Couple and Family Therapy graduate program at Michigan State University

Couple and Family Therapy

The PhD specialization in Couple and Family Therapy trains scientist-practitioners and is accredited by the Commission on Marriage and Family Therapy Education.


The Couple and Family Therapy (CFT) doctoral program (formerly Marriage and Family Therapy [MFT]) at MSU is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Marriage and Family Education (COAMFTE). The program is committed to training excellent therapists who are also excellent researchers and trainers of therapists. We expect each student to develop an approach to therapy that is personally consistent and grounded in sound theory and practice. In a context that emphasizes tolerance and self-examination, students are encouraged to pursue a program of research that is personally and professionally relevant and important. For us, graduate education is a time of apprenticeship—intensive learning from faculty and other students about research, therapy, and ourselves.

CFT faculty come from diverse backgrounds, training programs, and theoretical orientations. However, we share a common interest in consistently supporting and challenging the development of competent scientist-practitioners who understand the importance of a holistic perspective—i.e., an ecological perspective that takes into account the client couple, family, or individual in the context of their own history and experiences in their lives, their present context, and the context of their homes, neighborhoods, cities, and wider society.


Students are admitted to the doctoral specialization in Couple and Family Therapy in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. Students who enter with a master’s degree from an accredited CFT/MFT program, or its equivalent, will enter the doctoral program directly.

Applicants who currently have masters degree in areas other than CFT/MFT will be considered, however they will be will be required to complete courses that are equivalent to a masters degree in CFT/MFT. These courses will be determined after a review of previous masters coursework by the CFT program director. Generally, it is possible to accept clinical experiences and courses from the student’s master’s degree as part of the equivalency. Students in such cases should anticipate that their education will be longer than those entering with a masters degree in CFT/MFT.

Time Frame

Students entering the Ph.D. program with a master’s degree in MFT are expected to finish in 4 years or less. Depending on prior coursework and appropriate clinical experiences, students entering with a master’s in another area may require 1-2 additional years to complete the PhD.

The CFT doctoral program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). Current accreditation continues through November 1, 2019. A total of 1,000 hours of direct client contact is required for the doctoral degree in CFT. A 9-month internship is also required that may include clinical, teaching, administrative and research experiences.

Clinical Training

The first phase of clinical training takes place in the Couple and Family Therapy Clinic. The Clinic is located in the MSU Clinical Center, and housed with the clinics of the MSU Schools of Human Medicine and Osteopathy. The Clinic functions very much as a non-profit community-based agency would. The Clinic is an Affiliate Agency of the Capital Area United Way.

Clients come from the area in and around Lansing (population, 450,000), as well as from the MSU community (47,000 students, 11,000 faculty and staff). Services are provided on a sliding fee scale. Supervision is provided by CFT faculty and associate faculty. Senior doctoral students provide additional mentoring for first year students. Each session is recorded on DVDs for review and supervision. After the first year, students continue providing services in the Clinic, as well as seeking experiences in the community. Students must accrue a total of 1,000 direct clinical hours before graduating from the doctoral program.

A 9-month internship is required. However, the internship may incorporate clinical, teaching, administration, and research experiences. The exact mix of these experiences depends on the student’s progress toward the 1,000 required clinical hours and her/his research interests and career plans.

Research Training

The CFT doctoral program is committed to providing research experiences for each student that lead toward publications and conference presentations. We encourage students to go beyond the required courses to identify courses in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS), Psychology, Social Work, and Sociology that will strengthen their research efforts. We want each student to combine classroom learning with continuous hands-on experience in research and publication. The Department provides computers, statistical programs, coding programs, and a video coding laboratory for student-faculty research, as well as dedicated family research space. The Clinic provides opportunities for observation, data collection, coding, etc. The University provides a research design and data analysis consultation service open to students and faculty.

Early in the program, students are expected to identify a faculty member in CFT or in HDFS who will serve as research mentor and advisor. In general, students are accepted who indicate an interest in working with a specific faculty member in an area of research of mutual interest. It is always possible to change to a different advisor as the student’s interests and expertise grow. The faculty-student relationship is meant to be a partnership between the faculty member and doctoral student. Each has something to contribute to the research efforts, and the student can expect close supervision initially, with growing independence as expertise and experience expand. As faculty, our intention is to provide those opportunities that lead to professional success, not clone copies of ourselves.

As the field of CFT/MFT grows and develops, there is an increasing need for doctoral graduates who are committed to and can carry out sophisticated programs of research, regardless of their setting—academic, medical, agency, advocacy, or private practice. Our goal is to provide the kinds of experience that will set the stage for such efforts.

Contact: Program Director, Adrian Blow,


Current CFT Faculty

  • Adrian Blow, PhD; Program Director
  • Marsha Carolan, PhD; CFT Clinic Director
  • Ana Rocio Escobar-Chew, PhD; Post-Doctoral Fellow
  • Temple Odom, PhD; Assistant Professor
  • Jose Ruben Parra-Cardona, PhD; Associate Professor
  • Andrea Wittenborn, PhD: Associate Professor

Current CFT Students

  • Adam Farero
  • Bill Tyler
  • Chris Jarman
  • Daniel Zomerlei
  • Emily Nichols
  • Erica Nordquist
  • Erica Rouleau
  • Gabriela Lopez-Zeron
  • Georgia Carpenter
  • Heather Lofton
  • Jessica Topor
  • Jesslyn Ingram Onwere
  • Joel Ketner
  • Karlin Tichenor
  • Kate McKee
  • Megan Goetsch 
  • Michael Whitehead
  • Nicole del Pilar Monta
  • Rebecca Harding
  • Reham Gassas
  • Saila Subramaniam
  • Sara Lappan
  • Sudha Sankar
  • Teresa-Jo Barabe
  • Travis Johnson
  • Zain Shamoon


Student Achievement Data

Advertised Program Length [4 YEARS] 
Maximum Time to Complete Program [8 YEARS]


Year Entered Program

Graduation Rate

National Exam Pass Rate

Licensure Rate*

2005 - 2006




2006 - 2007




2007 - 2008




2008 - 2009




2009 - 2010




2010 - 2011




2011 - 2012




2012 - 2013




2013 - 2014





*Note: Some program graduates work in non-clinical academic contexts where licensure is not required.


Student Body Composition (26 students from Fall 2013 to July 2014)

International: 5

African American: 3

Asian American: 1

Latino/Latina: 2

Caucasian: 15

Female: 18

Male: 8

LMFT: 11




LMFT and LMSW: 1

None: 8