Common Factors Come Alive: Practical Strategies for Implementing Common Factors in MFT Training

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Presently, MFT training programs teach MFT models in a way that emphasizes differences over similarities (Karam et al. in J Marital Fam Ther, 2015. doi:10.1111/jmft.12096; Sprenkle and Blow in J Marital Fam Ther 30:113–129, 2004a. doi:10.1111/j.1752-0606.2004.tb01228.x, in J Marital Fam Ther 30:151–157, b. doi:10.1111/j.1752-0606.2004.tb01230.x; Sprenkle et al. in Common factors in couple and family therapy: the overlooked foundation for effective practice. Guilford Press, New York, 2009). Although teaching a variety of models and their distinctiveness is vital, doing so may create a competitive rather than integrative relationship between models (Karam et al. 2015). While Karam et al. 2015 encourage the inclusion of common factors in MFT training, we expand their justification for the importance of doing so We also explain conceptual and practical ways to include common factors in MFT training. Common factors instruction can fulfill multiple purposes: (a) create a sense of cohesiveness for programs which need to teach breadth of topics that can seem unrelated, (b) help prepare practitioners who need to learn many models well but will likely adopt an integrative approach, (c) align with basic skills training, (d) align with process research, and (e) enhance the richness of individual models. For each of these purposes, we provide an example of a classroom activity. We conclude with a unifying example of how one student may learn the common-factors perspective and weave it into her reflective practices as an MFT student.