Many important decisions regarding couples and families are made by the legal system. However, this system’s adversarial nature often results in relational losses for clients, even when one “wins” a case. Some believe a solution may exist in legally-minded marriage and family therapists, who, as experts in family systems theory, are in a unique position to help facilitate healing in a flawed, but well-meaning family court system (Brooks & Madden, 2012; Madden, 2008). However, the literature reveals that new therapists may lack appropriate legal knowledge when they graduate, suggesting a need for different preparation by marriage and family therapy programs (Nelson & Graves, 2011). This dissertation aims to comprehensively examine the literature’s current body of knowledge concerning effective teaching methods for educating therapy students in the law; it then aims to explore issues of student engagement by examining the views of marriage and family therapy students concerning their personal legal skills, the legal system, and the legal education of therapists. By addressing student views and applying tried-and-true methods of effective legal instruction, future educators will be able to apply this dissertation’s findings to ensure that they are training legally-competent therapists who will engage effectively and appropriately with clients and professionals in the legal system.

LLU Discipline

Marital and Family Therapy


Counseling and Family Sciences


School of Behavioral Health

First Advisor

Williams-Reade, Jackie

Second Advisor

Chand, Ian P.

Third Advisor

Huenergardt, Douglas

Fourth Advisor

Thompsen, Calvin

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Marital Therapy -- Legislation and Jurisprudence; Family Therapy -- Legislation and Jurisprudence; Family therapy -- Education; Systems Theory

Subject - Local

Legally-minded Therapists; Legal education; Personal legal skills; Legally-competent Therapists



Page Count


Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives