Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy (PhD-MFT)
100% Online PhD-MFT
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National and Northcentral have merged, and this program is now offered by NU. Learn more.
Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy
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).
Prepare to Advance Your Marriage and Family Therapy Career
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
The Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) is the accrediting body for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). National University’s Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy and Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy Programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.
The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accredits public and private schools, colleges, and universities in the U.S.
National University’s Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy and Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy Programs are also accredited by the International Accreditation Commission for Systemic Therapy Education (IACSTE). Created as a semi-autonomous body under the auspices of the International Family Therapy Association (IFTA), IACSTE focuses on the development and implementation of quality standards for programs around the world that provide systemic therapy education and training.
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:
- 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.
- Client Contact – Doctoral students will be required to complete 300 hours of direct client contact, which includes conducting face-to-face therapy with individuals, couples, families, and groups (face-to-face includes telehealth, but at least 50 of the 300 hours must involve therapy that is not telehealth—the therapist and clients in the same physical space). At least 150 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Liability Insurance – Prior to beginning any clinical experience, PhD-MFT students are required to submit proof of professional liability insurance.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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/counselor
- Telehealth counselor
- Behavioral Health Agency Clinical Director
- Postsecondary teacher (faculty, instructor, professor)
- Clinical Supervisor
Career opportunities arise in both telecounseling and in-person settings alike, such as:
- Private and independent counseling practices
- Individual and family service providers
- In-home family therapy
- 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.
*As of May 2023, Kansas and New Hampshire do not or may not accept the NU MAMFT degree as meeting their educational requirements for licensure. Please review your local MFT license requirements to make sure you will meet local requirements.
State Supervision Requirements
Each state has rules and regulations outlining the requirements regarding the supervision experience, how many supervision hours are required, and the requirements for someone to be accepted as a supervisor in their state. In addition, some states specifically count client contact hours and supervision hours completed during the practicum experience at a COAMFTE-accredited program as applicable to post-graduate requirements.
Ask a Licensure Question
While each state board is the ultimate authority on their own rules and regulations governing the practice of marriage and family therapy in their state, sometimes it is difficult to know where to start or what to ask. If you are an applicant, student, or alumni and you have a question about licensure in your state do one or both of the following:
- Each state has rules and regulations outlining the types of licenses offered, requirements for licensure, including specific educational components, post-graduation clinical experience and supervision, and examination requirements. Licensure requirements are subject to change, so you must keep up with the current licensure legislation in your state.
- Contact our Clinical Training Administrative Team at [email protected].
Click here to view licensure requirements by state.
Program Learning Outcomes
- Students will cultivate 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 couple/marriage & family therapy.
- Students will cultivate competence in working with diverse populations in various contexts.
- Students will create new knowledge in couple/marriage and family therapy through independent research.
- Students will appraise relational/systemic ethical behaviors in various settings.
Accredited: May 2015
Advertised Program Length: 5.0 years
|Cohort Year Students Entered Program||# of Students in Program||Graduation Rate in Advertised Time (%)*||Job Placement Rate (%)**|
|2015 – 2016||37||35.1%||92.3%|
|2016 – 2017||61||18.0%||100%|
|2017 – 2018||45||13.3%
|2018 – 2019||43||7.0%
|2019-2020||53||In process||In process|
|2020-2021||54||In process||In process|
|2021-2022||49||In process||In process|
|2022-2023||7||In process||In process|
**Job Placement Rate is the percentage of graduates from the cohort year that are employed utilizing skills learned in the COAMFTE accredited program.
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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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