The reported use and utility of training and supervisory practices in marriage and family therapy training programs: A study of external and internal practices

Date of Completion

January 2000


Social Work|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies|Education, Higher




The primary purpose of this study was to explore the use of external training and supervision practices that emphasize technical skill and internal training and supervision practices that emphasize personal growth in COAMFTE accredited training programs. A secondary objective was to evaluate the perceived utility of MFT training and supervisory practices. Tertiary objectives included identifying differences between supervisors' and trainees' perspectives and between degree-granting and post-degree programs. An effort was also made to determine whether there are trends across COAMFTE accredited training programs with respect to the use and utility of external and internal training and supervisory practices. ^ Ten focus groups, with a range of 3–10 participants, and 3 individual interviews were used to identify external and internal training and supervisory practices in COAMFTE programs. Focus groups and interviews were transcribed by an independent transcriber, analyzed by two coders, and used to construct a survey questionnaire on external and internal supervisory practice patterns. ^ Parallel forms of the questionnaire were distributed to 4 trainees and 4 supervisors in 70 COAMFTE programs in the United States and Canada. A total of 189 questionnaires were completed and returned for a response rate of 43.2%. Sixty-six percent of all COAMFTE programs were represented in the study. ^ Findings suggest that, while many respondents describe their use of both external and internal practices in training and supervision, external practices are more prevalent than internal practices, and internal practices are more prevalent than a combination of both. Additionally, there exists a slight inverse relationship between the use of these two practice types. These findings are consistent across trainee and supervisor cohorts and degree-granting and post-degree programs. ^ Respondents reported using most generic training and supervisory practices to primarily facilitate an environment of conceptual and technical guidance, and secondarily to facilitate an environment of respect, support and encouragement. Other supervisory environments, including creating openness and facilitating personal growth, were selected less often. Consistent with the literature, this study suggests MFT programs are characterized by diverse training and supervision practices. ^