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Social Class in Family Therapy Education: Experiences of Low SES Students


  • Teresa McDowell, EdD Chair, Department of Counseling Psychology, Lewis & Clark College; Andrae’ L. Brown, PhD, Clinical Coordinator, Marriage, Couple and Family Therapy Program; Nicole Cullen, MA and April Duyn, MA, Marriage, Couple and Family Therapy Program alumnae.

Address correspondence to Teresa McDowell, Department of Counseling Psychology – MCFT, Lewis & Clark College, 0615 SW Palantine Hill Road, Mailstop 86, Portland, Oregon 97219; E-mail:


In this article, we report the results of a national survey of students in COAMFTE-accredited family therapy programs who self-identify as coming from lower- or working-class backgrounds. Results of the study reveal opportunity and tension relative to family, friends, and community because of social mobility associated with graduate education. Participants describe family therapy education as middle-class centered, pointing to lack of attention to social class, marginalization, classism, and unacknowledged class barriers as salient experiences in their graduate programs. Finally, participants share a number of suggestions for program improvement.

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