Masters (MA) in Social and Behavioral Studies


The Master of Arts in Social and Behavioral Studies degree will equip graduates to serve in the broader field of human services.  Students who choose this option are not seeking a clinical degree and do not anticipate serving as a licensed mental health professional.

Student Learning Outcomes

Graduates will:

  • Articulate a holistic, multi-faceted, respectful understanding of persons in context.
  • Listen effectively and in an informed way to people and their needs.
  • Collaborate with mental health professionals in various community, school, and ecclesiastical organizations for people to receive the help that they need.
  • Serve in any of a variety of ways and settings in the human services arena in a non-clinical capacity. 

Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution. A cumulative undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 or above is required. The undergraduate degree does not have to be in the field of psychology.
  • Completed Application Form at
  • $40 non-refundable application fee
  • Résumé of work and/or volunteer experience
  • Written admission statement addressing the question provided in the Application Form
  • One academic reference form and one professional reference form
  • An official transcript from each college or university attended
  • Group interview with the Admissions Committee. An invitation will be extended to those meeting initial program criteria.

The Admissions Committee will consider each application item and the group interview as part of the admissions decision.

Additional requirements for international students are online here.

Transfer Credit

No transfer credit is allowed toward the Master of Arts in Social and Behavioral Studies program. Transferability of credits earned at this institution and transferred to another is at the discretion of the receiving institution. Consult the registrar's office for information on eligibility of transfer credit.

Residence Requirements

All 36 hours must be taken in resident study at George Fox University. Reinstatement to the program after withdrawal requires Admissions Committee action and may subject the student to additional requirements for the degree.

Course Requirements

The MA in Social and Behavioral Studies program is generally 3 years in length with 36 semester hours of coursework required as a minimum for graduation. However, some students may complete the program in 2-4 years, based on individual requirements and schedules.  Of those hours, 5 are in prescribed spiritual integration courses, 25 in prescribed counseling courses, and 6 in counseling or trauma response or other coursework approved by the Graduate School of Counseling Faculty.

Other Degree Requirements

Each student must complete a minimum of 20 clock hours of personal counseling/therapy as part of the MA in Social and Behavioral Studies program. Graduate School of Counseling faculty will review students each fall and spring semester. For more specific information, please refer to the student handbook.

Graduation Requirements

In order to graduate with the MA in Social and Behavioral Studies degree students must:

  • Satisfactorily complete a minimum of 36 semester hours with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above
  • Achieve no grade lower than a B in all courses. If a grade of a B- or lower is received in a required course, that course must be retaken (for more specific information, please refer to the student handbook).
  • Complete 20 clock hours of personal counseling/therapy
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Curriculum Plan

Complete the following:

This course examines both the content and process of the Christian faith as well as its implications for clinical practice. Explored are an introduction to spirituality in mental health, basic hermeneutics as applied to Christian Scripture, basic theological concepts, the relationship between theology and psychology, health and toxic faith systems, spiritual development, spiritual/religious assessment, the spiritual/religious orientation and value system of the therapist, and treatment interventions in the spiritual/religious realm.

MA in Social and Behavioral Studies students complete either GCEP 577 or GCEP 579 for 1 credit. 

It is challenging to understand the difference between guilt, shame, and grace. It is also difficult to know then how to apply this to our spiritual lives, and yet harder to know how to apply this to someone else's life. This course is designed to inform the therapist about family shame, guilt, and grace. Definitions, characteristics, and change strategies for shame in clients, both individuals and families, will be discussed. Models of grace and healing for shame will be identified. There will be significant emphasis on the student's own experience of shame and grace. No Pre-Requisites

Complete the following:

An examination of key concepts in marital and family systems, including the family life cycle, as well as an introduction to various approaches to marital and family therapy. Core counseling skills as used in systems therapy will be taught and practiced. Prevention services as well as the roles of ethnicity and culture will be studied.
This course reviews basic concepts and skills of counseling individuals, including practice in applying those concepts and techniques in counseling situations during class. Emphasis is on conditions for effective helping relationships, attending and interviewing skills, basic theoretical assumptions, ethical principles, and professional orientation.
The study of human growth and development recognizes that a complex interplay of biological, intrapsychic, relational, and social dynamics are in constant motion throughout one's lifespan. Therefore, this course examines human development from an ecosystemic perspective by surveying a variety of major developmental theories as applied across the lifespan and identifying the use of those theories in the practice of Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy. The influence of cultural dynamics on human development is also considered, as expressed through dominant social values shaping our understanding and experience of self, family, gender, race, ethnicity, and spirituality. Emphasis is placed on applying developmental theories in the assessment and diagnosis of individuals, couples, and families, and in the educational environment.
This course is a survey of major contemporary theories of counseling and personality development with particular emphasis on the etiology, assessment, and treatment of psychopathological states as interpreted within various theoretical frameworks. The course surveys the major figures and their theories in the area of personality and counseling modalities. Theorists are examined to discover their views of anthropology, psychopathology, normalcy, behavioral, and relational assessment, in addition to their therapeutic goals and interventions. The course explores each theory in light of social and cultural diversity as well as the integrative impact of spirituality and religiosity on the development of the person. The systemic perspective, which recognizes that personality is embedded in various systems (family, relational, social, community and cultural), is considered throughout.

MA in Social and Behavioral Studies students complete either GCEP 530, GCEP 504 or GCEP 547. 

Many dimension of human sexuality will be explored, including anatomy, physiology, identity, values, culture, relationships, family, spirituality, dysfunction, therapy techniques, and ethics. Students will evaluate their perceptions about their sexuality in order to understand the impact of the clinician's values on clients. This course is intended for students in the Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling programs only.
This course examines theory, etiology, assessment, and treatment of addictive disorders in individual, marriage, couple, family, and group modalities. The course also provides insight into the collaborative nature of treatment in the field of addiction, providing opportunities for students to work with each other and professionals in the field to enhance knowledge of treatment interventions and treatment planning. Pre-Requisites: GCEP 500 and GCEP 501
Students will engage in all steps of the research process by participating in a collaborative research project that emphasizes the importance of research in the counseling profession, including work that informs evidenced-based practices in the field. Students participate in the ethical design, analysis, reporting, and evaluation of empirical research. Students will also learn to fundamentals of program evaluation, including needs assessments and strategies for program modification.
This course is intended to increase the student's understanding of the issues and dynamics in counseling across social and cultural lines. Students will explore the nature of society and culture and how these impact the counseling process. Students will examine several major spiritual traditions, with a view to understanding the implications for clinical practice with persons in these populations. Within each tradition, the following are explored: history and tradition; sacred writings; central doctrines; spiritual authority; faith communities; communal and personal disciplines/rituals; health/happiness and pathology; means of grace; social and cultural practice; relationship to creator/creation; gender, blood, and faith relationships; compare and contrast with Western Christian worldview; systemic analysis; and therapeutic implications. Attention will be given to developing understanding of gender, class, race, ethnicity, structure and roles within marriage and family work, and various lifestyles. No Pre-Requisites
This course intends to deepen the student's knowledge base regarding the complexities of the human experience by examining neurological functioning and its role in human distress and recovery. Specifically, it explores the interplay between neurobiology, the social environment, and pharmacological interventions, and its influence on cognitive, affective, and behavioral functioning. The course offers an overview of neuroanatomy orienting the student to basic brain structure, advances in interpersonal neurobiology confirming the role of attachment relationships in brain development, and the role of interpersonal relationships and pharmacology in altering brain functioning.

Complete 6 credits of electives from any additional GCEP or TRMA coursework.

Note: If a student takes GCEP 547 Personality & Behavioral Assessment the 4th semester hour can apply toward the required elective hours for the degree.