G.D. in Couple Counselling and Spirituality

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  • General information
  • Teaching staff
  • Admission
  • Program requirements
  • Courses
  • Contact us

Overview of the program

This diploma allows professionals who wish to update their credentials and skills in the area of couple therapy to complete theory and psychotherapy courses that are required for American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT) certification.

To become a member of AAMFT, students must complete three master’s-level courses on couple theory and three courses in couple counselling training.

Who is this program for?

This program is intended for professionals who are already trained in counselling and would like to specialize in couple counselling.

Admission details

Registration: part-time or full-time
Program requirements: 6 courses
Program delivery: some courses are also offered online.
Language: this program is also offered in French.

For information about admission deadlines, please click here.


Students registered in this program may be eligible for a number of scholarships. For more information, please click here.


This diploma is conferred jointly by the Senates of Saint Paul University and the University of Ottawa.

Academic regulations.

Applications are evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Hold a bachelor’s degree with honours or with a major in a related discipline such as counselling, spirituality, practical theology, health care, psychology, social work, pastoral studies or a discipline judged equivalent to these;
  • Completion of 24 units in total in psychology and sociology;
  • Completion of 6 units in theology or religious studies or a discipline deemed equivalent*;
  • Completion of a counselling training with clinical experience (a minimum of 120 hours of supervised direct, face-to-face, contact with clients);
  • An average of at least 70% (B).

A maximum of three units in equivalencies or advanced standing may be granted. To be eligible, the units in question must not have counted towards the requirements of a previous diploma or degree. Candidates who have already successfully completed some of the compulsory units may be allowed to replace those units with elective units.

Students registered in the graduate diploma program can request to transfer to the MA in Counselling and Spirituality.

*Students wishing to pursue their studies in counselling and spirituality at the master's level must complete an additional 6 units in theology, religious studies or a discipline deemed equivalent (for a total of 12 units) prior to submitting their application for admission to the master's.

Some additional documents, and in some cases specific forms, are required. For more information, please see the page Step 4: Gather the documents needed for the assessment of your application.

Compulsory Courses (12 units)

IPA5138 Theories of Family Systems and Intervention (3u)
IPA5144 Spirituality and Counselling (3u)
IPA6312 Couples, Family Development and Growth (3u)
IPA7104 Theories of Couple Counselling (3u)

Optional Courses (6 units)

6 units from:

IPA5129 Group Dynamics and Counselling (3u)
IPA5134 Spirituality, Counselling and Psychotherapy (3u)
IPA5142 Working With Trauma and Violence in Couples and Families (3u)
IPA5161 Understanding the Trauma of Sexual Abuse (3u)
IPA6130 Couples, Families and Addictions (3u)
IPA6140 Internal Clinical Practicum in Couple and Family Counselling and Psychotherapy I (3u)
IPA6141 Internal Clinical Practicum in Couple and Family Counselling and Psychotherapy II (3u)
IPA7102 Phenomenology of Human Relationships in Love and Marriage (3u)
IPA7109 Survey of Sexual Dysfunction and Treatment (3u)

IPA 5129 - Group Dynamics and Counselling

This course introduces theories, principles and practices in group therapy designed to help prepare future professionals to work with people in various settings. Group processes are covered through interactive discussions, small group participation, role plays, and other observations.

IPA 5134 - Spirituality, Counselling and Psychotherapy

Space for reflection, deepening and integration of various perspectives, with particular attention to the spiritual dimension of the practice of psychotherapy, and that of the psychotherapist. Examination of various spiritual paradigms so as to identify certain points of convergence that are useful for understanding the issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion, an approach to reflection on practice is proposed, to support and promote the professional development of the psychotherapist and the safe and effective use of self. Presentation of psychospiritual models of intervention for the purpose of providing clinical and practical approaches.

IPA 5138 - Theories of Family Systems and Intervention

This course presents a history of the family systems theories with individuals, couples, and families with a major focus on advanced family systems theories and interventions.Theories covered include Structural, Strategic, Bowen, Narrative, Solution Focused and more. Attention is paid to assessment of functional and dysfunctional family systems. The student/practitioner will learn interviewing, assessment and restructuring techniques, and how to explore family rules, systems, values and boundaries

IPA 5142 - Working with Trauma and Violence in Couples and Families

The goal of this course is to provide a conceptual framework, including theory, research and interventions that will enable the students to understand and treat trauma and violence in couples and family relationships. The course will present an attachment perspective and research on trauma and outline advanced family systems therapeutic assessments and interventions for trauma survivors and their families.

IPA 5144 - Spirituality and Counselling

Introduction to spirituality as an essential dimension of human experience across the lifespan. Key concepts and theories of spiritual development and their relevance to clinical evaluation and treatment from spiritual and psychological perspectives. The different expressions of spirituality, the relationship between stages of moral development and images of the divine and transcendent, and the dialogue between spirituality and psychology. The importance of psychology in discerning between a healthy spirituality, which is enriching for the person and for their integral development, and a spirituality that must be called unhealthy, which eliminates human freedom, autonomy and responsibility.

IPA 5161 - Understanding the Trauma of Sexual Abuse

The goal of this course is to present an overview of the theory, research, clinical and treatment issues related to trauma and childhood sexual abuse. This course will introduce the theories of trauma from a family systems perspective. Effects of sexual abuse in terms of developmental issues over the life span, associated symptomatology of sexual abuse and trauma, and related clinical issues and practices.

IPA 6130 - Couples, Families and Addictions

The goal of this course is to present an in depth examination of the specific characteristics, dynamics and best therapeutic practices in working with individual, couples and families affected by chronic addiction. It will focus on the challenges faced by professionals working with the addicted person or family and will teach ways to overcome those challenges. It will offer information regarding recovery issues and will provide students with systemic therapy interventions and resources for their work with this population.


Introduction to systemic and relational counselling. Theoretical study of systems theory as applied to individual, couple, and family therapy. Introduction to assessment and conceptualization (attachment, systems, and socio-culturally integrative theories; foundational skills in managing sessions with couples and families). Introduction to relational and systemic counselling and psychotherapy skills using role plays, and video illustrations of structured intervention modalities (Psychoeducation, Emotionally Focused, Solution Focused, Cognitive Behavioural). Applied practice through work with clients under clinical supervision with registered psychotherapists, at the Counselling and Psychotherapy Centre of Saint Paul University. Graded P/F.


Deepening of clinical techniques and skills gained in IPA6140 through work with clients under clinical supervision with registered psychotherapists at the Counselling and Psychotherapy Centre of Saint Paul University. Graded P/F.


Prerequisite: IPA6140.

IPA 6312 - Couples, Family Development and Growth

Introduction to the psychology of individuals, couple and family development and growth and provided knowledge of personality development over the life span. This course will review attachment over the life span, the stages of development from childhood to adulthood, and corresponding changes in family roles, as well as advanced therapeutic interventions.

IPA 7102 - Phenomenology of Human Relationships in Love and Marriage

This course examines the representation, practices, and issues of love and relationships. These issues will be examined through various systems theories, and then brought into everyday applied practice for counselors. The course will present aspects of love in committed relationships, review the literature and psychology theory on these aspects, and work with doing applied therapy on these aspects.

IPA 7104 - Theories of Couple Counselling

The goal of this course is to provide an overview of the history and nature of theories of couple counselling. This course will introduce the central theories and concepts guiding couple therapy, including attachment, family systems, Emotionally Focused, experiential, and humanistic and the recent research related to couple therapy. There will be a particular focus on the skills, assessment and practice associated with Emotionally Focused therapy. Couple relationships both on the conscious and unconscious levels of functioning are examined and conceptualized.

IPA 7109 - Survey of Sexual Dysfunction and Treatment

The purpose of this course is to present the history and development of dysfunctions in the field of human sexuality and to survey various treatments for couples. This course will examine the human development of sexual expressions in their male and female dysfunctions; the biological and psychological determinants; sexual dysfunction and marital interaction and sexual assessment and applied treatment within individual; and couple therapy.

Contact Us

Office of the Associate Vice-Rector, Strategic Enrolment Management
Room 148
Saint Paul University
223 Main Street
Ottawa, ON
K1S 1C4

Notice to gmail address holders, be sure to check your junk mailbox regularly, as due to your server's firewalls our email response to your application may end up there.

Telephone: 613-236-1393
Fax: 613-782-3014

Hours of Operation

Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Please leave your documents in the mailbox in front of room 148 when our offices are closed.

Information for future students

Saint Paul University

223 Main Street
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
K1S 1C4


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