are not required to travel as “a group” on field trips. It can also be possible to deviate from the planned itinerary during a field trip; if students choose to do this, it is advised they inform the instructor or another institute director mainly for tracking purposes.


Students should include a blog entry referring to their field trip experience; at a minimum students should indicate where they travelled and in essence what was gained from the experience. ALL blog entries must be completed by May



  1. Poster Presentation final project:

Students will complete a poster presentation. The instructor and directors of the institute are available for consultation regarding poster topics and format. Posters will be presented during a designated time and date during the institute (TBA in institute program). Students must be present for the presentation in order to receive full credit. Please submit your poster application form as early as possible PRIOR to the orientation meeting to secure your slot! (See traditional course format for poster requirements.)

Project/Research Poster Sessions are designed to convey research findings, literature summaries, and/or novel approaches to issues in a poster format. Through an “Interactive Style” attendees will be encouraged to “stop by” and visit with as many of the presenters of the sessions as they want and engage in interactive dialogue. Some participants may stay for only a few minutes and then move on to another presentation, while others will want to stay longer and go more in-depth on your topic.


The basic content of a Poster Session should include, although not be limited to, the following:

  1. A title that appropriately describes your session.
  2. An outline of a thesis, problem, or novel approach.
  3. The method(s) used to achieve a solution to a problem or to implement a novel approach.
  4. If appropriate, statistical data or supportive literature should be titled and summarized in a clear, concise format.
  5. A clear, concise conclusion.
  6. A list of references or selected readings
  7. A 1 page brochure/handout summarizing your poster, references/select readings, and contact information


All Poster Sessions will be located in the Conference Center. You will be provided with sufficient ‘wall space’ (or table if using poster tri-folds) to display your posters. You will also remain with your poster during the poster session time. Students are strongly encouraged to have their posters printed. Please use a standard poster size, 36” or larger. Businesses like Kinkos or the university’s CopyCats offer this service. Printing will also make it easier to transport during travel. Please bring your own thumb tacks/push pins. A space will be provided near your posters for handouts and additional materials. Please provide at least 50 copies of your handouts. Session attendees find them a valuable asset, and attendees often contact you after the event to learn more! An alternative is to collect email addresses from interested people to send them your materials. On-site reproduction of handouts is at the expense of the presenter. No audiovisual equipment will be provided. You are responsible for setting up your poster session and removing it immediately following your presentation. Each session will be given a maximum of 15 minutes before and after the session for set up and removal of materials.


Remember that other professionals will be viewing your poster! Please remember to use large enough print, graphs, charts or designs to be easily viewed from a distance of not less than 8-10 feet. A bullet point or outline format can be easier to view on a poster than written paragraphs. Examples of posters can be provided by the instructor. Upon acceptance of your poster application, you will be provided a confirmation email of your submission for your records.





As this course is intended to be highly interactive and “hands-on,” grading is based on multiple factors:


Traditional Format NSI Points: Grade Breakdown:


Attendance (7 classes + institute) Multiple misses = lowering of course grade; see above  
Ethics Debate Ethics Debate 30 A (92%) = 210-193
Role Play Session Participation/Blog 30 B (80%) = 192-168
Family Interview Family Interview 75 C (70% ) = > 167
Poster Presentation Poster Presentation 75  
Total   210  




Texas State University seeks to provide reasonable accommodations for all qualified individuals with disabilities. This university will adhere to all applicable federal, state, and local laws, regulations and guidelines with respect to providing reasonable accommodations as required to afford equal opportunity. It is the student’s responsibility to register with Disability Support Services and to contact the faculty member in a timely manner to arrange for appropriate accommodations.




Tentative Schedule (Traditional Format)

Date Topic Due
1/22 Intro; Review Ch 2
1/29 Culture; Family life cycle Development

Conducting a Family Interview

Ch.11, 16
2/5 Gender and Sexuality Ch 14


2/12 Trauma and Families Ch 17


2/19 Crisis/Suicide Assessment

Substance Assessment

2/26 Ethics Ethics group __________

Ethics group ___________

3/5 Ethics Ethics group ___________

Ethics Group ___________

3/26 (TBD) Role Plays (Readings TBD)
4/30 Poster Presentations (traditional) Last day to submit Papers
5/7 FINALS WEEK (no meeting)


Northampton Institute Schedule (Subject to Change; see website http://nsitxstate.wp.txstate.edu/ and registration materials for updates)

Wednesday, May 20 Arrival, Check-in Orientation session
Thursday, May 21 Tour of Central London field trip
Friday, May 22* Presentations; Oxford Sessions; field trip
Saturday, May 23* Presentations/workshops sessions
Sunday, May 24 Villages tour; Presentations Field trip; sessions
Monday, May 25 Departure (no required attendance)

*Poster Sessions will occur either May 22 or May 23; as institute nears the schedule will be finalized by the conference organizers.

International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors

Northampton Family Counseling Institute

Poster Session Application for University Students


Proposals are due February 23, 2015 for full consideration; proposal received after this date will be consider if space is available.



First Name: _______________________Last Name: __________________________________

Mailing Address _______________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________                                                 Include, city, state, zip code

Institution Name: ______________________________________________________________

Degree Program/track:__________________________________________________________

Degree /Credentials Attained: ____________________________________________________

E-Mail Address: _______________________________________________________________

Contact Telephone Number: ____________________________________________________



If applicable, co-presenter

First Name: _______________________Last Name: __________________________________

Mailing Address _______________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________                                                 Include, city, state, zip code

Institution Name: ______________________________________________________________

Degree Program/track:__________________________________________________________

Degree /Credentials Attained: ____________________________________________________

E-Mail Address: _______________________________________________________________

Contact Telephone Number: ____________________________________________________


Poster Session Abstract Page                                                                                                   This page will be used for the review of the Poster Proposal to determine acceptance. Incomplete submissions will not be considered.


Poster Session Title: _____________________________________________________________

Program Description (20-30 words max: to be used in the Conference Program:






Program Outline or Summary: Please provide a one-page summary of the proposed poster presentation.

Bottom of Form