Should You Get a PsyD in Marital and Family Therapy?
When considering a career in mental health, you have numerous academic tracks to consider, one of which is a doctorate in marital and family therapy (MFT PsyD). But is an MFT PsyD right for you? And if so, what are the eligibility and academic requirements?
Choosing an academic path on your journey to a mental health career can seem complicated. Whether you're looking to continue your education to a masters degree, teaching, a PhD, or a doctorate degree, there are many options. If being a marriage family therapist (MFT) interests you, this therapy program may be the right one. This article will answer the questions above and guide you to an informed decision.
What are the Eligibility Requirements for a PsyD in Marital and Family Therapy?
While considering your ideal psychological specialty, you may have come across a job description for a marriage and family therapist. MFT’s are professional psychologists trained and licensed to treat mental health issues among married and unmarried couples and their families.1
You can pursue MFT licensure in some states after receiving a master’s degree, but a PsyD program can provide even more clinical experience and hands-on training within more in-depth theoretical frameworks. But, how can you determine if you’re eligible for an MFT PsyD program?
At Alliant, students must meet the following criteria to enroll in an MFT PsyD degree program:
- Applicants must have a completed bachelor’s or master’s degree from a regionally-accredited university. If your bachelor’s or master’s degree is in a field unrelated to psychology, you must have passed a course in one of the following areas:
- Introduction to Psychology or General Psychology
- Human Development or Child Development
- Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA from your previous institution.
- Applicants must be able to secure two letters of recommendation.
If you meet these eligibility requirements for an MFT PsyD degree program—or you intend to in your future academic track—this course of study can be a great first step in your career as a mental health professional.
What Will an MFT PsyD Program Entail?
During an MFT PsyD degree program, you’ll participate in structured psychology coursework, gain hands-on skills during practica and internships, and compose and defend a dissertation based on your own research.
All three of these experiences can help to shape you into a competent, compassionate, and knowledgeable mental health care provider. Here's a program overview of how to become an MFT:
Alliant offers two MFT PsyD tracks:
- A 69-unit program for students with a master’s degree in MFT
- A 114-unit program for students without a master’s degree in MFT
Regardless of the track you choose, you’ll take a variety of courses that will expose you to MFT-specific psychology theories and best practices. Some of these courses include:
- Advanced Statistics
- MFT Law and Ethics
- Social Basis of Behavior
- Biological Aspects of Behavior
- Trauma and Crisis Intervention
- Couples Therapy
- Chemical Dependency and the Family
- Advanced Family Therapy
While these aren’t the only courses you’ll take in an MFT PsyD degree program, you should also expect to take a variety of elective courses to develop the diversity of your clinical knowledge and practices. You can also use these elective courses to pursue a specialty certification, like the LGBT Human Services and Mental Health Certificate.
Both elective and core courses provide you with a well-rounded theoretical knowledge of MFT, and this coursework will supplement your practicum and internship experiences, another crucial element of any MFT PsyD degree program.
Practica and Internships
During your MFT PsyD degree program, you’ll spend time learning and implementing hands-on techniques while treating mental health patients and families during two distinct experiences—the practicum and the internship.
During practica, a faculty member will perform two crucial tasks:
- They’ll teach you standardized clinical strategies to use while treating patients.
- They’ll observe and provide feedback on your hands-on treatment of patients.
Alliant requires that all MFT PsyD students are continuously expanding their skills by engaging in MFT practica.
The internship component of the MFT PsyD degree program is slightly different from the practicum component. While pratica prepares you to perform future treatments, the supervising faculty member is significantly more hands-on than they will be during the internship phase.
At Alliant, you must perform a continuous internship at an approved location for a minimum of nine months, meaning that you must sign up for at least one internship course in the Fall semester and one in the immediate-following Spring semester.
Typically, students complete the internship experience near the end of their degree program and simultaneously work on researching for and writing their doctoral dissertation.
A dissertation is par for the course in any doctoral program, and an MFT PsyD degree program is no exception. There are four crucial parts of the dissertation process:
- Research courses prepare students to perform doctoral-level research.
- Students propose and research their own dissertation topic.
- Dissertation courses provide time for students to work one-on-one with their dissertation chair during the research and writing processes.
- Students must defend their dissertation to a committee of faculty, including their dissertation chair.
During an MFT PsyD degree program, you should expect to work on your dissertation throughout your last four semesters in the program. Your coursework, practica, and internship experience will bolster your research efforts, and your opportunities to provide treatment in-person to real patients can even serve as a basis for an organized experiment.
While writing a dissertation can sound intimidating, rest assured that you’ll take two research courses—Advanced MFT Research: Qualitative and Advanced MFT Research: Quantitative—that will teach you about doctoral-level research in the psychology field. You’ll also be paired with a faculty member, who will serve as your dissertation chair and help you through the brainstorming, research, writing, and defense processes.
Will an MFT PsyD Help Me Get Licensed?
When considering your options for an academic path, zoom out to your life after graduation. Will your chosen academic track make you eligible for licensure?
In most states, an MFT PsyD degree program does make you eligible for licensure, as long as you fulfill the other requirements. The MFT PsyD degree program at Alliant fulfills the licensure eligibility requirements for the state of California, but applicants must also:
- Complete 3,000 hours of supervised professional experience (1,700 of which must take place after completing a master’s degree)
- Pass a national examination
- Submit evidence of taking coursework in the following areas:
- Human sexuality
- Child abuse
- Substance Abuse
- Spousal abuse
- Psychological Testing
- California law and professional ethics
- Aging and long-term care
While our MFT PsyD degree program meets these requirements for coursework, exam eligibility, and professional experience, not every state has the same licensing requirements. Students are personally responsible for reporting their coursework, degree, and supervised practice hours to their state’s Board of Psychology. If you’re interested in pursuing licensure, rest assured that an MFT PsyD can help you prepare for official licensing.
Are There Marital and Family Therapy Jobs Available?
An MFT PsyD degree program will prepare you for licensure, but once you’re licensed, will you be able to get a job?
Luckily, marriage and family therapy and counseling are one of the most rapidly-growing industries in the United States, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the number of MFT jobs will grow by 16%—significantly more growth than the national average—between 2020 and 2030.2
MFTs also have a surprisingly wide range of workplaces and industries available to them after licensure. While MFT PsyD graduates can always pursue private practice, they can also work in:
- Outpatient care centers
- Inpatient care facilities and hospitals
- Social work and services agencies, like Child Protective Services
- Substance abuse and addiction treatment centers
- Employee assistance programs
- Nursing homes and long-term care facilities
- Legal and correctional systems
- The military
- Churches and religious settings
Jobs in mental health care are nearly as diverse as the academic tracks you can pursue to get them. As mental health awareness grows, more and more industries will discover how beneficial basic mental health care can be, creating even more jobs for licensed and experienced psychologists throughout the workforce.
Family counseling and other counseling psychology careers have become more sought after and the career options are plenty.
Pursue a PsyD in Marital and Family Therapy at Alliant International University
Pursuing an MFT PsyD degree program is an excellent way to gather the knowledge and experience needed for MFT licensure. In most cases, bachelor’s and master’s degree recipients with or without academic experience in psychology are eligible, and the MFT PsyD degree requirements will prepare you for licensure and can be a great first step to a long and fruitful career.
Finding the right family therapy program shouldn't be complicated. At Alliant, we take pride in our coursework, hands-on experience opportunities, and dissertation process which help prepare students to tackle their next challenges. We offer courses online, in-person, and via hybrid learning experiences. Our core faculty are experienced in psychology clinical practices and research, and they’re ready to share their wealth of knowledge with the next generation of Marriage and Family Therapists.
If you want to make an impact as a mental health care provider and psychologist, an MFT PsyD degree program can help to put you on the right path.
- Advanced Solutions International, Inc. “About Marriage and Family Therapists.” About marriage and family therapists. AAMFT. Accessed January 4, 2022. https://www.aamft.org/About_AAMFT/About_Marriage_and_Family_Therapists…. Accessed January 4, 2022.
- “Marriage and Family Therapists : Occupational Outlook Handbook.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 8, 2021. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/marriage-and-famil…. Accessed January 4, 2022.