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Doctor of Philosophy
in Marriage and Family
Therapy (PhD-MFT)

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100% ONLINE PhD-MFT

Complete your studies on your own time.

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NEW START DATE EVERY MONDAY

Start your first course when it’s convenient for you.

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59 MONTHS TO YOUR PhD-MFT

Finish your PhD-MFT in just 21 courses.

National and Northcentral have merged, and this program is now offered by NU. Learn more.

Home » Programs » Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy

Prepare to Advance Your Marriage and Family Therapy Career

Help individuals, couples, and families navigate life’s stressors with the 100% online Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy (PhD-MFT) degree program at National University. This program provides you with advanced clinical education, research opportunities, and supervision training and experience.

National University’s PhD-MFT degree will help you acquire the knowledge, skills, practical application, and values to thrive as a skilled, ethical, and culturally sensitive marriage and family therapist. You’ll be earning a degree from a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) and International Accreditation Commission for Systemic Therapy Education (IACSTE). 

You’ll gain hands-on experience through face-to-face clinical training and a nine-month internship in your local community. In addition to this local experience, you’ll also gain experience by working with an NU faculty member on a distance-based, practicum/internship. You’ll build your clinical skills and knowledge by meeting regularly with your faculty member and your peers to watch and discuss recorded client sessions. 

Tailor your NU online PhD-MFT to match your interests with one of these specializations: 

  • Child and Adolescent Therapy
  • Couple Therapy
  • Culture, Diversity, and Social Justice in a Global Context
  • Education and Supervision
  • General Family Therapy
  • Medical Family Therapy
  • Systemic Leadership
  • Therapy with Military Families
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Course Details

Credit Hours: 63 

Courses: 21

Estimated Time to Complete: 59 months

The Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy (PhD-MFT) degree program can be completed in 63 credits. Courses run either 8 or 12 weeks, and you’ll receive 3 semester credits per course.

Course Sequence

The PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy requires the following courses for every specialization:

For students who are not LMFTs:

For students who are LMFTs:​ 

Program at a Glance

8 professionally relevant specializations
Total Credit Hours: At Least 63 Credit Hours
Courses: 21 Courses
Recommended Completion Time: 52 Months
Next Start Date: Every Monday
Classroom Size: One

The PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy degree requires a minimum of 63 credit hours at the graduate level beyond the master’s degree.

NU may accept a maximum of 12 semester credit hours in transfer toward the doctoral degree for graduate coursework completed toward a doctoral degree at an accredited college or university with a grade of “B” or better. Transfer credit is only awarded for coursework that is evaluated to be substantially equivalent in content with the required coursework for the PhD degree program in Marriage and Family Therapy.

The PhD degree program in Marriage and Family Therapy (all specializations) has the following graduation requirements:

  • A minimum of 51 credit hours of graduate instruction must be completed through NU
  • Successful completion of all required degree program courses with a Grade Point Average of 3.0 (letter grade of “B”) or higher
  • Official documents on file for basis of admission: a conferred master’s degree from an accredited academic institution
  • Official transcripts on file for all transfer credit hours accepted by the University
  • All financial obligations must be met before the student will be issued their complimentary diploma and/or degree posted transcript

Beyond these standard graduation requirements, the Marriage and Family Therapy doctoral program has the following degree requirements:

  1. Online Video Conferencing – In order to complete some of the course requirements and to participate in weekly online supervision process that is used during the practicum and internship courses, students are required to participate in online video conferencing meetings throughout their time in the program. In order to participate in these video conference sessions, students are required to own or otherwise have access to a computer, a web cam, a headset, a video recording device, and a high-speed internet connection.
  2. Client Contact – Doctoral students will be required to complete 800 hours of direct client contact, which includes conducting face-to-face therapy with individuals, couples, families, and groups. At least 400 hours of client contact must be relational (e.g., with couples or family members). For more information, please read the practicum and internship course descriptions.
  3. Supervision – In conjunction with client contact, doctoral students must receive a total of 160 hours of supervision conducted by an AAMFT-Approved Supervisor, AAMFT Supervisor Candidate, or state-approved supervisor. In some cases, students may be required to pay for local supervision. This will depend on the clinical placement location and/or local supervisor they contract with to complete their practicum and internship requirements. The decision and responsibility to pay for local supervision is entirely up to the student and not a requirement of NU. 
  4. Doctoral Internship (Advanced Practical Experience Component, or APEC) – Doctoral students are required to complete a 9-month, 20 hour a week, doctoral internship that aligns with their doctoral specialization. Students will be required to have a local supervisor with whom they can meet in-person with a minimum of 4 hours per month (i.e., one hour per week). For more information, please read the practicum and internship course descriptions.
  5. Liability Insurance – Prior to beginning any clinical experience, PhD-MFT students are required to submit proof of professional liability insurance.
  6. Supervision Coursework – In addition to advanced coursework in marriage and family therapy, students in the doctoral program must complete a course in MFT supervision methodology. The supervision course will be conducted in connection with the requirements established by AAMFT for students to become Approved Supervisors. Not all requirements will be completed for the students to achieve the designation while in the program at NU. The supervision coursework is pre-approved by the AAMFT to count for the 30-hour supervision course requirement. Students will have to complete the direct supervision and supervision mentoring requirements outside of the program in order to qualify for the Approved Supervisor designation.
  7. Doctoral Portfolio – Students are required to complete three 4-week portfolio courses in which they develop a portfolio that showcases their academic, research, clinical, and professional competence. Students will upload a variety of documents to the portfolio, such as their degree plan, resume, and key course assignments, as evidence of their progress and abilities. Students must pass the final portfolio course, which is the last course taken, in order to become a doctoral candidate and advance to the dissertation sequence.
  8. Dissertation – The capstone of doctoral training is the completion of the dissertation process. All programs at NU use a facilitated dissertation process that is purposefully designed to help students follow a step-by-step sequence in the preparation and completion of a doctoral dissertation. For students in the MFT program, the dissertation must be related to marriage and family therapy and be consistent with the student’s selected area of specialization. (Note: The dissertation portion of the PhD-MFT program can be completed with a minimum of 12 credit hours in Dissertation Courses, but may require additional credit hours, depending on the time the student takes to complete the dissertation research.)

The National University PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy degree can equip you with the specialized skills that employers seek, in roles such as*:

  • Marriage and Family Therapists
  • Mental Health Counselors
  • Behavioral Health Clinician/ Behavioral Care Manager/Coordinator/Counselors
  • Counselors
  • Telehealth Counselors
  • Directors, Managers are also seen in job postings but are less prevalent than the need for patient care practitioners. 
  • Postsecondary Teachers (Faculty, instructors, professors)

These careers operate in telecounseling and in-person settings that include:

  • Private and independent counseling practices
  • Hospitals 
  • Individual and family service providers
  • Home health care services
  • Direct health insurance providers 
  • Colleges and universities 

*SOURCE: Emsi Labor Analyst- Report. Emsi research company homepage at https://www.economicmodeling.com/company/ (Report viewed: 7/06/2022). DISCLAIMER: The data provided is for Informational purposes only. Emsi data and analysis utilizes government sources to provide insights on industries, demographics, employers, in-demand skills, and more to align academic programs with labor market opportunities. Cited projections may not reflect local or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth. Current and prospective students should use this data with other available economic data to inform their educational decisions.

Specializations

The Child and Adolescent Therapy Specialization is designed to prepare students to work in therapy settings with children and adolescents from a family therapy, systems perspective. Students in this specialization are required to focus their course projects, internship work, and dissertation research on issues related to working with children and adolescents. Twelve (12) credit hours of coursework are devoted to Child and Adolescent Therapy.

Specialization Courses – 12 Credit Hours Total. Each course is 3 semester credits and runs 8 weeks.

Learn More

The Couple Therapy Specialization is designed to prepare students to work primarily with couples in therapy settings from a family therapy, systems perspective. Students in this specialization are required to focus their course projects, Advanced Practical Experience Component (internship), and dissertation research on issues related to working with couples. Twelve (12) credit hours of coursework are devoted to couple therapy.

Specialization Courses – 12 Credit Hours Total. Each course is 3 semester credits and runs 8 weeks.

Learn More

The General Family Therapy specialization allows students to select courses from a broad range of electives to fit their personal and professional ambitions. In this specialization, students must select four courses (12 credit hours) from the Marriage and Family Therapy curriculum at the 8000 level. Courses from the Department of Psychology may be considered to fill this requirement with approval on a case-by-case basis. Students in this specialization are required to focus their course projects, Advanced Practical Experience Component (internship), and dissertation research on issues related to marriage and family therapy.

Required Courses – 12 Credit Hours.

Learn More

The Medical Therapy Specialization is designed to prepare students to work with individuals, couples, and families who are facing chronic or acute medical difficulties. Medical Family Therapy incorporates a family therapy, systems perspective in helping client families to understand and deal with their medical difficulties. Students in this specialization are required to focus their course projects, Advanced Practical Experience Component (internship), and dissertation research on issues related to medical family therapy. Twelve (12) credit hours of coursework are devoted to medical family therapy.

Specialization Courses – 12 Credit Hours Total. Each course is 3 semester credits and runs 8 weeks.

Learn More

The Therapy with Military Families Specialization is designed to prepare students to work primarily with individuals, couples, and families that are affiliated with the military through using a family therapy, systems perspective. Students in this specialization are required to focus their course projects, Advanced Practical Experience Component (internship), and dissertation research on issues related to working with military personnel and their families. Twelve (12) credit hours of coursework are devoted to therapy with military families.

Specialization Courses – 12 Credit Hours Total. Each course is 3 semester credits and runs 8 weeks.

Learn More

The Education and Supervision Specialization is designed to prepare students to serve as teachers, mentors, and supervisors for the next generation of marriage and family therapists. Students in this specialization are required to focus their course projects, Advanced Practical Experience Component (internship), and dissertation research on issues related to education and supervision. Twelve (12) credit hours of coursework are devoted to education and supervision.

Specialization Courses – 12 Credit Hours Total. Each course is 3 semester credits and runs 8 weeks.

Learn More

The Culture, Diversity, and Social Justice in a Global Context Specialization is designed to prepare students to work with diverse clients and serve in diversity and inclusion positions within organizations and institutions. Students in this specialization are required to focus their course projects, Advanced Practical Experience Component (internship), and dissertation research on issues related to culture, diversity, and social justice in a global context. Twelve (12) credit hours of coursework are devoted to culture, diversity, and social justice in a global context.

Specialization Courses – 12 Credit Hours Total. Each course is 3 semester credits and runs 8 weeks.

Learn More

The Systemic Leadership Specialization is designed to prepare students to assume leadership roles in agencies and organizations. Students will be taught to apply systems theory to leadership roles and functioning within organizations. Students in this specialization are required to focus their course projects, Advanced Practical Experience Component (internship), and dissertation research on issues related to systemic leadership. Twelve (12) credit hours of coursework are devoted to systemic leadership.

Specialization Courses – 12 Credit Hours Total. Each course is 3 semester credits and runs 8 weeks.

Learn More

Program Learning Outcomes

As a graduate of National University’s Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy (PhD-MFT) degree program, you’ll be able to:

  • Develop relational/systemic innovations addressing contemporary issues in the field of marriage and family therapy
  • Students/graduates will develop expertise in an area of specialization related to the field of marriage and family therapy
  • Cultivate competence in working with diverse populations in various contexts
  • Create new knowledge in marriage and family therapy through independent research
  • Appraise relational/systemic ethical behaviors in various settings

Accredited: May 2015
Advertised Program Length: 6.2 years*
Maximum Program Length: 8 years**

Cohort Year Students Entered Program # of Students Enrolled in Program # of Active Students Advertised Graduation Rate (%)* Maximum Graduation Rate (%)** Job Placement Rate (%)*** Licensure Exam Pass Rate (%)****
2014 – 2015 25 3 52% Maximum program length not yet reached 100% 92%
2015 – 2016 36 10 31% Graduated early
Remainder of cohort have not yet reached advertised program length
Maximum program length
not yet reached
91% 93%
2016 – 2017 58 32 12% Graduated early
Remainder of cohort have not yet reached advertised program length
Maximum program length not yet reached 100% 95%
2017 – 2018 45 30 7% Graduated early
Remainder of cohort have not yet reached advertised program length
Maximum program length not yet reached 100% 85%
2018 – 2019 43 36 Advertised program length not yet reached Maximum program length not yet reached Advertised program length not yet reached 82%
2019-2020 54 44 Advertised program length not yet reached Maximum program length not yet reached Advertised program length not yet reached 92%
2020-2021 54 49 Advertised program length not yet reached Maximum program length not yet reached Advertised program length not yet reached 92%
2021-2022 15 15 Advertised program length not yet reached Maximum program length not yet reached Advertised program length not yet reached 100%
* Advertised Graduate Rate is defined as the percentage of students who graduated from the program within the time frame the program is designed to be completed.
**Maximum Graduate Rate is defined as the percentage of students who graduated within the maximum allowable time in which a student could finish the program.
***This is defined as the percentage of graduates from the cohort year listed who are employed within 3 years of their graduation utilizing skills learned in the COAMFTE accredited program.
****This is defined as the percentage of graduates and students from the cohort year who passed the state or national licensing exam for Marriage and Family Therapy, after having sat for the exam at least once.

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Program Disclosure

Successful completion and attainment of National University degrees do not lead to automatic or immediate licensure, employment, or certification in any state/country. The University cannot guarantee that any professional organization or business will accept a graduate's application to sit for any certification, licensure, or related exam for the purpose of professional certification.

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