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Curriculum Requirements

This Ph.D. in Family Therapy is a 96-credit-hour degree program that integrates systemically oriented theory and clinical practice, language and thinking systems, and qualitative and quantitative research. The Ph.D. curriculum educational outcomes can be seen in the catalog.

Before entering the program, all students must document at least three graduate level four credit hour courses: two that covers basic family therapy concepts, and one course in human development and individual and group psychotherapy and research. Any student not having these courses or their equivalent must initially take and pass, as leveling courses, the following courses:

SFTD 5007 - Research in Marriage and Family Therapy (3 credits)

This course offers a review of quantitative and qualitative methods of inquiry, as exemplified in recent marital and family therapy research studies. The course focuses on teaching students to be intelligent, critical consumers of research in the field. 

SFTD 5008 - Introduction to Marital and Family Therapy (3 credits)

An introduction and review of the history of marital and family therapy and the clinical approaches of interactional therapies are included in this course. The focus is based on basic therapeutic concepts and skills.

SFTD 5009 - Theories of Marital and Family Therapy (3 credits)

This course offers a comparative study of theories of marital and family therapy, systemic, structural, strategic, intergenerational, contextual, behavioral, therapies, and others, and provides a survey of differences in clinical practices.

SFTD 5045 - Group Psychotherapy (3 credits)

This class is designed to provide an opportunity students and professionals to develop a set of core competencies in general group work from a systemic perspective. These core competencies include knowledge of group theories, common group dynamics, common group types, and legal and ethical issues. During the course students will also be introduced to various specialty/advanced competency areas in group work. The development of core skills will occur through a combination of didactic lecture in group theory, classroom discussion, and an experiential group.

SFTD 5046 - Human Development Across the Life Cycle (3 credits)

Human Development covers the stages of the individual life cycle, and of the family life cycle, in cultural context. The interplay of individual development, unique individual difference, culture, socioeconomic context, and family context, will be considered and integrated with major models of family therapy. Therapy techniques appropriate for each stage of development will be explored.

Students can take the following course to meet licensure requirements:

SFTD 5311 - Substance Abuse/Addictions and Critical Issues in Systems Theories (3 credits)

This course addresses the application of modern and postmodern ideas to substance abuse, addictions, and critical issues in the practice of therapy. Emphasis is placed on the application of modern and postmodern ideas to substance abuse, additions, and critical issues based on research, theories, practice, and treatment. Also included are other critical issues of culture, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, violence and other areas of critical concern in social systems. Prerequisite: SFTD 6200.

Leveling courses must be completed prior to being fully admitted into the program. These 15 credit hours do not count toward the 96 credit hour degree requirement.

Before entering Internal Practicum I, students are required to complete the following courses:

SFTD 5006 - Introduction to Systems Theory (3 credits)

This course provides an overview of theories that use metaphors of system, pattern, interaction, and communication to describe human behavior and relationships as well as the study of the emergence of theories from cybernetics to language studies.

SFTD 5008 - Introduction to Marital and Family Therapy: Counseling Theories and Techniques (3 credits)

An introduction and review of the history of marital and family therapy and the clinical approaches of interactional therapies are included in this course. The focus is based on basic therapeutic concepts and skills.

SFTD 5300 - Legal, Ethical and Professional Issues (3 credits)

This course offers an in depth explanation of accreditation and licensure organizations, along with the ethical codes they promote in family therapy and related fields. This includes a review of the therapist's legal responsibilities and liabilities in mental health and family law, insurance claims, and private practice management with inclusion of an overview of professional opportunities in public service and training programs.

All students must take and pass the following requirements prior to or during the beginning of their first trimester and prior to enrolling in Internal Practicum I:

  • Two HIPAA certificate courses
  • A full Background check, including fingerprinting
  • CITI course prior to conducing any research

The above courses must be completed prior to being fully admitted into the program and do not count toward the 96 credit hour degree requirement.

SFTD 5001 - Doctoral Seminar I (1 credit)

General orientation to doctoral studies: Students learn advanced ethics, diversity, and social justice while focusing on research, writing, and library skills necessary for authoring papers in doctoral courses and for publications.

SFTD 5002 - Doctoral Seminar II (1 credit)

Continuation of SFTD 5001: Students are introduced to professional development opportunities in diverse settings, specific details regarding professionalism, program and portfolio requirements, internships, and dissertation. Prerequisite: SFTD 5001.

SFTD 5003 - Doctoral Seminar III (1 credit)

Continuation of SFTD 5002: Students are tutored in the skills necessary to develop a successful coursework, clinical, and academic/research portfolios as part of the doctoral program requirements. Prerequisite: SFTD 5002.

SFTD 5004 - Reading/Writing/Editing for Doctoral Scholars (3 credits)

Excellent reading, writing, and editing skills are essential for family therapists who wish to make scholarly contributions to the field. Researchers, supervisors, and clinicians must be able to compose and publish clear descriptions of their work, and professors and journal reviewers must be able to read with discernment and effectively critique the writings of others. This course develops and hones the necessary skills for making such contributions.

SFTD 5006 - Introduction to Systems Theory (3 credits)

This course provides an overview of theories that use metaphors of system, pattern, interaction, and communication to describe human behavior and relationships as well as the study of the emergence of theories from cybernetics to language studies.

SFTD 5007 - Research in Marriage and Family Therapy (3 credits)

This course offers a review of quantitative and qualitative methods of inquiry, as exemplified in recent marital and family therapy research studies. The course focuses on teaching students to be intelligent, critical consumers of research in the field.

SFTD 5008 - Introduction to Marital and Family Therapy: Counseling Theories and Techniques (3 credits)

An introduction and review of the history of marital and family therapy and the clinical approaches of interactional therapies are included in this course. The focus is based on basic therapeutic concepts and skills.

SFTD 5009 - Theories of Marriage and Family Therapy (3 credits)

This course offers a comparative study of theories of marital and family therapy, including systemic, structural, strategic, intergenerational, contextual, behavioral, experiential therapies, and others, and provides a survey of differences in clinical practices.
Prerequisite: SFTD 5006.

SFTD 5010 - Systemic Family Therapy I (3 credits)

The study of those systemic therapies informed by cybernetics and oriented to the social organization of communication are included in this course. Emphasizes are placed on the work of the Mental Research Institute and Solution-Focused Brief Therapy. Prerequisites: Core courses and corequisite SFTD 5006.

SFTD 5020 - Systemic Family Therapy II (3 credits)

This course centers on Narrative Therapy theory and practice. Students will extensively explore assumptions, including distinctions between structuralist and post structuralist thought, which underline this model and contrast with other therapeutic models. Practice methods will focus on various maps and scaffolds which describe and organize Narrative practices. Students will explore the application of these assumptions and practices to a range of therapeutic problems as well as diversity and community issues. Prerequisites: core courses and SFTD 5010.

SFTD 5030 - Systemic Family Therapy III (3 credits)

This course acquaints students with the basic concepts of the natural systems approach to family therapy. Emphasizes are placed on family-of-origin issues, multigenerational systems processes, and biological/evolutionary contributions to the understanding of human systems. Prerequisite: SFTD 5020

SFTD 5040 - Systemic Family Therapy IV (3 credits)

Study of the complexities and subtleties of language and the art of therapeutic implication are focused on in this course with discussions on the relationships between hypnosis and brief therapy; draws on the work of Milton Erickson as a primary resource. Prerequisite: SFTD 5030

SFTD 5045 - Group Psychotherapy (3 credits)

This class is designed to provide an opportunity students and professionals to develop a set of core competencies in general group work from a systemic perspective. These core competencies include knowledge of group theories, common group dynamics, common group types, and legal and ethical issues. During the course students will also be introduced to various specialty/advanced competency areas in group work. The development of core skills will occur through a combination of didactic lecture in group theory, classroom discussion, and an experiential group.

SFTD 5046 - Human Development Across the Life Cycle (3 credits)

Human Development covers the stages of the individual life cycle, and of the family life cycle, in cultural context. The interplay of individual development, unique individual difference, culture, socioeconomic context, and family context, will be considered and integrated with major models of family therapy. Therapy techniques appropriate for each stage of development will be explored.

SFTD 5110 - Language Systems (3 credits)

This course locates the practice of therapy within cultural, philosophical, and scientific domains; it uses notions about the relational nature of language as a means of examining, critiquing, and explicating therapeutic practice. Prerequisite: SFTD 5006.

SFTD 5120 - Thinking Systems (3 credits)

The study of systemic theory, particularly the ideas of relationship, difference, and context is the focus of this course, which emphasizes the ideas of Gregory Bateson. Prerequisites: SFTD 5006, SFTD 5110.

SFTD 5300 - Legal, Ethical, and Professional Issues in Marriage and Family Therapy (3 credits)

This course offers an in depth explanation of accreditation and licensure organizations, along with the ethical codes they promote in family therapy and related fields. This includes a review of the therapist's legal responsibilities and liabilities in mental health and family law, insurance claims, and private practice management with inclusion of an overview of professional opportunities in public service and training programs.

SFTD 5410 - Quantitative Research I (3 credits)

This course covers fundamental concepts and practices in quantitative research method by introducing measurement and statistics, questionnaire development, and experimental and quasi-experimental research designs for the study of human sciences. Exemplary studies from family therapy literature are included. Prerequisite: SFTD 5007 or equivalent.

SFTD 6200 - Internal Practicum I-V (3 credits)

These four supervised clinical courses consist of the application of systemic therapy ideas and practices at the Department of Family Therapy in house Family Therapy Clinic. Approval needed to register for Internal Practicum IV. Prerequisites: SFTD 5006, SFTD 5008, SFTD 5300.

SFTD 6320 - Supervision Practicum (0 credits)

Extensive live supervision and case consultation experience with clinicians in learning systemic therapies is conducted in the DFT in house Family Therapy Clinic. Students receive supervision of their supervision of others by AAMFT faculty supervisors. Faculty approval required. Prerequisite: SFTD 6310 Student can also take SFTD 7360 in place of course.

SFTD 6321 - Fundamentals of Teaching Marriage and Family Therapy (3 credits)

This course will introduce students to the fundamentals of teaching Marriage and Family Therapy in both a Graduate and Undergraduate learning environment. It will cover the distinctions between clinical and theoretical courses, practicum instruction, as well as those designed specifically to prepare students for state licensing examinations. Students will be exposed to the basic elements of syllabus construction, the application of evaluative rubrics, and other evaluative teaching mechanisms. They will also be required to demonstrate skills in course planning, lecture construction and delivery.

SFTD 6325 - Fundamentals of Supervision in Marriage and Family Therapy (3 credits)

This course will introduce students to the fundamentals of supervision in marriage and family therapy in clinical settings. It also meets the coursework requirements for becoming an AAMFT Approved Supervisor. Offered summer term.

SFTD 6410 - Quantitative Research II (3 credits)

This course provides an overview of the principles and techniques of computer-aided data analysis with an introduction to the use of univariate, bivariate, and multivariate statistics for hypothesis testing. An in-depth look at the theory and assessment of reliability and validity are included. Prerequisite: SFTD 6410

SFTD 6430 - Qualitative Research I (3 credits)

This course focuses on the introduction to qualitative research methodologies and the use of the investigator as the research instrument of choice. Participant observation and interviewing strategies are discussed. Students are introduced to methods for transcribing and organizing interviews and field notes. Exemplary studies from other disciplines are used; however, studies from the family therapy literature, when available, are offered. Prerequisite: SFTD 6410.

SFTD 6520 - Diversity and Psychosocial Issues (3 credits)

Human development in the context of family transitions across the life cycle such as childbirth, childhood, adolescence, courtship, marriage, maturity, aging, and death are reviewed. This course focuses on the diversity of psychosocial development across ethnicity, class, gender, race, age, and culture with discussions and implications for interactional therapies and practices. Prerequisite: SFTD 6200 I.

SFTD 6530 - Organizational Systems and Consultation (3 credits)

This course provides in depth information on special topics for a variety of family therapy issues. Content is determined by the expertise of the instructor. This is a second year course that advances critical thinking and practices across multiple venues. This course is generally taken in the second year of studies. Prerequisite: SFTD 5040.

SFTD 6650 - Coursework Portfolio (0 credits)

The Coursework Portfolio is an organized review of, and personal reflection upon, the collective body of work a student has produced during their progress through the course curriculum. A written self-review of professional growth, personal growth, and responses to challenges, along with other significant contributions is submitted in an electronic format that will include all course syllabi, papers, presentations, and other relevant data that reflects a successful doctoral student.

SFTD 6750 - Clinical Portfolio (0 credits)

The Clinical Portfolio provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate their clinical competence, creativity, and theoretical clarity in a manner and setting similar to that which could be expected in a job interview situation. This culmination of inhouse clinical training allows students to demonstrate the full range and depth of their clinical skills and theoretical knowledge through a written statement of treatment philosophy, case study, and video presentation.

SFTD 6825 - Academic/Research Portfolio (0 credits)

The Academic/Research Portfolio is developed as a way for students to demonstrate their academic and professional research accomplishments during the program; to include professional development and career building skills; and participate in academic publishing, research projects, and professional presentations across various venues. All students are required to demonstrate they possess doctoral level competency in both writing and professional presentation skills.

SFTD 6900 - Dissertation (1 credit)

The development, writing, and defense of the dissertation. When approved, students register for at least two credits per term for a minimum of 12 credits.

SFTD 7301 - Assessment in Marital and Family Therapy (3 credits)

This course provides an overview of methods and instruments used to define problems and indicate solutions; including a comparative study of interactional approaches and individual and family dysfunction assessments. Prerequisite: SFTD 6200.

SFTD 7302 - Theories of Personality and Psychopathology (3 credits)

A review of major theories of personality and psychopathology are the focus of this course, emphasizing psychiatric diagnostic classification systems. The study of implications for treatment and comparisons with interactional approaches are included. Prerequisite: SFTD 5006.

SFTD 7311 - Human Sexuality and Gender (3 credits)

This course provides a review of the psychosocial development of sexuality and gender from childhood through aging. Also addressed is a summary of clinical approaches to sexual and gender issues comparing interactional approaches with psychodynamic and behavioral models. Prerequisite: SFTD 5006.

SFTD 7350 - Qualitative Research II (3 credits)

This research course explores how qualitative data are transformed and categorized during description, explanation, and interpretation. Students are introduced to a variety of inductive, deductive, and abductive methods for categorizing meaning and interactive processes. Computer-assisted qualitative data analysis methods are addressed. Family therapy-related studies are offered. Prerequisite: SFTD 6430.

SFTD 7360 - Teaching Practicum (3 credits)

Supervised teaching experience in undergraduate or graduate instruction in family therapy or related field provides students opportunities to develop their pedagogical understanding of teaching and enhance their teaching skills. Prerequisites: SFTD 6310 and faculty approval. Can be taken in place of SFTD 6320.

SFTD 7410 - Clinical Internship (1 credit)

The Clinical Internship provides students the opportunity to advance their clinical and practice skills while they complete the clinical requirements for program and clinical requirements for MFT licensure. Students who are already licensed can take the Research Internship to expand their research skills and/or work with faculty on a research project. Faculty approval is required. Prerequisites: Successful completion of the Clinical Portfolio.

Following is a sample of a degree plan for full-time students who begin their studies in the Fall trimester. Degree plans will be modified based on a student's enrollment date and pace of study.

Fall Winter Summer

SFTD 5001
Doctoral Seminar I

SFTD 5006
Introduction to Systems Theories

* SFTD 5008
Introduction to Marital and Family Therapy

SFTD 5300
Legal, Ethical, and Professional Issues

SFTD 6520
Diversity and Psychosocial Issues

* SFTD 5007
Research in Marital and Family Therapy

* SFTD 5009
Theories of Marital and Family Therapy

* SFTD 5045
Group Psychotherapy

* SFTD 5046
Human Development Across the Life Cycle

SFTD 7301
Assessment in Marital and Family Therapy

SFTD 7302
Theories of Personality & Psychopathology

SFTD 7311
Human Sexuality and Gender

SFTD 5002
Doctoral Seminar II

SFTD 5010
Systemic Family Therapy I

SFTD 5120
Thinking Systems

SFTD 6200
Internal Practicum I

SFTD 5004
Reading/Writing/Editing for Doctoral Scholars

SFTD 5020
Systemic Family Therapy II

SFTD 5110
Language Systems

SFTD 6200
Internal Practicum II

SFTD 5410
Quantitative Research I

SFTD 6200
Internal Practicum III

SFTD 6321
Fundamentals of Teaching Marriage and Family Therapy

SFTD 5003
Doctoral Seminar III

SFTD 5030
Systemic Family Therapy III

SFTD 6200
Internal Practicum IV

SFTD 6410
Quantitative Research II

SFTD 5040
Systemic Family Therapy IV

SFTD 6430
Qualitative Research I

SFTD 6530
Family Therapy Topics

***SFTD 7360
Teaching Practicum

**SFTD 6750
Clinical Portfolio

SFTD 6325
Fundamentals of Supervision in Marriage and Family Therapy

SFTD 7350
Qualitative Research II

**SFTD 6650
Coursework Portfolio

**SFTD 6825
Academic/Research Portfolio

SFTD 7410
Clinical Internship

***SFTD 6320
Supervision Practicum

SFTD 6900
Dissertation

SFTD 7410
Clinical Internship

SFTD 6900
Dissertation

Dissertation Proposal Defense

SFTD 7410
Clinical Internship

SFTD 6900
Dissertation

Final Defense

Notes: Courses are prerequisite to the program and not included in the 96 credit requirement. Portfolios are completed by the end of the third year.

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