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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 the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) clinical membership, 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.

If you are primarily interested in conducting clinical work as a licensed couple and family therapist pursue a degree in an accredited couple and family therapy master's program.

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.
  • Evaluate and critique current empirical research in Couple and Family Therapy.
  • Critique current research.
  • Develop grant proposal writing skills.
  • Synthesize conceptual and intervention skills within a solidified theory of change.
  • Develop preliminary supervisor skills that focus on trainee's theory development, intervention, and case management.
  • Know the literature relevant to diverse families and how diverse families access and engage in treatment. Students will also understand processes necessary for engaging diverse families in research.

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, Keeley Pratt, and Natasha Slesnick).

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.

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:

  • Have a master's degree in couple and family therapy or a related clinical field and a commitment to the clinical-researcher model.
  • 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.

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.