Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Family Consumer Human Development

Committee Chair(s)

Thorana S. Nelson


Thorana S. Nelson


Theory of change papers and projects are used by various marriage and family therapy (MFT) training programs throughout the United States and Canada. Little is known about how these projects differ and are similar from program to program. The purpose of this study was to obtain a better knowledge and understanding about these projects.

Questionnaires regarding the use of theory of change projects were sent to all accredited and candidacy MFT programs throughout the United States and Canada. An exploratory, descriptive design was used to guide the research, and content analysis was used to analyze the data. The research was done in an attempt to answer the three research questions: (a) what percentage of MFT programs are using theory of change projects?, (b) what are the processes used in preparing and presenting the projects?, and (c) what is the content required in these projects?

The research revealed that 27 (59%) programs that responded used theory of change projects. Among the data from these programs, nine themes emerged in the processes used to prepare and present the projects. Furthermore, there were four unique aspects to processes in preparing and presenting the projects. With regards to content required in the projects, there were six themes found which consisted of 23 categories. The six themes were theory/models, change, the therapy process, client issues, therapist issues, and contextual issues.

After reviewing the literature it is believed that theory of change projects may be useful in the training of marriage and family therapists. It has been learned through this study that many program directors are using some components in their projects that may be useful to other directors as they form or refine their own theory of change projects. In forming a theory of change project, it appears important to have students conceptualize both the change process and the treatment process and to integrate theory with practice.

It is hoped that findings from this study will be useful to both those MFT program directors and faculty that do not require a theory of change project, but desire to develop one, and those that already have a project, but are trying to improve it. The findings from this study will help programs gather ideas from each other in an attempt to make MFT training more useful throughout the U.S. and Canada.