Sexual health content, education, and training in accredited marriage and family therapy master's programs
Numerous studies have shown that mental health clinicians, including Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs), have problems addressing sexual health issues with their clients. Although there is a requirement for Commission on Accreditation of Marriage and Family Therapy Education accredited master’s programs (COAMFTE-AMPs) to include 3-credit course hours of biopsychosocial health and development education, which should include sexual health, there is no explicit requirement of hours for sexual health education in in these programs. This dissertation utilized a three-paper model to explore sexual health training, content, and education in COAMFTE-AMPs and provides evidence-based recommendations for future courses. Paper 1 is a directed content analysis of sexual health/therapy course syllabi in 22 COAMFTE-AMPs and an examination of differences based on program characteristics. Content areas were explored based on the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) Sex Therapist Certification Core Knowledge Areas (CKAs). Results revealed the most common covered AASECT CKAs were Range of Sexual Functioning and Behavior (n=21, 95.5%), Issues Related to Sexual Orientation and/or Gender Expression (n=21, 95.5%), and Socio-Cultural, Familial Factors (n=21, 95.5%). The least covered AASECT CKAs were Cyber Sexuality and Social Media (n=9, 40.9%) and Principles of Sexuality Research and Methods (n=9, 40.9%). AASECT certified instructors (p=.02) and programs in the Midwest (p=.04) covered significantly more AASECT CKAs than instructors who were not AASECT certified and programs in other regions. Paper 2 examined COAMFTE-AMP students’ knowledge and factors associated with their clinician sexual health self-efficacy using a survey created by the author using primarily established measures (N=97). Descriptive data revealed that although perceived sexual health topic knowledge was high (M=36.58 out of 56) actual sexual health knowledge was low (M=13.75 out of 27). Hierarchical regression results revealed perceived knowledge, knowledge, and sexual health in MFT program were significantly associated with clinician sexual health self-efficacy (all p<.05). The change in R2 was significant from the first to second block of variables analyzed (p<.05). Paper 3 utilized the results from Papers one and two, along with current literature, to inform the creation of a model sexual health/therapy course syllabus for COAMFTE-AMPs, which currently does not exist. This dissertation provides information to enhance training for COAMFTE-AMP students to adequately address clients’ sexual health issues in therapy, which should lead to better public health outcomes.