School of Humanities and Social Sciences


Ph.D. in Family Therapy

Mission Statement

The SHSS Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Family Therapy program is committed to academic and clinical innovation and excellence, preparing students to become leaders in therapy, consultation, research, and teaching. In addition, the Ph.D. in family therapy offers high quality clinical services to the individuals, families, and others in the community. Applying a systemic (holistic and contextual) perspective to our teaching and clinical supervision, we focus on the relational strengths and resources of both students and clients with an appreciation of and respect for diversity and social justice.

Program Description

The Ph.D. Program in Family Therapy 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;

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 make them 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.

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 core curriculum includes:

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 Graduate School of 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, I and II, Family Business, Organization Consulting, Grief and Loss, Academic Writing, International Counseling and Therapy, School Based Family Counseling and all courses in the Family Systems Health Care graduate certificate program. Other courses offered within the University may be considered for elective status 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 to become AAMFT Approved Supervisors is provided through the Brief Therapy Institute.

Accreditation: Student Achievement Criteria

From the AAMFT website:

The Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Consistent with CHEA Recognition Standards, accreditation organizations must establish standards that require accredited programs 'to provide consistent information about academic quality and student achievement and thus to foster continuing public awareness, confidence, and investment" (Recognition of Accrediting Organizations: Policy and Procedures p.4). COAMFTE has established Accreditation Standards that require programs to report on student achievement. Additionally, COAMFTE collects Student Achievement data on graduation rates, exam pass rates, and licensure rates. Accredited programs are required to report Student Achievement Criteria data on an annual basis.

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 following link will lead to the AAMFTE COAMFTE page describing Student Achievement Criteria. Further links lead to accredited programs and their specific Student Achievement Criteria data.


Program Formats

The Ph.D. in Family Therapy is offered residentially and takes a minimum of four years to complete the program. Full-time enrollment is considered to be at least nine credit hours per term, including the summer. Part-time enrollment is also an option at any time throughout the program; however, students must be enrolled full-time for at least one term of didactic coursework (excluding dissertation). 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, they need to apply for a Leave of Absence three weeks prior the beginning of a trimester. A student who has not registered in one year is considered inactive and must reapply to the program.

Ph.D. Degree Plan: 96 credit hours
Fall Winter Summer

SFTD 5006 Introduction to Systems Theories

* SFTD 5008 Introduction to Marital and Family Therapy

SFTD 5300 Legal, Ethical, and Professional Issues

SFTD 5007 Research in Marital and Family Therapy

*SFTD 5009 Theories of Marital and Family Therapy 

*SFTD 7313 Human Development and Individual/ Group Psychotherapy

SFTD 7311 Human Sexuality and Gender

SFTD 7302 Theories of Personality & Psychopathology

SFTD 7301 Assessment in Marital and Family Therapy

SFTD 5001 Doctoral Seminar I

SFTD 5010 Systemic Family Therapy I

SFTD 5120 Thinking Systems

SFTD 6200 Internal Practicum I

SFTD 6520 Diversity in Human and Family Development

SFTD 5002 Doctoral Seminar II
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 6310 Supervision and Teaching


SFTD 5003 Doctoral Seminar III

SFTD 5030 Systemic Family Therapy III

SFTD 6200 Internal Practicum IV

SFTD 6410 Quantitative Research II

SFTD 6320 Supervision Practicum or
SFTD 7360 Teaching Practicum

SFTD 5040 Systemic Family Therapy IV

SFTD 6430 Qualitative Research I

SFTD 6530 Family Therapy Topics



SFTD 7350 Qualitative Research II

**SFTD 6650 Coursework Portfolio

**SFTD 6750 Clinical Portfolio

**SFTD 6825 Academic/
Research Portfolio

SFTD 7410 Clinical Internship

SFTD 6900 Dissertation   

SFTD 7410 Clinical Internship

SFTD 6900 Dissertation
Dissertation Proposal Defense  

SFTD 7410 Clinical Internship

SFTD 6900 Dissertation   

SFTD 6900 Dissertation
Final Defense    


TOTAL 96 Credits

* Courses are prerequisite to the program and not included in the 96 credit requirement.
**  Portfolios are completed at the end of the third year.
*** The Ph.D. in Family Therapy completion is four years with a maximum of 7 years.

Program Specifics

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

Students may also take the following course to meet licensure requirements if needed:

Leveling courses must be completed prior to being fully admitted into the program. These 9 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:

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:

Clinical Practicums
Students complete four internal practicums at our in-house Family Therapy Clinic at the Brief Therapy Institute. During this practicum sequence students see their own clients and are supervised in teams and individually. Details regarding practicum and the department clinic, the Brief Therapy Institute (BTI), are available in the Policies and Procedures Manual of the Brief Therapy Institute. Policies and Procedures are distributed each trimester to students attending practicum and are available online at

Nova Southeastern University and the Department of Family Therapy require that all students successfully complete the two NSU HIPAA certificate requirements during their first term in the program. These programs are uploaded on each student’s WebCT at the beginning of the first trimester. Certificates must be printed, name entered in BLUE, and submitted to the DFT Internship Coordinator.

Fingerprinting is required of all students and must be completed during the first two weeks of enrollment in the program. Students will contact the DFT Internship Coordinator for detailed information on the fingerprinting procedures that is also provided under Student Resources, Ph.D. program at

A student’s progress in each of the four practicums is assessed and evaluated by a set of skills as described below. These skills are considered necessary for the successful practice of individual, couples, and family therapy. These criteria are divided into three levels of increasing sophistication. A student’s demonstration of these skills is assessed on a five point scale. A "5" on an item means a student consistently demonstrated the described behavior or skill. A "4" means a student often demonstrated the described behavior or skill. A “3” means that a student inconsistently demonstrated the described behavior or skill. A “2” means a student seldom demonstrated the described behavior or skill. A “1” means a student never demonstrated the described behavior or skill. The practicum grade is determined in the following way:

A = no more than five 4s; nothing below 4
B = more than five 4s and/or up to two 3s; nothing below 3
C = more than two 3s and/or up to two 2s; nothing below 2
D = more than two 2s and/or up to two 1s
F = more than two 1s

Students in Internal Practica I-IV enroll for 3 credit hours of practicum per term and receive 1 hour of live supervision per week from a faculty member (working with a team). Students at level I (Practicum I and II) must be able to consistently:

  1. Introduce themselves and the clinic (policies, procedures, videotaping, etc.) to clients in a warm and professional manner.
  2. Follow clinic policy (paperwork, follow-up, confidentiality, legal, and/or referral issues, etc.).
  3. Conduct themselves in a professional and effective manner (attendance, punctuality, presentation of self).
  4. Maintain an active caseload.
  5. Sensitively vary voice (tone, volume, rate, inflection) and non-verbal behavior (posture, gestures, facial expressions) to connect with clients.
  6. Empathically communicate an understanding of, and respect for, the experience of clients.
  7. Ask questions in a conversational and interactive (as opposed to interrogational) way.
  8. Avoid offering simplistic advice and personal opinions.
  9. Limit self-disclosure to occasions of therapeutic utility.
  10. Explore client stories with curiosity and demonstrate patience in developing possible interventions.
  11. Attend to larger-system issues and access appropriate resources for clients.
  12. Deliver supervisor/team communications with poise and sensitivity.
  13. Actively solicit and implement supervision as an opportunity for learning, regardless of model.
  14. Challenge their own premises and biases and expand their awareness and appreciation of cultural, gender, spiritual, and sexual diversity.
  15. Actively participate in practicum, offering and requesting constructive feedback, when appropriate.
  16. Demonstrate an understanding of, and respect for, multiple perspectives (clients, team, and supervisor).
  17. Conceptualize and describe client conundrums in systemic, non-pathologizing ways.

Students at level II (Practicum III) begin to work more independently. In addition to the above, these students must be able to consistently:

  1. Seek and utilize supervision appropriately.
  2. Assume an active role in managing all team cases.
  3. Develop and utilize effective methods of peer supervision.
  4. Receive and utilize peer supervision.        
  5. Negotiate team differences and conflicts in a way that builds and maintains team coherence and clinical effectiveness.
  6. Develop and maintain themes across sessions.
  7. Spontaneously generate relational questions and comments in the therapy room.
  8. Distinguish relevant information—in relation to model, client(s), goals, previous sessions, etc.—and organize the conversation accordingly.
  9. Weave supervisor/team communications into the conversation in a smooth manner.
  10. Contribute systemic ideas to team discussions.
  11. Appropriately generalize from supervision on a particular case to other analogous situations.
  12. Discuss and describe cases concisely within a systemic framework.
  13. Require less detailed direction from the supervisor.
  14. Identify what they wish to obtain from supervision.

Students at level III (Practicum IV) must be able to integrate the skills necessary in levels one and two in a smooth and compelling manner. In addition, they must be able to consistently:

  1. Maintain caseload of at least one case outside the formal practicum experience.
  2. Demonstrate professional and competent clinical handling of cases, including appropriate transfer/referral
  3. Take calculated risks to expand their interpersonal repertoire (with humor, creativity, play, etc.).
  4. Handle unexpected and crisis situations with poise and skill.
  5. Describe cases and interact with clients using a variety of therapeutic models.
  6. Move toward a collegial relationship with supervisors.
  7. Articulate a coherent therapeutic orientation.
  8. Demonstrate their orientation in practice (in team discussions, invention of ideas and/or interventions, delivery of ideas, etc.).

Client Contact Hours
In order to graduate, all students must document that they have a minimum of 1000 hours of appropriately supervised direct client contact hours. At least 500 of the 1000 required hours must be with couples and/or families present in the room.

Doctoral students who can document that their previous supervised clinical practice is comparable to that which would be received in a COAMFTE accredited program may petition the program to waive some or all of the required 1000 direct client contact hours. However, waiving all or part of this client contact hour requirement does not release a student from completing all of the practicum or internship requirements of the program. In order for a waiver request to be approved, the student must also provide a copy of their supervisor’s vita and credentials. In order for their supervision to count, these credentials must indicate that the previous supervisor is an AAMFT Approved Supervisor, is a licensed MFT, received training in MFT supervision, is an AAMFT clinical member, and is recognized by a state regulatory body as being an equivalent MFT supervisor.

If a waiver request is approved, students still are required to document 100 in-the-room client contact hours with individuals, couples, and/or families during their time as a student in the program before beginning clinical internship. At least half of these hours must be accrued at the Brief Therapy Institute (BTI) and practicum hours may be included in the total. In order to count, all direct client contact hours must be supervised by AAMFT approved, who will sign and document that the hours submitted are accurate. Students must follow all BTI policies and procedures.

Documentation of client contact and supervision hours must include the date, type of session (i.e., family, couple, or individual), length, and location of each session. Students must have access to case notes for all sessions listed. The necessary forms are available online student resources website. Students must submit their completed forms to the Internship Coordinator at the end of each term so that their file remains updated.
Students must submit to the Internship Coordinator the ORIGINAL SIGNED copy of the completed forms with all hours totaled and with all signatures in blue. Students must keep a copy of all completed and signed forms during their entire program and for future licensure needs.

Practicum Confidentiality and Other Considerations (DVDs and/or flash drives)
Clients seen at the Brief Therapy Institute’s Family Therapy Clinic sign a Therapy Agreement that gives student clinicians permission to record sessions for educational purposes. BTI provides students with the necessary materials to record their sessions. Students may not use their own DVDs and/or flash drives for recording sessions and all recordings must remain on the premises to ensure confidentiality. Viewing rooms are available at BTI for students to watch their own work; they may not view another therapist's work without his or her prior written consent submitted to the BTI Clinic Office Manager for final approval. If students wish to show a recorded session in a class, or use them for their Clinical Qualifying Exam, they may sign them out for a specified amount of time. This must be coordinated through the BTI Clinic Office Manager to ensure proper authorization.

If students wish to write about a case seen at BTI and need to transcribe the sessions, they may schedule times in the editing suite through the Clinic Office Manager. No identifying client information can appear on transcripts or written materials.

If students wish to show a recorded session to a professional audience outside of NSU, they must re-contact the clients seen on the recording, explain to them what they intend to do. The student must have each adult client sign a release, Authorization for Use or Disclosure of Information for Educational and Related Purposes, in advance of the presentation.

DVDs and the use of portable hard drives will be supplied to students. All DVDs and/or hard drives assigned during a student’s time at BTI must be turned in to the practicum supervisor at the end of each practicum session for placement in locked storage. DVDs or any client recordings or information are not allowed off BTI premises.

Concentration in Family Systems Health Care
Students in the Ph.D. program in Family Therapy may choose to pursue a concentration in Family Systems Health Care. The concentration focuses on the relationships between psychosocial medicine and biomedicine in the treatment and prevention of illness and disease. Students learn the basics of biopsychosocial theory, practice, and collaboration. The program prepares professionals to offer therapeutic services in a variety of medical settings, including private medical practices, hospitals, community clinics, primary care/specialists' offices, and agencies.

Students in the Family Systems Health Care concentration program have ample opportunities to gain practical expertise through classroom learning and hands-on clinical, research, teaching, and service experiences. Specific areas of study include: adjustment patterns of clients and their families to chronic and acute illnesses; models of collaboration between medical family therapists and other health care professionals; the role of medical family therapists in the continuum of medical services; the politics and economics of health care; understanding human systems in health care; and brief interventions and systemic assessments useful in the treatment and care of patients and their families. Additionally, the program emphasizes professional development by assisting students in strengthening their professional and personal qualities necessary for successful participation in the medical milieu.

The student's growth as a reflective practitioner is encouraged through clinical research in physician, patient, therapist, family communications, adjustments to acute, chronic, or terminal illness, social effects and ethical dilemmas of new medical technologies, and other issues that transcend historical distinctions between physical treatment and psychosocial interventions. Program faculty and students cooperate to publish research findings and clinical experiences. Also, faculty and students of the program contribute to the growth of Family Systems Health Care and medical family therapy by supporting and participating in professional groups such as the Collaborative Family Health Care Coalition, the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, Bereavement, Gerontology, and others.

In addition to degree requirements, students must complete the following coursework to receive a Concentration in Family Systems Health Care (24 credit hours):

* Students may choose to complete their clinical internship in a medical setting to obtain the required 200 hours of face-to-face client contact for this concentration.

Portfolios and Evaluations
As a requirement of completing the doctoral program, a student must submit for faculty evaluation three separate performance based portfolios. Each of these portfolios is designed to help the student assimilate and present evidence of how they met various aspects of the program’s learning objectives and outcomes. The portfolio requirement is also designed to help students become better able to present their work in professional contexts, such as seeking employment and academic exchange. Each of the three portfolios and their requirements are described in detail below.

The three components of the Portfolio process are:

  1. Coursework Portfolio
  2. Clinical Portfolio
  3. Academic/Research Portfolio

Each portfolio is intended to address major training and academic goals of the program. The portfolio process represents a steppingstone experience for students as they prepare to undertake their dissertation. Successful completion of each successive portfolio indicates that the student is able to plan, undertake, and complete increasingly sophisticated projects, requiring independence of both thought and motivation.

While it must be recognized that a student can complete the required portfolios in any order that they choose, the most common sequence of fulfillment is the one described below. A student must successfully complete all three of the required portfolios however before they may sign up for dissertation credits.

  1. Coursework Portfolio
    This 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. The materials that make up this portfolio consist of a) a student “self-review”, which is a narrative the student creates to describe how they have integrated and assimilated all of the materials from their course requirements into their own professional development as a doctoral level marriage and family therapist, and b) the course based papers, presentations, PowerPoint's, and other projects or course based requirements a student produced while completing class requirements. This portfolio can only be submitted for review after the student has successfully completed all required coursework. A template outlining a completed Coursework Portfolio is available on the student resources section of the department website.

    Once a student has successfully finished all of their required courses, they then will undertake to complete a “self- review” of their progress in the years since they began the program. The time frames will vary because of individual student schedules and choices, but generally students complete the course work portion of the program in between 2-4 years time. In the narrative of the self-review, the student should be sure to address in some detail each of the following issues: 1) Professional growth – including theoretical refinement and sophistication, increasing depth of knowledge about the field in general, and the development of their own professional “voice”; 2) Personal growth – addressing issues of maturity, empathy, and their own ability to manage complex situations and multiple demands on their time; and 3) Responses to Challenge –How in general the student believes they have responded to the challenges posed during the completion of the course curriculum. That is to say, how has the student responded when challenged by a course or a professor, or how has the student responded when they believe they are not being challenged enough. The self-review document should be between 5 - 15 pages in length, double spaced, utilizing the latest APA formatting style.

    The materials that a student has produced to meet all of their course requirements should always be saved in electronic format, and collected in an electronic database like Microsoft OneNote for easy cataloging. These materials should be organized for faculty review by being placed in a logical or chronological order, so that the reviewer can see a progression of thought, development, and sophistication in the student’s work over time.

    Once a student has prepared their Coursework Portfolio for faculty review, they then will notify the Program Coordinator. The program coordinator will convene a committee of two faculty reviewers to review the submitted materials. Their review will consist of two components: 1) A formal, checklist based review of the materials, to make sure that materials from each of the required courses are submitted for review. The faculty reviewers will check to make sure that all of the materials a student lists on their checklist are present, and in good professional order, and are a good representation of the student’s work in the classroom, and 2) Individualized feedback regarding the student’s “self-evaluation” statement. In this process, the faculty reviewers are free to give feedback to the student regarding issues of Professional Growth, Personal Growth, and Responses to Challenge, with a particular eye toward how these issues may have been handled in classes. How a student manages these issues in the classroom may say something about the strengths or weaknesses of the student as they work toward completing their dissertation research.

    The faculty review committee has a period of two (2) weeks from the time of the committee assignment for the completion of both reviews. The results of these reviews are then submitted to the Chair of the Department, with recommendations that the Portfolio is: a) accepted as is, with the student receiving only the written feedback of the faculty reviewers, b) requires further revision and resubmission on the part of the student to be professionally acceptable, or c) requires a meeting between the student, the faculty reviewers, and the Chair in order for the review process to proceed. A Coursework Portfolio is considered to be successfully submitted only when the Chair of the Department signs off on it as such.

  2. Clinical Portfolio
    The Clinical Portfolio is intended to provide 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. It should be viewed as the culmination of the in-house clinical training aspect of the doctoral program, and it is designed to allow students to demonstrate the full range and depth of their clinical skills and theoretical knowledge. To submit a Clinical Portfolio for faculty review, a student must have successfully completed the minimum of four (4) required internal practicum courses. Student’s wishing to enhance their clinical skills or theoretical knowledge may do so with additional practica, clinical work, or supervision before submitting their Clinical Portfolio. All students must submit a Clinical Portfolio for review no later than the end of their 4thth year of enrollment in the program.

    Clinical Portfolio Components
    There are 4 components to a Clinical Portfolio, and they are:
    - All of a student’s internal practicum evaluation reviews
    - Statement of Treatment Philosophy (5-7 pages, double spaced; APA formatted)
    - Case Study (Written, single case from inception to treatment
    - Video presentation (45 min–1 hour, professional audience)

    Internal Practicum Reviews
    Students as a matter of practice should always retain any and all materials related to their work and/or performance in the program. At the end of each internal practicum, students review with their instructor a practicum evaluation form, giving detailed feedback and suggestions for future development. Students need to present the collection of these practicum evaluations over a minimum of four internal practica as the first component of their Clinical Portfolio review. Students have the option of attaching their own editorial, explanatory, or reflective comments to this document.

    Statement of Treatment Philosophy
    The Statement of Treatment Philosophy document should be between 5-7 pages, double spaced, and should adhere to all applicable APA formatting conventions. In this document, students should articulate their current overall philosophy of treatment as it applies to their work in the field of marriage and family therapy. This philosophy statement assumes that the student under review is not a “fully formed” or fully finished professional, so it is allowable for the student to talk honestly and openly about the ways they assess their own current stage(s) of development. This statement may even be at odds with the case study or video materials presented in the other parts of the Portfolio, but if it is, it would be important for the statement to address how these disconnects are part of the overall development of the student. The important parts of this statement are the honesty, maturity, integrity, and clarity with which the student describes their journey throughout the years of clinical training they have received in the course of the program, as well as the accuracy of any theoretical assertions they make as well. This document can, and should, serve as a jumping off point for discussions between the student and the faculty reviewers about the current state of clinical development of the student.

    Single Case Study
    In this section of the Portfolio, the student is asked to describe, in writing, their experience as a primary therapist with a single case, from inception and introduction to completion and evaluation. The purpose of this section of the portfolio is to allow the student to describe in great detail the how they managed a case from beginning to end, and in the process of doing so, giving insight into the theories, techniques, approaches, assumptions, supervision, and feedback that guided them through the process. This component of the Portfolio will be evaluated by the faculty review committee using a rating scale that evaluates the student based on the following criteria:
    1. All interactions between clients and therapist up to the point when a therapeutic contract is established. (Assesses the Admission to Treatment Core Competency Skills)
    2. Activities focused on the identification of the issues to be addressed in therapy. (Assesses the Clinical Assessment and Diagnosis Core Competency Skills)
    3. All activities focused on directing the course of therapy and extra-therapeutic activities. (Assesses the Treatment Planning and Case Management Core Competency Skills)
    4. All activities designed to ameliorate the clinical issues identified. (Assesses the Therapeutic Interventions Core Competency Skills)
    5. All aspects of therapy that involve statutes, regulations, principles, values, and mores of MFTs. (Assesses the Legal Issues, Ethics, and Standards Core Competency Skills)
      Students should organize the respective sections of the written Case Study document accordingly. The Case Study document should also be written in a style that adheres to the most recent edition of APA formatting conventions.
    Video Segments Presentation
    This section of the Clinical Portfolio is designed to allow the student to demonstrate through video segments, the correlation between theory and their actual clinical practices. Each student is required to produce and display between 7-10 video segments that demonstrate the connections between “what they think” and “what they actually do”. For each segment presented, the student will assign a number to the clip, then describe the theoretical concept, construct, or technique that they believe most accurately reflects the actions that the audience is about to view. The members of the faculty review committee, after viewing the clip then offer a scaled response that reflects how accurately they believe the video segment actually reflected the concept, construct, or technique listed by the student on the following scale:

    5 = Very Highly
    4 = Well
    3 = Adequately
    2 = Only Somewhat
    1 = Not at All

    The concepts, constructs, or techniques that the student describes and shows video clips displaying can come from any of the classes, courses, or supervision they receive during their training in the program. The clips can be arranged to represent a single clinical point of view, or they may be arranged to represent a wide variety of the clinical approaches the student has used in the course of their training. This part of the Portfolio should be representative of a range of work that best demonstrates the student’s acquisition of clinical and theoretical skills during the program, regardless of theoretical approach.

    Successful completion of this exam indicates the faculty’s belief that the student is clinically prepared to perform successfully in real life situations and in outside clinical settings. It is expected that students will conduct themselves in a professional and collegial manner throughout the preparation of materials. Care should be taken regarding appropriate dress, professional demeanor, clarity of presentation, and respect for clients and colleagues.

    Faculty Advisor
    Once a student has completed all of the four (4) requirements listed above, they may then seek out the guidance of a “faculty advisor” in final preparation for their Clinical Portfolio presentation. A student can approach a current member of the full time family therapy faculty to serve in this capacity. The faculty member’s ability to serve is governed by a number of factors, including how many other such requests are being made of them in the same trimester. If the faculty member agrees to serve as the student’s faculty advisor, that faculty member may not then serve as a member of the final faculty review committee.

    Once selected, the student may then present their completed materials to the faculty advisor for review. The faculty advisor shall have a two week “turnaround time” to get back to the student with feedback regarding the overall professional quality of the presentation. The faculty member may suggest changes and revisions, which the student is at liberty to accept or ignore. Approval to go ahead with the final presentation from the faculty advisor should in no way be construed as an endorsement or guarantee of final approval from the full faculty review committee. The role of the faculty advisor is simply to allow the student some kind of access to faculty guidance before the actual presentation of their clinical work. Once the student has received the comments of the faculty advisor, they may then contact the program coordinator’s office to schedule a full faculty committee review.

    The full faculty committee will consist of three members of the full time family therapy faculty, selected on a random, rotating basis. Once selected, the three members of the faculty committee will also receive all of the portfolio materials for review. The review will be a public event, scheduled for a maximum of two hours time. As a professional presentation, it is important that the student allocate their time for presentation and questions accordingly. Punctuality, time keeping, and facilitation are is an important part of professional presenting.

    The review will be publically announced to the Department of Family Therapy community, and open for faculty and students to attend. It will be scheduled for a minimum two weeks after the announcement is formally made. These events are not only a review of the student’s portfolio of clinical work, but also an opportunity for active conversation with, and about, the clinical work of their colleagues.

    Upon completion of the public presentation, the three members of the faculty review committee consider all of the materials presented in light of 1) the evaluation rubrics attached to those materials, 2) the manner in which they were presented, 3) the overall professionalism of the presenter, including dress, manner, tone, etc., and 4) the manner and substance of the ways in which the presenter handled questions, criticisms, theoretical disagreements, or ethical concerns raised by reviewers or members of the audience during the course of the review. The faculty review committee then decides whether or not, as a consensus opinion, the student has satisfactorily presented a professionally acceptable Clinical Portfolio. If the consensus reached is not unanimous among the committee members, it is incumbent upon the dissenting opinion to inform the student of their views, and the reasons for them, in a separate report. If a majority decides that the Portfolio presented is not of acceptable professional quality, it is incumbent upon the committee to fashion a detailed report of how and where the portfolio falls short of acceptable professional standards, and to make suggestions for remediation in the future. A student may only submit one Clinical Portfolio for review per trimester, and may only resubmit a Clinical Portfolio for re-review a maximum of two (2) times. Any student who is unable to submit a professionally acceptable Clinical Portfolio after this will not be allowed to continue in the program.

  3. Academic/Research Portfolio
    The Academic/Research Portfolio is designed to demonstrate the academic and professional research accomplishments of a student during their time in the doctoral program. As a matter of professional development and career building, students are encouraged to participate in academic publishing and professional presentations before local, statewide, and national audiences. Students who participate in these activities may petition to have some or all of these experiences count toward the successful completion of the Portfolio requirements.

    All students will be required to demonstrate that they possess doctoral level competency in both writing and professional presentation skills. To do so, they may choose any one of the three paths described below to demonstrate they possess these requisite skills. The Academic/Research Portfolio may be submitted for review by a 3 person faculty review committee any time after the student completes two years of the program, but must be submitted for review no later than the student’s 5th year of enrollment in the program. An Academic/Research Portfolio that is judged not to meet minimally acceptable professional standards may be resubmitted, with appropriate revisions, no sooner than the next trimester. A student must have their Academic/Research Portfolio accepted by a faculty review committee by no later than the beginning of their 5th year of enrollment. It is strongly suggested that students submit their first Academic/Research Portfolio while they are in their 3rd year of enrollment.

    There are three (3) options by which students may meet the requirements of the Academic/Research Portfolio, and they are outlined below. Every option consists of a written component and a professional presentation component, and each must be successfully presented for the student to complete this requirement.

    Option 1
    Written Component
    A student may submit an original, professional journal publishable-quality paper, on a topic relevant to the field of family therapy. This paper is then read by a committee of 3 full time family therapy faculty members, and is evaluated in accordance with the written guidelines governing the Substantive Qualifying Exam. A student must receive an average overall score of 4 or above from the 3 reviewers to successfully complete this part of the portfolio.

    The text of the paper, exclusive of the title page, abstract, and references, may not exceed 25 pages. Papers must follow stylistic guidelines of the most recent edition of the American Psychological Association Publication Manual. The topic of these academic papers may be case studies, research reports, theoretical essays, or professional issue position papers. If a student submits a case study or a research report, they must preserve the data on which the work is based (e.g., videotapes, detailed case notes of clinical work, research protocols, transcripts, signed informed-consent forms) until the paper has passed the entire process.

    Presentation Component
    The second component of Option 1 requires that the student then also present an acceptable quality professional level presentation on a topic relevant to a marriage and family therapy audience. This presentation will be 30–45 minutes long, and will be offered to the entire Department of Family Therapy community. This presentation will be evaluated by a committee of 3 faculty evaluators, who will judge its professional quality based on a set of published guidelines evaluating elements such as preparation, utilization of technology, poise, clarity of presentation, management of questions from the audience, accuracy of research, adherence to ethical standards and guidelines, and academic rigor.

    If the faculty evaluation committee determines that a student has not successfully completed this portion of the Portfolio, they as a group are responsible to give detailed and specific feedback to the student regarding their suggestions and concerns. The student may then reschedule another presentation on either the same or a different topic no sooner than the following trimester. Students may re-present a maximum of 2 times after their initial offering. Students who do not successfully complete this requirement after a maximum of 3 attempts may not continue in the program.

    Option 2
    Written Component
    In Option 2, the requirements of the written component are identical to the requirements listed above in Option 1.

    Presentation Component
    However, in Option 2, a student may satisfy the Presentation Component criteria by being a part of one or more professional presentations before local, statewide, or national audiences. To be considered as equivalent experiences, such presentations should occur in settings where submission is subject to a peer review process, and the length of the presentation is greater than 1 hour. Because of the wide variety of professional presentation options available, students will need to submit a description of their professional presentation experience(s), along with copies of all relevant presentation materials to a committee of three (3) full time family therapy faculty reviewers. Any such presentations must be based on materials, projects, or research that the student has been involved in since they were enrolled in the family therapy program.

    Option 3
    Written Component
    In order to fulfill the written component requirement, a student may submit for review an article that they are the first author on. This article must have been accepted for publication in a peer reviewed, family therapy or other closely related professional journal. A committee of 3 full time family therapy faculty will review the article, and determine by majority vote if in their opinion it meets acceptable professional standards for doctoral level writing. If in the opinion of the faculty review committee it does not, the student will be asked to submit another article, or will be required to meet the written component of the portfolio in the manner outlined above in Options 1 and 2.

    Presentation Component
    In this Option, the student may meet the presentation requirement either by a) presenting on the topic of the paper that was submitted, b) submitting a list of their previous professional presentation credentials, along with any appropriate accompanying materials for faculty review, or c) presenting for the Department of Family Therapy community as described in Option 1 above.

Portfolio Timeline Information
There is no single guideline for the order or time frame in which portfolios are submitted. However, a student doctoral student may not begin their internship until they have successfully completed their Clinical Portfolio Review, and they may not sign up for dissertation credits until they have successfully submitted all of their Portfolio requirements. All portfolios must be completed by students by the beginning of their 5th year in the program. Failure to do so means that a student is at significantly greater risk of not completing the doctoral program within the prescribed 7 year limit, and may be grounds for the Chair of the Department to call a meeting to review the overall progress of the student.

Individual Student Evaluations
Individual student evaluations are conducted at the end of each and every trimester by each instructor who has the student for class or practicum. These evaluations are based on the student’s overall performance, attitude, conduct, and preparation, and may or may not be reflective of the overall grade the student earned in the course.

Individual Student evaluations are a standard departmental form that is filled out by faculty at the end of every trimester for all the students enrolled in their class. Each student will receive a copy of their evaluations after each trimester is complete. Evaluations are based on a three system criteria:

  1. Green light-the student met every requirement of the class in a way that the instructor has no lingering or overall concerns regarding the above listed criteria.
  2. Yellow light- means the faculty member has recommendations to be discussed one on one with the student. The onus is on the student to seek out the instructor to discuss their concerns about their performance, and they should do so some time before the beginning of the next trimester. If a student and the instructor are able to amicably discuss and resolve the instructor’s concerns, the yellow light evaluation can be amended into a green light evaluation. If after this meeting there is disagreement about the issue or its resolution, the yellow light evaluation may stay in place, or it may become a Red light, in which case see below.
  3. Red light- means that an issue or issues between the instructor and the student has risen to the level of concern that the instructor would like to involve the Chair of the Department to become aware of the issue(s). If a student is given a Red Light evaluation, the student then must make arrangements for a meeting with the instructor and the department chair as soon as is practical.

Clinical or Research Internship
An Internship of 9 to 12 months (3 consecutive trimesters) is designed to provide the student with a supervised full-time experience, emphasizing relationally focused practice and/or research. The majority of a student’s course requirements must be completed before beginning the internship experience. Students must have successfully passed their Clinical Portfolio requirement.

The Clinical Internship is designed to provide students with a clinical experience to gain professional experience in the practice of marriage and family therapy. An AAMFT Approved Supervisor or the equivalent will supervise the intern’s clinical work. Students are required to develop a clinical contract with their AAMFT Approved Supervisor and obtain approval prior to beginning at an internship site.

Students who have met their clinical hour requirements may choose to advance their research skills by developing a research internship.

The Research Internship is designed to provide students with an opportunity to further develop their research skills and knowledge of research projects, grants, and other available resources (i.e., working with faculty on research projects). The Research Internship experience requires prior approval by the faculty member, Department Chair, and, internship site.

The institution sponsoring the internship site(s) will have been in operation for at least two years. Internship site(s) will provide adequate facilities and equipment for the intern to carry out designated responsibilities. Students will work with both a faculty supervisor and a site supervisor. When requesting supervision from a faculty AAMFT Approved Supervisor they will register for 3 credit hours per term for a minimum of 3 terms. If students have an AAMFT Approved Supervisor on site to supervise their clinical hours, or need to obtain an outside AAMFT Approved Supervisor, they will register for 1 credit hour per term for a minimum of 3 terms. They will also work with their faculty supervisor a part of their internship experience. When taking 1credit hour, students need to review their degree plan to ensure they will meet the required credit hours for their degree, and/or they will be required to take two additional elective courses to meet the credit hour degree requirement.

The Supervision and Teaching Course and Practicum
Before taking the Supervision and Teaching course students must have successfully passed their Internal Practicum II course. To be eligible to take the Supervision Practicum course, working with a full time faculty behind the mirror in a team at BTI, students must have successfully passed their four (4) required Internal Practica. Students taking the Teaching Practicum must have successfully completed most of their coursework. Students must obtain faculty approval for taking either Supervision Practicum or Teaching Practicum. Typically, these Practica will entail assisting a faculty member in teaching or supervising a master's level course, though in some instances, helping with doctoral courses is possible. Students are required to take either the Teaching or Supervision practicum, but can take both to expand their teaching experience in the classroom and in a supervisory capacity.

To obtain permission to take either a supervision or teaching practicum, students should seek out the full-time faculty member they wish to work with and specify what capacity they would like to work with them. If the faculty member agrees to work with the student, the student should then write a brief note or email to the faculty member detailing what they have agreed on with a copy to the Department Chair for final approval. Such notice should be given well in advance of that term’s registration period.

The Ph.D. dissertation consists of original research in the Marriage and Family Therapy field. Students are encouraged to develop research topics that are of interest to them and to promote work in the field. They enroll in their Dissertation courses while completing their Clinical or Research Internship. Students choose one of the DFT full time faculty to serve as their Dissertation Chair to formalize a research study and develop a timeline for moving through the process. Two additional faculty committee members are chosen to serve as consultants and readers. During this time, students work closely with their Dissertation Chair and committee of two readers.

Students will have successfully completed their Portfolio processes prior to registering for dissertation credits. The Dissertation process is quite extensive and specific details about how students move through this process and write their dissertation can be found in the school's Dissertation Guidelines available at Students must take a total of 12 dissertation credit hours; three credit hours per term for four terms. Three hours of dissertation credits is considered full time by the program. Students must continually be registered for dissertation credits each term until they complete and successfully defend their dissertation, bind and turn in their final document, and register their dissertation with ProQuest, UMI.

The Dissertation process may entail taking more than the minimum of 12 dissertation credit hours as required by the program. Once a student takes 12 dissertation credits over four terms, they can register for one credit hour each term thereafter until completion of their dissertation. If, for some reason, students cannot continue working on their dissertation, they must apply in writing to their Dissertation Chair and the Department Chair requesting a leave of absence. The Leave of Absence form is located online and must be completed with signature to remain in good academic standing. If a student requests a leave for longer than one term, i.e., two or more, he/she may be unable upon returning to continue with the same dissertation chair and committee. A written request to their Dissertation Chair is required for approval to continue in their work and all dissertation forms must be updated. If a Leave of Absence is requested and approved, this does not extend the 7-year timeframe for completing the degree program. Students are required to adhere to the dissertation guidelines and timelines. The complete DFT Dissertation Guidelines can be found online at

Individual Supervision for State Licensure or AAMFT Approved Supervisor
There may be occasions after the completion of formal course work when doctoral students wish to seek private, individual clinical supervision from a member of the faculty. Before approaching a faculty member with such a request, students must have already successfully completed all required Practica and have successfully passed all Portfolios. Since such supervision is not considered part of the curriculum, the contract between the student and the supervisor, including frequency of meetings, responsibilities, and costs, will be settled privately. The department stipulates that faculty members may not provide private clinical supervision for students whose dissertations they are chairing or serving on as readers. The Department works closely with an outside professional firm that conducts licensure exam reviews on campus throughout the year. This process is designed to support students and alumni in becoming licensed in the MFT field.