What is Therapy Simulation?

"'The significance of integrating mixed simulation in family therapy training is that mixed simulation radically changes the training unit of focus from the client’s experience of therapy to therapist performance. With live clients, great care is taken to insure the client is receiving the best possible treatment—at the expense of student learning. With mixed simulation, the client is a non-issue and the focal point is the student [or trainee]' ...this technology is easily standardized, [it's anticipated to] be increasingly used to measure practitioner skills both in graduate education and eventually in continuing education and licensure. It will be a far superior approach to the current pen-and-paper tests for measuring therapist competency. And, continuing education can finally focus on skill development rather than course instruction and discussion.'" 

Read more in the FTM article, "Using Simulation in MFT Training" featuring Diane Gehart, PhD.

Who Benefits from Therapy Simulation?


Learning and testing new competencies in a safe-supportive environment allows them exposure to unique and complicated therapeutic situations without the fear of doing harm. 


Can now customize their students’ learning and training experience and offer a fair and uniform way to measure competencies.

Our entire profession benefits from therapy simulation because it allows our therapists to learn and test new competencies in a way we have never been able to experience before! Your virtual clients will allow you to test your skills in an environment focused on learning and development, without the risk of unintended harm to real-world clientele.

How Does It Work?

All you need to execute simulation effectively in your environment is a video/audio enabled computer with an internet connection! And for in-person groups or classes, a projector and screen. Your designated facilitator will receive training and documentation to prepare for their session. They will also meet with the Simulation Specialist in order to establish learning objectives and clarify how the session will be run.
Once you purchase a package, you will receive correspondence from AAMFT Simulation staff to begin your preparations. As a part of that planning, you will have the following pre-created vignettes to choose from, based on course objectives, therapy methods being taught, etc.:

Vignette 1: Using Solution-Focused Therapy with a Couple 
Using solution-focused therapy, conduct an intake session with a couple.

Vignette 2a & 2b: First and Second Session Couples Therapy with Opioid Use
Conduct a first session with a couple focusing on joining with the dyad and opening the interview with biological, psychological, social, and spiritual assessment to best understand their reasons for coming in and to begin to establish goals. The second session can be done sequentially after 2a or as a stand-alone session. Session goals will be to continue to join and determine goals for therapy and begin creating therapeutic plan.

Vignette 3a & 3b: First and Second Session Parent/Child with Depression and Self-Harm
Conduct a first session with a mother and teenage daughter focusing on joining and opening up the interview with some initial biological, psychological, social, and spiritual assessment questions to best understand the clients’ reasons for coming to therapy. The second session can be done sequentially after 3a or as a stand-alone session. Session goals are to continue joining and establishing one or more goals for therapy using a structural family therapy model.

Vignette 4: Culturally Sensitive Interviewing
Practice conducting a culturally sensitive interview with an individual.

Vignette 5: Assessing Feedback Loops and Family Context
During this second session with two parents, the goal is to fully understand the family patterns and dynamics related to circular patterns, emotional regulation, ideas related to homeostasis and cybernetics, feedback loops, and family context as well as establishing goals of therapy.

Create Your Own Vignette

Tailored to your specific teaching/learning goals, you can create a scenario to better align with your intended outcomes. With this option you have the ability to focus on your own embedded learning events, set around a client situation suited to your preferred methods and techniques. Please note, this process will require a minimum of three-weeks time to complete, as you will work in conjunction with our simulation specialist.

Don’t take our word for it…hear from those who have experienced therapy simulation:

Quoted from the WAMFT Network Newsletter: At Antioch [University], students rated the experience highly. One participant stated that participating in the simulation offered them a “chance to practice without pressure”; another stated that they “learned more in the past hour than they had in an entire quarter of learning through role plays.”  


If you have any questions, please email simulation@aamft.org.