Marriage and Family Therapy Ph.D. | Program Guide

Although many marriage and family therapists practice with master's degrees, marriage and family therapy doctorates allow professionals to explore the field further. Doctoral degree candidates deepen their knowledge while conducting research that can help all practitioners in the field. Doctoral graduates can work as counselors or train the next generation of therapists.

Degree Snapshot
Time to Complete Internship/Practicum Component Can I Become a Marriage and Family Therapist With This Degree?
3-7 Years ✗*

*State licensure typically administered based on completion of master's program.

Why Get a Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy?

While master's degrees allow professionals to practice as licensed therapists, marriage and family therapy doctorates enable graduates to conduct research that advances the field and to work as professors.


Enables You to Research and Advance the Marriage and Family Therapy Field

These marriage and family therapy degrees require learners to complete dissertation projects in which they conduct original research. Even after graduation, professionals can continue to contribute to the field's academic conversation as professors.

Prepares You to Teach the Next Generation of Marriage and Family Therapists

Universities often require professors to hold doctoral degrees in their subjects. With a marriage and family therapy Ph.D., a candidate can educate up-and-coming therapists while also performing original research.

Example Courses in a Marriage and Family Therapy Ph.D. Program

Marriage and family therapy doctorates typically require candidates to earn 60-70 credits. Some courses focus on developing advanced clinical skills, including classes in contemporary challenges in counseling, social justice applications, and systemic clinical theory.

Marriage and family therapy Ph.D. programs also offer research courses, including family research methods, statistical analysis, and qualitative methods. Some programs also include clinical rotations or practicum experiences that require students to work directly with clients. Below are a few more example courses.

  • Advanced Statistics for Family Science

    Statistics play an important role in conducting research. These courses teach degree candidates how to use statistics and analysis in family studies. Students learn the most common equations and methods that researchers use in this field to ensure the accuracy of their studies.

  • Frameworks and Ethics for Research in Family Science

    Researchers of all kinds confront ethical issues in their work, especially when they study families and relationships. These courses teach degree candidates to set up their studies with ethics in mind. Educators cover past experiments that violated ethics and teach students methods for avoiding those mistakes.

  • Effective College Teaching Methods

    Because so many professionals with marriage and family therapy doctorates go on to teach college students, many programs require teaching courses. Students learn best practices for educating adults, including syllabus design, lecturing, and testing. Students also learn about career paths in academia and ethics for professors.

What Can You Do With a Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy?

Candidates who do not yet hold marriage and family therapist licensure can sometimes earn required credits through doctoral programs. Practicing marriage and family therapists can earn doctorates if they want to research a specific area of the practice and set themselves apart as experts in that subfield. Furthermore, practitioners who wish to transition into full-time research positions or academia can make that career move with marriage and family therapy doctorates.

Career Advancement in Marriage and Family Therapy

Join A Research University or Organization

Graduates with marriage and family therapy doctorates can continue their research with postdoctoral research fellowships. Research organizations and universities offer these positions. Professional researchers receive stipends for living expenses and budgets. Unlike professors, researchers do not have any teaching obligations.

Join A Professional Organization

Professional organizations allow marriage and family professionals to connect with one another, earn required continuing education hours, buy professional insurance, and find job opportunities. Read on to learn more about five of the best professional organizations in the field.

  • American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Members of AAMFT get access to resources such as free legal consultations, subscriptions to leading research journals, and discounts on liability insurance. Members can expand their knowledge through podcasts, webinars, and in-person training events.
  • International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors IAMFC takes a multicultural approach to family counseling. Members can earn certifications, access publications, enjoy continuing education opportunities, and participate in mentorship programs.
  • The National Council on Family Relations This organization hosts an annual conference with opportunities to earn continuing education credits, learn from vendors, and network with colleagues. Professionals can also access journal articles and online discussion groups.
  • American Family Therapy Academy AFTA offers its members several ways to connect with one another, including conferences, online groups, and webinars. Members can also list their practices on the site and upload videos to attract potential clients.
  • International Family Therapy Association This worldwide organization offers members subscriptions to industry publications, access to the IFTA online newsletter, discounts on registration fees to the annual conference, and access to the member directory.
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