Theories of Family Systems – CEFS 601

CG • Section 8WK • 11/08/2019 to 04/16/2020 • Modified 07/28/2020

Course Description

This course considers the dynamics of marriage and family relationships from a systems perspective. The emphasis is on understanding family and other systems theories, the structure and function of marriage, various aspects of the marital relationship and family systems, and models of family and systemic interventions. Considerations from a historical perspective are presented along with current developments within marriage and family systemic models. Students will also engage in critical thinking regarding the application and integration of spirituality within marriage and family counseling.


(CEFS 501 or MAAC 501 or COUN 501) and (CEFS 504 or MAAC 504 or COUN 504) and (CEFS 510 or MAAC 510 or COUN 510) and (CEFS 505 or COUN 505 or MAAC 505 or ADCN 505) and (CEFS 500 or COUN 500) and (CEFS 502 or COUN 502) and (CEFS 505 or COUN 505 or ADCN 505 or MAAC 505)



This course is designed to cover the numerous and varied marriage and family theories as well as the history of marriage and family therapy. The information in this course is designed to equip counselor trainees for practice and to successfully complete the licensure exam.

Theories of Family Systems is a required course in the licensure programs and is intended to introduce the student to the concept and philosophy of marriage and family therapy. The student will be required to understand the systems philosophy and six major theoretical frameworks within the marriage and family therapy field. The student will understand such core content areas as: marriage and family history, key theoretical figures, ethics and legal matters, counseling issues, some techniques, current trends, and future themes. This is the first marriage and family course; thus, it is designed to teach foundational materials necessary to pass state licensure examinations. For a more in-depth and deeper level of understanding, demonstration, and skill development, the 602 course may be taken when offered.


Method of Instruction: This 8-week course is delivered in an online format, with Blackboard® as the primary instructional delivery method. Students complete one module per week over the duration of the course.


Mission and Vision of the Center for Counseling & Family Studies


Liberty University seeks to change the world by graduating students of competence, character, and wisdom, who model a grace-filled community and engage the larger culture. As a community of scholars and professionals who embrace a broad Christian worldview we in the Center for Counseling and Family Studies are committed to developing therapists who are competent clinicians and professionals, able to evaluate and apply personal and professional values to the practice of psychotherapy, and respectful of individuals and families and the cultural contexts that shape them.




Measurable Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Examine and critique the historical development of marriage and family counseling in a clinical mental health counseling setting.
  2. Explain and demonstrate appropriate ethical and legal consideration related to clinical mental health counseling from a marriage, couple, and/or family theory perspective.
  3. Articulate aspects of professional clinical mental health counseling organizations and their standards of practice, as well as clinical licensure in the field of marriage and family counseling.
  4. Differentiate and apply a variety of clinical marriage and family therapy theories and models related to the clinical and professional counseling orientations.
  5. Discuss and integrate knowledge of family life cycles/stages across the lifespan, various family systems perspectives, contemporary families, family health and wellness, cultural variances in families, and family phenomenology in professional and clinical mental health counseling.
  6. Critique and hypothesize how crises, trauma, abuse, divorce, disasters, and other life-changing events impact the family system in professional and clinical mental health counseling.
  7. Demonstrate the ability to apply and adhere to ethical and legal standards established by ACA, AACC, AAMFT, and the IAMFC codes of ethics in professional and clinical mental health counseling.
  8. Integrate and apply biblical principles and secular theories in a responsible, ethical manner in professional and clinical mental health counseling.
  9. Select and apply techniques from various counseling orientations and theoretical models to case studies and family situations in professional and clinical mental health counseling.
  10. Generate a family genogram tracing multigenerational patterns of behavior, attitudes, and/or pathology and interpret it through a professional and clinical mental health counseling lens.
  11. Analyze and hypothesize various family dynamics that have shaped the family system over the lifespan that are utilized in a professional and clinical mental health counseling setting.

Common Core Courses Matrix of Student Competencies

F.2  Social and Cultural Diversity

CACREP Standard

Course/Experience – Learning Experiences

F.2.b. theories and models of multicultural counseling, cultural identity development, and social justice and advocacy

Group DB Forum 3 activity discussion related to Culturally sensitivity, ethical behaviors and profession practice,

F.2.c. multicultural counseling competencies

Exam 1 (Ch 1-4); Exam 2 (Ch 5, 7-9); Exam 3 (Ch 10-12); Exam 4 (Ch 13 -15), Group Discussion Board 3

F.2.d. the impact of heritage, attitudes, beliefs, understandings, and acculturative experiences on an individual’s views of others

Case Presentation, Ethics Application, Family Genogram Project, Family Counseling Approach Research Paper

F.2.h. strategies for identifying and eliminating barriers, prejudices, and processes of intentional and unintentional oppression and discrimination

Family Genogram Project, Family Counseling Approach Research Paper

F.3  Human Growth & Development

F.3.a. theories of individual and family development across the life span

Family Counseling Approach Research Paper

F.5  Counseling and Helping Relationships

F.5.b. a systems approach to conceptualizing clients

Family Genogram Project, Family Counseling Approach Research Paper



Course Assignment

Course Requirements Checklist

After reading the Course Syllabus and Student Expectations, the student will complete the related checklist found in Module/Week 1.

Group Discussion Board Forums (4)

For this collaborative discussion board, the instructor will place the student into a group at the beginning of the course. Each group will be assigned based on alphabetically listed last names. The student will complete 4 Group Discussion Board Forums throughout this course. The student is required to create a thread in response to the provided prompt for each forum. Each thread must be at least 500 words and demonstrate course-related knowledge. In addition to the thread, the student is required to reply to 1 classmate’s thread. Each reply must be at least 400 words. Each reply must cite at least 1 source. These discussion board activities are designed to allow the student to discuss, articulate, analyze, and integrate the various aspects of marriage and family counseling as well as learn how faith can be integrated within counseling (CACREP Standard: F.2.b., F.2.c., F.2.d., F.2.h., F.3.a., F.5.b.).

Family Genogram Project

The student will use the GenoPro software and the McGoldrick et al. (2017) textbook to prepare a family genogram of at least 3 generations of his/her family system. The student will also write a 5-page paper in current APA format analyzing his/her genogram (CACREP Standard: F.2.d., F.2.h., F.3.a., F.5.b.). 

SYMBIS Assessment Facilitator Certification

The student will complete the SYMBIS Assessment Facilitator Certification and submit proof of completion. This certification will assist the student in assessing and identifying crucial elements in counseling pre-marital and marital couples, as well as, couples in their second marriage (CACREP Standard: F.2.d., F.3.a., F.5.b.).  

Family Counseling Approach Research Paper

The student will write a research paper/formal literature review on 1 of the specific approaches to family counseling. The paper must be in current APA format and use a minimum of 12 scholarly references. The research section (Part I) of the paper must be at least 6 pages. In the personal integration section (Part II), the student will integrate his/her own faith and family counseling approach, and this section must be at least 2 pages. In the SYMBIS section (Part III), the student will integrate the family counseling approach with their personalized 15-page report about themselves within the context of a potential/current relationship through the “phantom partner” (computer generated) option; this section must be at least 2 pages.  (CACREP Standard: F.2.d., F.2.h., F.3.a., F.5.b.).  

Exams (4)

Each exam will cover the Reading & Study material for the assigned modules/weeks. These exams will require the student to synthesize, compare and contrast, and demonstrate graduate-level integration of the materials covered in the course. Each exam will be open-book/open-notes, consist of 50 multiple-choice questions, and have a 1-hour and 30-minute time limit (CACREP Standard: F.2.b., F.2.c., F.2.d., F.2.h., F.3.a., F.5.b.).