Marriage and Family Therapy Doctoral Programs

PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy programs offer current and future top mental health professionals the opportunity to build on their expertise as competent, ethical and qualified professionals, and how to best refine their sense of how to counsel couples and families.

MFT PhD Programs

In general, these programs tend to integrate research skills and scientific rigor with practical theory and clinical skills. However, several types of doctoral programs may be offered, each taking a unique approach to accomplish this. This could enable students to explore systemic challenges in the field, and contribute new knowledge and solutions.

The skills and content covered in MFT doctoral programs may support potential roles in research and scholarship, clinical practice, or even leadership.

Doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy

Marriage and Family Therapy Doctoral Programs & Concentrations

Earning a PhD in Marriage and Family therapy may not only help you to develop critical thinking and research skills, but also understand the needs of specific clientele, such as children and adolescents, couples, military families, and marriage and family therapy.

PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy

Therapists might also choose to focus their PhD in Marriage and Family program on Medical Family Therapy, in which patients are treated within the family context when there is either serious illness or trauma. Others might prefer to study counseling within a specific philosophy or belief system, like Christian Counseling.

And more! These are only a few examples of the many potential concentrations and paths you could take. Whatever you’re interested in, enrolling in a Marriage and Family Therapy doctoral program could be your opportunity to deepen your understanding of it, and potentially help more families in need.

Types of MFT PhD Programs

In many colleges, counseling doctorate degree programs are managed from either the psychology or the education department, since most counselors either work directly with patients, or within the education system. When you narrow down your search, bear in mind that you need to measure programs according to the career path you aspire to. Are you interested in educating or supervising marriage and family therapists? Do you want to carry out research or pursue scholarly interests?

Or are you more interested in practical application of what you learn to help your patients? Whatever it is, keep in mind that if you aspire to a role as Counseling Psychologist, you’ll likely need to complete either a PhD in psychology or a PsyD as a prerequisite for licensure.i

Each school may design their Doctorate in Marriage and Family programs differently, awarding different degree types and having different end goals. For this reason it's important to read descriptions carefully and contact an advisor to ensure you find a great match. Below is a general overview to help you sort through your choices.

Doctor of Psychology Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (PsyD)

PsyD programs are typically clinical in nature, focusing on building practical skills to treat patients in the field. A PsyD in Marriage and Family Therapy seeks to help students understand the science behind human behavior and relationship dynamics, while still keeping sight of the patient as a person. Because of its focus on clinical practice, PsyD programs may be suitable for students who want to spend as much time as they can honing their skills for use in the field.

Doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy (DMFT)

Like the PsyD, DMFT programs are clinically-focused and terminal, emphasizing knowledge and skills as they may be used in the field. DMFT programs are unique to Marriage and Family Therapy. As such, they may be ideal for therapists that want to work directly with families in private practice, outpatient care centers, as part of an office health practitioners, or for a government agency.

Typically the DMFT is less research intensive than other Marriage and Family Therapy doctoral programs. They may provide students with the tools to practice counseling services with patients on a day-to-day basis. The emphasis of a Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapy Degree is to view patients as individuals and as part of a family or couple that can be analyzed scientifically to arrive at scientifically valid treatment methods.

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

The Marriage and Family Therapy PhD is typically a practitioner-scholar oriented research program, which may help prepare students for leadership roles in academia, research, behavioral healthcare or pastoral care. In addition to pursuing new MFT research, students may learn management techniques and data assessment strategies. Typically, Marriage and Family Therapy PhD programs culminate in a comprehensive exam and a dissertation based on original research. In clinical, counseling, school, or health service settings, students may also complete a 1-year internship as part of the doctoral program.

Explore a Career as a Marriage and Family Therapist

Marriage and family therapists may work with individuals, couples, and families. Often, they do so in a group setting, focusing on understanding and improving interpersonal relationships. Whereas other types of mental health professionals may focus on just the individual, MFT professionals bring a family-centered perspective to treatment. Some of their responsibility involves evaluating family roles and development, in order to understand how clients’ families affect their mental health. To them, the relationship is the patient, not just the clients themselves. They may also address issues, such as low self-esteem, stress, addiction, mental and emotional disorders and substance abuse.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is a high growth field, with employment predicted to rise by 20% between 2016 and 2026, as there is an increasing reliance on integrated care, which is a treatment of multiple problems at one time by a group of specialists. In May of 2016, the annual median wage for MFT professionals was $49,170.ii

MFT Licensure

Currently, all states require marriage and family therapists to be licensed. While the specific requirements may vary by state, licensure often requires a master’s degree and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of post-degree supervised clinical experience. In addition, MFT professionals usually must pass a state-recognized exam and maintain their credential by completing annual continuing education classes.ii

PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy Program Formats

A PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy program generally requires students to complete an internship or practicum, a research project and a dissertation. This could require 1,000 hours of internship, though some therapists who have already completed a master's degree may get credit for 500; exact requirements vary from school to school. As this is a considerable commitment, you will want to decide which type of learning format you have the time to devote yourself to.

  • PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy Schools offer the traditional classroom experience, with more face-to-face interaction with peers and faculty. Campus programs may have partnerships with nearby clinics to support internship requirements or other opportunities. Libraries, labs and other facilities might also be easily available. Contact schools to learn what resources they might provide.
  • Online PhD Programs in Marriage and Family Therapy, on the other hand, could offer busy working professionals more flexibility to continue their practice while they update credentials. Lectures, readings and assignments are often available online 24/7, providing a convenient way to earn your PhD in MFT degree. Keep in mind, however, that some online PhD MFT programs may still have in person requirements, such as practicums. These may require short campus visits or finding a placement nearby. Contact your preferred programs to learn more about earning your PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy Online.

List of PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy Programs - PhD MFT

Program Name

Degree Awarded

Doctor of Psychology Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy 


Doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy


Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy

P.h.D. MFT

Find PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy Programs

Once you've determined the type of degree you want to earn and your preferred learning format, it's time to start the final part of your search for Marriage and Family PhD programs. You could begin by reviewing the listings on this page. Or narrow down your list of potential PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy Programs using the menu bars. Select a format, or search by location.

Then work through the list and determine which Marriage and Family Therapy PhD Programs could work for you. Request info from the school by clicking the link and using the on page form. Keep a list of their admissions requirements, faculty, tuition, curriculum and other important factors. Then get your application together and send it on its way!

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