By 5TJT Staff

Dr. Leslie Halpern

Perhaps one of the great lessons of the corona pandemic has been the importance of a happy home life. Dr. Leslie Halpern, dean, Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, learned this lesson early in her career as a clinical child psychologist. As she notes in her interview with 5TJT, “People who study child development are very aware of the importance of a warm and nurturing environment. I am thrilled we have a marriage and family therapy program now that will help professionals develop skills essential to building strong families.”

As posted on, the newly launched Ferkauf Marriage and Family Therapy program “is designed to meet the demand for therapists that are equipped to provide quality service to families and couples. It is a 60-credit program that combines theoretical knowledge, field work, and mentorship opportunities. Graduates can practice in private practice and mental-health centers with specialized MFT expertise.”

Dr. Halpern explained to 5TJT why this program was created, “We saw a need in the metropolitan area. Marriage and family therapy is quite popular in other states, particularly California. It has not been as popular as an independent degree in the northeast, especially the metropolitan area. This degree is licensable by New York State. Ferkauf felt very few offer this particular specialty … This is a career-directed degree. Graduates will be licensed as a marriage and family therapist to work in private practice or at hospitals and clinics.”

Based on the experience of Ferkauf’s doctoral students who became clinicians, as well as the densely populated metropolitan area, Halpern notes, “We see good prospects for our students [of the master’s program in Marriage and Family Therapy]. Clinicians report being very busy and not being able to accommodate the demand for therapy, resulting in clients being placed on waitlists to get treatment.”

Ferkauf’s doctoral programs have offered some training in marriage and family therapy, primarily under the direction of Dr. Shelly Goldklank. Some elected to focus on that area when they leave, and others not. Dr. Goldklank is a founding member and program chair of Section 8 of Division 39 of the American Psychological Association: Psychoanalysis and Family and Couples Therapy. She is the founding director of the Couples and Family Training and Education Program at the William Alanson White Institute for Psychoanalysis, where she is also a supervisory and teaching faculty member.

The newly launched master’s degree program focuses on marriage and family therapy, presenting, as Dr. Halpern notes, “a shorter path to the end. The master’s program can be completed in two-and-a-half years, which allows individuals who don’t want to spend five years on a doctoral degree to become a therapist.”

Dr. William Salton is acting program director of the Marriage and Family Therapy master’s program. He is also a clinical psychologist and director of The Max and Celia Parnes Family Psychological and Psychoeducational Services Clinic. The Parnes Clinic is a training clinic for doctoral students at Ferkauf while acting as a community-based clinic in the Bronx, near Einstein Medical at Jacobi Hospital. Dr. Salton has many years of experience providing clinical services. His own training included marriage and family therapy.

With small class sizes, students will have the ability to learn from Dr. Salton and other professors. Dr. Halpern notes the strategy behind this: “When you train people to be healthcare providers, you want an opportunity for dialogue and discourse, to share opinions and ideas. We plan to place students in a careful way, with close supervision and monitoring. The small class size allows for individual attention, which is crucial because they are building therapy skills.”

Dr. Halpern confirms, “Students will get an excellent education from people who are experts in the field. Ferkauf has a long history of training people at the master’s level and training hundreds of doctoral students. Ferkauf boasts solid experience mentoring and training in mental health.”

While this program was created before the pandemic, as noted by Dr. Halpern and many psychological studies, the pandemic created a greater need for marriage and family therapists. “Families are stressed by the pandemic. Partners living together under the same roof are facing new struggles they never imagined before. This made people aware of the importance of seeking help and talking about issues in the family. You can’t escape to run off to the office. [Extended time at home highlighted the] positives and challenges of marriage and family life. Families with young children in particular might find greater stress and a need for marriage and family therapists.”

As a division of Yeshiva University, Ferkauf has a unique relationship with students from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS). “RIETS students have the opportunity to take several courses in mental-health counseling as part of their degree through a collaborative program with Ferkauf, and some choose to continue at Ferkauf to complete the full master’s degree in mental-health counseling. Plans are under way to potentially offer a pastoral counseling certificate program. Halpern notes that it is beneficial for rabbis to have training in counseling and marital therapy.

When asked about the emphasis on shalom bayis in the Jewish community, Halpern agrees and expands the idea for the Ferkauf diverse student body and multicultural curriculum. “Harmony and peace are essential in any healthy marriage and for strong, supportive families.”

Halpern concludes, “We are the go-to school if you want a degree in mental-health counseling or marriage and family therapy, and we offer tremendous training resources.” 

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