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Which theories are on the California MFT Clinical Exam?

Which theories are on the California MFT Clinical Exam?

The clinical exam to get an MFT license in California, otherwise known as the California MFT Clinical Exam or CCE, covers a wide range of knowledge related to the field of marriage and family therapy. One of the most common questions MFTs have as they approach the exam is, Which theories are covered on the California MFT Clinical Exam?

The BBS publishes an Exam Plan that includes a full list of the categories of knowledge the exam assesses. This list includes a handful of theories called out by name in the section on “Implementing Theory in Treatment Planning.”

It is reasonable to expect that you may see questions on any of these theories, and any close offshoots. You will not see questions on every theory listed; the specific theory coverage varies by exam cycle and version. But anything listed below is fair game for your test to potentially cover. Any theories that wouldn’t fit into these categories are ones that you are unlikely to be tested on.

Here’s the list of theories that may be covered in the Treatment Planning section on the California MFT Clinical Exam, according to the 2021 Exam Plan (which remains current as of August 2023). We’ve listed the names as they’re listed in the Exam Plan. We've added in [brackets] how some models may be more commonly known, or key figures that we associate with each model.

Family systems

General family systems theory
Structural theory [Minuchin]
Strategic theory [Haley; MRI; Milan Group]
Multigenerational theory [Bowen]
Experiential family theory [Satir; Whitaker]


General cognitive behavioral theory [CBT]
Dialectical behavioral theory [DBT]
Rational-emotive behavioral theory [REBT]


General postmodern theory
Narrative theory [Narrative Therapy]
Solution-oriented theory [Solution-Focused Therapy]


General psychodynamic theory
Attachment theory
Object relations theory
Self psychology theory


General humanistic-existential theory
Gestalt theory
Client-centered theory [Rogers]
Emotionally focused theory [Johnson]

Of course, we have excellent coverage of the categories and models on the exam in our California MFT Clinical Exam Prep course, which includes video lectures, topic-focused quizzes, practice tests, and more -- all at a lower price than competing programs.

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