Advanced Certificate in Couple and Family Systems

Expand your family counselling training in two years

The Advanced Certificate in Couple and Family Systems Therapy is accredited by the Australian Association of Family Therapy (AAFT) featuring training in relationship systems thinking and clinical application with individuals, couples and families. It is ideal for already practicing clinicians from various disciplines – including social work, psychology, psychiatry, occupational therapy, nursing – wanting to gain theory and practice experience in working with couples and families, moving towards certification as a clinical family therapist with the Australian Association of Family Therapy.

Download the Program Flyer

Advanced Certificate in Couple and Family Systems Therapy

The Advanced Certificate in Couple and Family Systems Therapy is a 2-year accredited training program by the Australian Association of Family Therapy (AAFT) for those wanting to work towards their Clinical Family Therapy Membership with AAFT or further their skills in couple and family work. Drawing on the Family Systems Institute’s rich history of clinical training, the Advanced Certificate offers a unique opportunity for training in the theory and application of Bowen Family Systems Theory within the broader context of family therapy.

The Advanced Certificate program features training in relationship systems thinking that is applicable to clinical work with individuals, couples and families. It is ideal for already practicing clinicians wanting to gain theory and practice experience in working with couples and families, including those in social work, psychology, psychiatry, occupational therapy and nursing.

The program offers a rich learning platform simultaneously for participants starting to work with families as well as more experienced therapists. The unique focus of the self as therapist creates a learning experience that promotes personal and professional growth in applying Bowen theory for both experienced and emerging family systems clinicians.

About the Advanced Certificate program

Download the flyer for the Advanced Certificate in Family Systems Theory and Application.

The core program of the Advanced Certificate is a two year program that includes four online Modules (live reading and discussion groups) and four days of in-person Collaborative Learning Intensives each year. In addition, students are required to complete other Compulsory Professional Development components of the program either separately or simultaneously to the core program – these include Workshops, Family of Origin Research Groups and Clinical Supervision Groups, which are counted as ‘Recognised Prior Learning’ to the training program.

See the section on Recognised Prior Learning for more information.

What are the Outcomes of the Course?

1. Theory

Online discussion modules and guided reading cover the history and different models in family therapy and provide a grounding in Bowen Theory, while special topic workshops provide opportunity to think about challenging topics.

2. Clinical Application

Special topic workshops, supervision groups and collaborative learning intensives provide opportunity to consider the family life cycle and sociopolitical and cultural contexts of cases in clinical application.

3. Self as Therapist

Family of origin research groups provide a unique opportunity to consider the self in the fabric of intergenerational relationship systems, and in the live domains of personal and professional contexts.

Applications for the Advanced Certificate in Couple and Family Systems Therapy

Applications for the Advanced Certificate are welcome throughout the year, with applications for the following year closing on September 30th.

Applicants for the Advanced Certificate must have a relevant undergraduate degree, have at least two years experience in a counselling setting, and be working currently in a counselling or clinical context.

Click here for more information about the fee schedule for the Advance Certificate in Couple and Family Systems Therapy.

Click here for an application form or complete an online enquiry form if you would like more information about the program.


About Bowen Theory

Find out about the history and context of Bowen Theory

Read more


Understand the key concepts and terminology in Bowen Theory

Read more

Recommended Reading

Our recommended library of reading for a broader understanding of Bowen Theory

Read more


The Certificate Program has given me a solid foundation in Bowen Theory – such a useful theory for understanding all human relationships, including my own. This theory has revolutionised how I work with clients and how I respond in personal relationships.

– Fiona

I found the certificate program to be not only transforming of my clinical practice but also, my life and relationships.

– Jane

This Certificate Program has provided me with an excellent opportunity to work on many aspects of my self, understanding my self, my family better and how we as humans function which has helped me in my home and work life immensely.

– Veronica

The certificate program was the perfect way to do a deep dive into my family of origin and to thoughtfully work on my limitations as a therapist and as a person over a decent time frame to be able to try out different aspects of theory.

– Emma


What is the duration of the course?

All of our course are two years in duration.

View a breakdown of fees for the three core programs below. Remember that elements of the curriculum can be done in advance of registration and used as RPL. This would be deducted from the fees.

Download the fee structure

Our course delivery is mostly online live and interactive learning, with some face to face intensives.

It is important to have preliminary engagement with Bowen’s family systems theory. To have attended FSI seminars (which count as RPL), FSI conferences, reading groups or supervision from FSI faculty in your workplace. It is also a requirement to have a workplace setting that provides relevant case examples for the Certificate stream you are enrolling in. It is strongly recommended that people commence the program doing some RPL events. The only people eligible for entering without RPL are those who have done Bowen theory training at recognised network centres. I.E The Bowen Centre introductory course and network programs, linked below.

Network Programs

There is a lot of flexibility in the program. Discussion group modules tend to be at the end of the workday. Workshops are half day workshops. Family of origin groups are also at the end of a workday. Our recommendation is to do the additional parts of the program before signing up, such as the family of origin group, and workshops if you are concerned about your ability to fulfil the requirements. Core program is a commitment to 2 years to the modules and presentation days. The time commitment is incredibly manageable. The program is definitely possible on top of a full-time workload including the extra components. The assessment requirements and required reading have very reasonable expectations. There are two bonus events – pre-conference event and also an end of years symposium where scholars present work. Anyone doing certificate program gets free access to these events. These are put on in the same week as other required events in consideration of those travelling from outside Sydney.

Every 6 months there are 2 days face to face (4 days in total). This is a great opportunity to meet faculty and peers and have more of a collaborative learning effort. Workshops are blended options, but everything else is done over zoom – discussion group modules and family of origin groups. They are generally the same time as the conference or end of year symposium of the FSI. There is the option to apply for special consideration for being remote.

There are around two hours of guided reading for each module/group meeting. The assessment tasks are not as onerous as writing an essay. There will also be pre-reading for workshops, but generally this is less than two hours in preparation.

There are assessments for each of the modules based on participation and guided reading. There needs to be evidence of pre-reading and preparation as well as the written piece at the end of each module. At the end of the whole program a bigger piece of work integrating all of the 8 concepts is required. There are presentations each year where you bring your own thinking to the group for discussion. It is not as onerous as an academic course. The AAFT requirements are a deep engagement with the content of the course and made the learning your own. There is less assessment in the non-AAFT courses. There are module papers required for all 3 streams.

The marking is pass/fail, not a bell curve. Assessment is more around demonstrating engagement with the reading and personal reflection.

Other family therapy approaches are considered. All participants are encouraged in discussion groups to consider similarities and differences with other approaches. For more information about Bowen theory and other approaches, follow the link below to Jenny and Lily Mailer’s podcasts, where this is touched on in general.


Family of origin groups , supervision groups will be counted, seminars/workshops with the institute or a Family of origin group with the FSI that has been undertaken up to 8 years before enrolling in the program can be counted towards the requirements.

The advanced certificate is a pathway to becoming registered with AFFT (Australian Association of Family Therapists). It is an accredited program so you could be an associated member until you fulfil the AAFT clinical requirements to become a full clinical member. Family therapist is not a registered term, but the advanced certificate allows you to be listed on the AAFT website. You can also generally use the training to meet CPD requirements for your professional body. It also allows you to become part of the graduate community which also feeds into our teaching group (for which you need AAFT accreditation).

This program is set up primarily that participants would have their own clinical work separate to the training. There are no clinical placements in the course. The flexible nature of the course means you could do the non-AAFT option of the program and then add the AAFT bridging components once you had the clinical work organised.

It is possible to move between the AAFT program and non clinical Certificate after 1 year in the program. Hence there is the possibility to add the requirements to meet the AAFT endorsed certificate but this may require extra time beyond 2 years.

Yes, but with caveats. We don’t take students who are from significantly different time zones or who have recognised Bowen theory programs in their geographical area. Participants from the Asia Pacific region can be considered if they are able to attend the face-to-face intensives. We are not affiliated with a University, so we are restricted by rules around International Student fees so it’s the same price for local and international students. In unique circumstances we will look at a special consideration exemption request for those who can’t attend the compulsory face to face events due to being overseas.

No. It really is a two-year program and we’ve tried to condense it as much as we can. Part of the reason for this is the way the modules roll over the two years. The supervision groups also run over the two years. There is a lot of value in doing it over the two years. Having a length of time is important to do it in terms of reflection and practical application in your own life. There are certainly options to have a very good learning experience over one year without doing the certificate program by condensing the required extra components and a family of origin group in one year.

The core components of the training (theory and discussion groups and intensives) are all completed in a 2 year period. However the required additional components (FoO, Supervision Groups, Seminars) may start part way through your 1st year and therefore flow over into an additional 6 months from the time of commencement. Remember that the required additional components can all be done prior to commencing the 2 year Certificate.

The course is very spread out so most people don’t feed they need to take time off. The core program is something that you do commit to in chunks ie. A year at a time. You can’t do one module for example. There is the option to apply for up to 6 months leave if you need too. We normally try to get draft calendars out early so you can see whether you will be able to commit to the dates.

If you’re interested fill in an enquiry form from the web page, linked below. Numbers are capped for these programs so there is no guarantee of spaces. However the seminars can be commenced at any time and count towards RPL.

Enquiry Form