Couple and Family Therapy Overview

CFT Members

The PhD concentration in Couple and Family Therapy trains scientist-practitioners and is accredited by the Commission on Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). Current accreditation is approved through November 1, 2019.
The Couple and Family Therapy (CFT) program is committed to training leaders in the field: exceptional researchers, excellent therapists, and effective trainers of therapists. Each student develops an approach to therapy that is personally consistent and grounded in sound theory and practice, and which results in positive outcomes for clients. In a context that emphasizes tolerance and self-examination, students are encouraged to develop a program of research that is meaningful and which considers couple and family interventions as one means of affecting the lives of people. 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 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.

Admission (Doctoral program only; no master’s program offered)

Students are admitted to the doctoral concentration in Couple and Family Therapy in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. Students who enter with a master’s degree from a COAMFTE accredited program, or its equivalent, will enter the doctoral program directly.
Applicants who currently have a master’s degree from a non COAMFTE will be considered, however they will be will be required to complete additional courses meeting COAMFTE master’s degree equivalency. These courses will be determined after a review of previous coursework by the CFT program director. Generally, it is possible to accept many 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 take more time to complete than those entering with a COAMFTE master’s degree.

Time Frame

Students entering the Ph.D. program with a master’s degree in MFT usually 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. A total of 1,000 hours of direct client contact is required for the doctoral degree in CFT; up to 800 hours can be counted from prior clinical experiences as long as they meet COAMFTE criteria. 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 functions as a non-profit community-based agency. Clients come from the greater Lansing area (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 and supervision is provided by CFT faculty. Senior doctoral students provide additional mentoring for junior students. Each session is recorded on DVDs for review and supervision. After the first year, students continue providing services in the Clinic, and with approval, may choose to seek additional experiences in the surrounding community.

Research Training

The CFT doctoral program is committed to providing research experiences for each student that leads to expertise in the conduct of research and results in 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, for example, that will strengthen their research and content expertise. 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 research space. The Clinic provides opportunities for observation, data collection, coding, and more. The University provides a research design and data analysis consultation service open to students and faculty.
As the field of CFT 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.

COAMFTE Student Achievement Criteria Data