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The Ph.D. in Family Therapy program prepares graduates for careers as professors, researchers, supervisors, and senior clinicians. The Ph.D. in Family Therapy at Nova Southeastern University is fully accredited with the:

Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT)
112 South Alfred, Alexandria, VA 22314-3061
(703) 838-9808; Fax: (703) 838-9805; AAMFT

The Ph.D. in Family Therapy is a 96-credit-hour program designed for individuals holding master's degrees who wish to fully grasp both the historical as well as cutting edge theory informing the current practice of family therapy. The program is also dedicated to understanding the relationship between theoretical ideas and the variety of established and emerging schools of family therapy. The program is designed to enhance students' clinical skills in order to become top level practitioners, while at the same time demonstrating the place of qualitative and quantitative research in this pursuit. Graduates of the program should look forward to productive careers in academic, supervisory, clinic, and community-based employment settings.

The Department of Family Therapy has full time faculty and supervisors that represent racial diversity as well as diversity in gender, age, and religion. The part-time faculty and supervisors also include cultural, gender, age, sexual orientation, and religious diversity. The student body of the doctoral program reflects the rich cultural diversity of South Florida and across the nation as far as race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and age.

The core curriculum includes:

  • Four courses that explore the clinical contributions of three major systems paradigms: cybernetics, language-based, and natural systems. However, brief, interactional therapies such as MRI (Mental Research Institute), Solution-Focused approaches, Ericksonian hypnotherapy, and the Milan Associates models receive the greatest exploration. Therapies based in narrative and intergenerational and multigenerational traditions are also covered.
  • Four terms of continuous enrollment in clinical practicums at the Family Therapy Clinic at the Brief Therapy Institute, the DFT on-campus clinical facility. Teams of students (maximum of 6) meet weekly with a faculty member/supervisor to work with live, community-referred cases and supervision of cases throughout the calendar year. During a student's fourth practicum, they may choose a flexible practicum provided for students to see cases independently at the Clinic. The faculty supervisor must approve this independent placement.
  • Four courses in research methods, two quantitative and two qualitative, which provide comprehensive coverage of marriage and family therapy research, statistics, various research methodologies, and computer analysis and interpretation.
  • Two theory courses, one devoted to the cybernetic systems ideas of Gregory Bateson, the other to the language-based systems (e.g., social constructionism, feminism, and postmodernism).
  • One course in the teaching of family therapy. This course prepares student learning and practice in becoming faculty in the MFT field.
  • One course in the supervision of family therapy clinicians. This course fulfills the didactic instruction component for AAMFT Approved Supervisor status.

Clinical Internships designed to provide students with a supervised, full-time experience (three terms) emphasize relationally-focused practice and/or research. The majority of a student's course requirements must be completed before they can begin their internship experience. They must also have successfully completed their Clinical Portfolio.

In keeping with the interdisciplinary philosophy of the School, students have the opportunity to take electives in various specialties and across other programs within the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. Additional courses may support students in fulfilling course requirements for licensure as a marriage and family therapist in Florida and other states.

Many students choose to take electives to enhance their learning in special topics. Elective courses at the doctoral level may be taken with the permission of the Program Director. Elective courses available to doctoral students within the Family Therapy Department include Couples Therapy, Family Business, Organization Consulting, Grief and Loss, Academic Writing, International Counseling and Therapy, School Based Family Counseling, Advanced Bowen Systems, and all courses in the Family Systems Health Care (medical family therapy) graduate certificate program. Other courses offered within NSU may be considered pending approval from the Program Director.

During the Ph.D. program, students may also fulfill the academic requirements for becoming a Clinical Member and Approved Supervisor in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. The program's supervision course is approved for meeting the supervision course requirement for AAMFT Approved Supervisors. For licensed marriage and family therapists, additional training and supervision to become AAMFT Approved Supervisors is provided through the Brief Therapy Institute.

Accreditation: Student Achievement Criteria

From the AAMFT website:

Accredited programs report Student Achievement Criteria data for each cohort in the program. A cohort is defined as the students who entered a program between a given time period (example: the students in the Fall 2005 - Spring 2006 Cohort, entered their respective programs between the Fall of 2005 and Spring of 2006).

The residentially offered Ph.D. in Family Therapy program can be completed in 5 years; the maximum timeframe is 7 years. Full-time enrollment is considered to be at least nine credit hours per term, fall, winter, and summer. Once students begin their dissertation, they are considered full-time when registered for at least three credit hours per term. After taking 12 credit hours of dissertation, students may enroll in one dissertation credit hour per term and still be considered full time in the program. Students must continually be enrolled to remain active in the program. If a student cannot take classes due to unforeseen circumstances, s/he would need to apply for a Leave of Absence three weeks prior the beginning of a trimester. Approval by the Program Director is required. Students can request a leave of absence for no more than three terms. A student who has not registered in one year is considered inactive and must reapply to the program.

Doctoral students are provided NSU computer accounts including email and Canvas, but must obtain their own Internet service providers, use their own computer systems and have a usable web camera. Students will use the web to access course materials, announcements, email, distance library services, subscription library databases, and other information, and for interaction with faculty and fellow students. Online, interactive learning methods are based on the use of Canvas as a course management system. Online activities facilitate frequent student-to-faculty and student-to-student interaction. They are supported by threaded discussion boards, white boards, chat rooms, email, and multimedia presentations. In addition, Canvas enables students to submit assignments online in multimedia formats and to receive their professors' reviews of assignments online in the same formats.

The Ph.D. Program in Family Therapy strives to develop students who are committed to academic and clinical innovation and prepared for advanced leadership in the field of Couples and Family Therapy. The application of systemic/relational theory is the foundation for such training and is utilized to support a vision in service to culturally and sexually diverse populations in a variety of settings. Our program further strives to uphold all professional standards in the field.


The Ph.D. Program in Family Therapy strives to develop students who are committed to advanced academic and clinical practice and who are prepared for leadership in the field of Couples, Marriage, and Family Therapy through research, supervision, teaching, and clinical theory and practice. Additionally, students in the Ph.D. program are committed to servicing the community as ethical practitioners and focusing on the relational strengths and resources of both students and clients with an appreciation and respect for diversity, inclusion, and cultural and sexual diversity.

Educational Outcomes

The Ph.D. Program in Family Therapy has identified Education Outcomes which include Program Outcomes, Student Learning Outcomes, as well as Faculty Outcomes.

Program Outcomes

  • PO1: The Ph.D. Program in Family Therapy demonstrates a commitment to issues of diversity, inclusion, and cultural and sexual diversity.
  • PO2: The Ph.D. program in Family Therapy maintains accreditation with COAMFTE.
  • PO3: The Ph.D. program in Family Therapy assists in preparing its students to meet the academic and practicum requirements for licensure as a marriage and family therapist in the state of Florida.
  • PO4: The Ph.D. Program in Family Therapy demonstrates a commitment to servicing the community especially with culturally and sexually diverse populations as well as other marginalized groups.
  • PO5: The Ph.D. Program in Family Therapy trains students in research, teaching, supervision, and advanced clinical theory and practice.

Student Learning Outcomes

  • SLO1: Students demonstrate respect for issues of diversity, inclusion and cultural and sexual diversity in teaching, supervision, and practice.
  • SLO2: Students demonstrate potential competency as a researcher in the field of Marriage and Family Therapy.
  • SLO3: Students demonstrate competency in advanced systemic/relational theory and ethical/professional clinical practice.
  • SLO4: Students demonstrate potential competency in the practice of supervision.
  • SLO5: Students demonstrate potential competency in teaching.
  • SLO6: Students demonstrate a commitment to service in the community.

Faculty Outcomes

  • FO1: Faculty demonstrates a commitment to teaching and/or supervising which includes an appreciation and respect for diversity, inclusion, and cultural and sexual diversity.
  • FO2: Faculty demonstrates a commitment to ethical clinical practice in the field of MFT and supervision.
  • FO3: Faculty demonstrates a commitment to research and/or scholarship.
  • FO4: Faculty demonstrates a commitment to service and student engagement.
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