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Couple and Family Therapy

Students in the Human Development and Family Science (HDFS) doctoral degree program can pursue a specialization in Couple and Family Therapy accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). It meets the standards for licensure in the state of Ohio and is designed to prepare students to be clinical scholars and researchers.

HDFS students who pursue the specialization follow a scholar-clinician model with a heavier emphasis on research and scholarship than on clinical work. HDFS students are trained for careers in academia or other research-related careers; training other clinicians, conducting research in clinically-related areas and doing clinical work. The PhD specialization is designed to be completed in four years.

Program Mission:  To train excellent research clinicians for academic and research settings who have sustainable programs of research in areas that move the CFT and Family Science fields forward.


Program Goals

CFT Specialization Students in the PhD program in HDFS 

  • Will develop research skills that will enable them to publish in top ranked peer reviewed journals, present at national conferences, and apply for grant funding.
  • Will solidify a theory of change that enables them to work with many different clients.
  • Will develop a philosophy of supervision and begin the process of becoming an AAMFT Approved Supervisor.
  • Will be well versed in the Couple and Family Therapy professional organizations and understand the context of the profession.

HDFS students pursuing the Couple and Family specialization:

  • Identify ethical practices in human subjects research in order to conduct research
  • Apply qualitative and quantitative research designs that appropriately reflect research questions and hypotheses.
  • Develop skills in scientific writing for publication
  • Develop grant proposal writing skills
  • Understand processes necessary for engaging diver families in research
  • Evaluate and critique current empirical research in Couple and Family Therapy effectiveness
  • Synthesize conceptual and intervention skills within a solidified theory of change
  • Know the literature relevant to diverse families and how diverse families access and engage in treatment
  • Develop preliminary supervisor skills that focus on trainee's theory development, intervention, and case management
  • Learn skills necessary propose and present research at Couple and Family Therapy Organization Conferences
  • Participate in state and national level conference of CFT Organizations

Clinical Training Facilities

Doctoral students pursuing the specialization utilize The Ohio State University Couple and Family Therapy Clinic. It is equipped with state-of-the-art video equipment and one-way mirrors for live observation of student work. During this initial experience, students are supervised by the faculty who are licensed clinicians with AAMFT-approved supervisor status, or equivalent (current faculty: Suzanne Bartle-Haring and Keeley Pratt).

Supervision includes group and individual modalities, as well as live observation, video and case report. As students gain experience, they secure nine-12 month internships in community mental health clinic settings, psychiatric in-patient settings and clinical research settings or combinations of research, teaching, supervision, and/or clinical work.

Client Contact Hour Requirement

For the specialization, HDFS students must have 1,000 hours of face-to-face client contact. Students with a master's degree in Couple and Family Therapy need 500 hours of client contact beyond the master's degree.

Students without a Couple and Family Therapy master's degree must obtain a minimum of 500 hours of client contact at The Ohio State University Couple and Family Therapy Clinic with the remainder of their hours completed at the clinic and/or internship site.

Admission Requirements

In addition to the requirements for the Human Development and Family Science Doctoral Degree program, students wishing to pursue the specialization must:

  • Interview with the faculty who are licensed Couple and Family Therapy supervisors.
  • If invited to interview, submit a research project proposal.

Faculty to Student Ratio

The program is kept small in order to provide the highest quality education and research training.

Learn about our current students

Dedication to Diversity

The Ohio State University Couple and Family Therapy Program is committed to the value of all people regardless of age, race, ethnic/minority background, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, religion, gender identity, relationship status, disability, national origin, or health status.  We believe that our work as clinicians, researchers, and academicians, and students should reflect this core belief. 
The Ohio State University Couple and Family Therapy Program respects and encourages the expression of the diversity of personal values and behaviors.  As family therapists, we are aware we will encounter clients, colleagues, and trainees that will have values divergent from our own.  We will endeavor to make the program a safe place in which trainees can explore their own values and biases in an effort to make them more aware of how these contribute or detract from their effectiveness as therapists. 
As family therapists we are committed to The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy’s Code of Ethics, in which it is considered unethical to deny family therapy services to anyone based on race, gender, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation.  As personal values are explored through-out the program, trainees will be encouraged to confront their ability to uphold this ethical guideline and explore options when their own core beliefs may prevent them from being therapeutic with clients. 

See the student body and faculty composition here.

Medical Family Therapy

Medical family therapy is built upon family systems theory and the bio-psycho-social model. It provides a systemic interpretation of biological, psychological and social influences on couples and families for healthy lives.

Medical family therapy offers students the opportunity to apply systems theory to patients, their families, their doctors and other health care professionals.

HDFS students interested in medical family therapy gain experience:

  • Initiating and facilitating communication among healthcare providers and patients/families
  • Developing a collaboratively driven comprehensive plan of treatment
  • Supporting patients and families through the change process
  • Preparing patients and families for medical treatments
  • Developing post-treatment plan to adjust to changes
  • Addressing changes in couple relationship as a result of treatment
  • Talking to family members about anticipated changes post-treatment
  • Assisting with feeling less conflicted about a medical regime
  • Helping family with healthy lifestyle changes
  • Addressing patient and family ambivalence or resistance
  • Supporting patients in communicating needs to family

Student Achievement Data

Note: If you have earned a masters in Couple and Family Therapy upon admission to the doctoral program in Human Development and Family Science, you can sit for the national Marital and Family Therapy licensure exam to earn your first level of licensure in Ohio before graduating from The Ohio State University.

Pursuing the specialization without a master's degree in Couple and Family Therapy, you can sit for the exam after your first 500 hours of client contact and upon completion of the standard level curriculum courses.

Couple and Family Therapy Policies and Procedures