Systems, Families, and Couples—Ph.D.
The Ph.D. degree in systems, families, and couples follows the scientist-practitioner model in which students are expected to develop expertise in both research and state-of-the-art practice. The 103-unit curriculum requires a minimum of four years of full-time study for completion—including two-to-three years of course work, clinical practice leading to licensure or certification, a dissertation, and supervised professional development experiences. The purpose of the curriculum is to develop family life scholars and practitioners who will advance theory, research, practice, and teaching in the field of family social science. Students will be prepared for academic and clinical training positions in universities and postgraduate institutes. Ph.D. degree students develop expertise in conducting original research using quantitative, qualitative, and mixed method approaches.
Ph.D. degree program specialty
Students in the Ph.D. degree program in systems, families, and couples will choose one of two specialties: family studies or couples and family therapy. These specialties include required courses totaling 22 units of course work and undergird the entire doctoral program of study.
The family studies specialty focuses on skills development in the delivery of family services, especially within a teaching format. An example of this might be developing curriculum for parenting courses. The family studies specialty meets the course requirements of the National Council on Family Relations for Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE). More information on becoming certified by the National Council on Family Relations can be found in the organization's official website at <http://www.ncfr.org>.
The couples and family therapy specialty focuses on researching and honing clinical skill for work with family systems. This specialty is fully accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COMAFTE), the accrediting body for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). The national commission functions to ensure that academic and clinical training programs adhere to the highest standards of the profession. For more information on the field of marital and family therapy, core ideas guiding this doctoral program, and the marital and family therapy specialty’s advanced standing policy, see the overview section for the Ph.D. degree program.
Knowledge and skills promoted
Theory and practice
Students study the work of original thinkers in systems, families, and couples; as well as the most recent developments in the field—such as social constructionism, evidence-based practice, and global perspective. Students will develop a critical understanding of the theoretical and philosophical foundations of the field; critically examine the interrelationships between socio-historical factors, transnational family structures and relationships, and clinical approaches; be conversant in the current issues in the field; and contribute to the discourse regarding them. They will use this knowledge to advance the field of family therapy.
The program encourages students to develop a clear understanding of themselves; and it invites reflection and consideration of the impact of their personal values, social positions, and contexts on their clinical and scholarly practices. Students are supported in the development of their strengths as they create an epistemological framework and ethical consciousness to guide their research and practice, and are encouraged to engage beyond their local communities to include experiences in wider cultural and global contexts.
Practice and supervisory skills
Students will apply a critical understanding of theory to work with couples and families, community, and societal levels drawing on the core modalities of the field. They will develop sophistication in their personal and professional skills, supervisory skills, and skills for active multisystemic involvement.
Students will develop skills and a critical understanding of the process of research and evaluation related to families and intervention work. This includes the ability to apply research findings to clinical practice and to utilize research findings in creative ways for the benefit of the general population. Ph.D. degree students will develop expertise in quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods research approaches, leading to publication in scholarly journals and presentations at professional conferences.
The program provides experiential and didactic training for teaching in higher education as well as community settings. Through didactic training, students will be exposed to various teaching and learning paradigms and will ultimately select their own epistemology. They will test and grow this epistemology through experiential training as they lead a course (e.g., develop syllabi, tests, assignments, etc.) under the supervision of a faculty member. Advanced students will also be given opportunities to facilitate or cofacilitate a course on their own.
Student learning outcomes
Students will develop professional identity as doctoral-level family scientists.
Students will be grounded in the theoretical and philosophical foundations of the field of family science and be conversant with the ongoing development of family theories.
Students will critique and evaluate the current and ongoing issues in the field of human development and family studies.
Students will be conversant with legal and ethical issues as a family scientist in the areas of teaching, research, and service.
Students will become adept in family service practice skills.
Students will contribute to the body of knowledge in family social science.
Couples and Family Therapy
- Students will develop a professional identity as doctoral scholars and practitioners aligned with national practice standards.
- Students will become adept in systems/relational practice, demonstrating sophistication as a scientist-practitioner.
- Students will be able to assess, synthesize, and critique theory, research, and family science literature to advance and integrate research, theory, and practice in the field.
- Students will demonstrate knowledge and skills as researchers in the field of family social science.
- Students will be responsive to the societal, cultural, and spiritual contexts in which health and well-being are embedded.
- Students will develop an ethical consciousness that guides their practice in aspects of professional work.
Applicants must meet Loma Linda University and School of Behavioral Health admissions requirements; and give evidence of academic ability, professional comportment, and mature judgment. The Ph.D. degree curriculum represents advanced study over and above a standard master's degree curriculum in the field. Admission is based on an integrated evaluation of the following criteria:
- Five-page personal essay (guidelines included in the online application)
- M.S. degree in marital and family therapy, family studies or related field
- Grade point average (3.3 minimum)
- Structured oral interview with department (one day)
- Three letters of reference (two academic and one professional)
- Curriculum vitae (preferred but not required)
- GRE scores (taken within the past five years)
The admissions committee uses the above criteria to evaluate applicants on each of the following equally weighted criteria:
- Academic preparedness
- Professional preparedness for doctoral study
- Research potential
- Ability to work with diversity
- Clinical skills
- A background check
- Health clearance
Student transcripts will be evaluated on a course-by-course basis for the following areas of corequisite study. A plan of study incorporating these standard master's degree-level courses is available for students who have not completed these corequisites. See required master level courses.
|Theoretical knowledge in family systems/relational therapy||8|
|Clinical knowledge in marital and family therapy||16|
|Individual development and family relations||8|
|Additional study in the three areas above||4|
|Professional issues and ethics in marital and family therapy||4|
|Additional related study||4|
|Theory and practice|
|MFTH 504||Advanced Theory in Marital and Family Therapy||4|
|MFTH 505||Advanced Family Studies||4|
|MFTH 506||Foundations of Systemic Practice||3|
|MFTH 539||Health and Illness in Families||4|
|MFTH 546||Advances in Family Sciences||3|
|Choose one of the following specialty areas|
Couples and family therapy
|Fundamentals of Supervision in Marital and Family Therapy|
|Advanced Supervision in Marital and Family Therapy|
|Teaching in Higher Education|
|Practicum in Teaching|
|Medical Family Therapy|
|Practicum in Marital and Family Therapy 1|
|Marriage and the Family|
|Family Life Education Module 1|
|Family Life Education Module 2|
|Directed Study: Family Studies|
|Culture, Socioeconomic Status in Therapy|
|Social Ecology of Individual and Family Development|
|Family Systems Theory|
|Human Sexual Behavior|
|RELE 505||Clinical Ethics (or RELE 5__ or above)||3|
|RELR 535||Spirituality and Mental Health||3|
|RELT 615||Seminar in Philosophy of Religion||3|
|MFTH 545||Research and Practice with Couples and Families||3|
|MFTH 601||Statistics I||4|
|MFTH 602||Statistics II||4|
|MFTH 603||Statistics III||4|
|MFTH 604||Advanced Qualitative Methods||4|
|MFTH 605||Advanced Quantitative Methods||4|
|MFTH 606||Issues in MFT Research||4|
|MFTH 668||Qualitative Research Practicum||3|
|MFTH 698||Dissertation Research 1||24|
|Professional development for specialty in couples and familty therapy|
|MFTH 785A||Begin Clinical Training in Couple, Marital, and Family Therapy||0|
|MFTH 785B||Clinical Training in Couple, Marital, and Family Therapy 1||20|
|MFTH 786||Professional Development Proposal||0|
|MFTH 786A and 786B total combined units||36|
|Professional Development in Marital and Family Therapy 1|
|Professional Internship in Marital and Family Therapy—Clinical|
|Professional development for speciality in family studies|
|MFTH 786||Professional Development Proposal||0|
|MFTH 786A||Professional Development in Marital and Family Therapy 1||36|
Course repeated to fulfill total unit requirement
700-numbered courses do not count in total didactic units required for the degree
Doctoral degrees in systems, families and couples will be awarded when students have completed all the required course work and the following non-course requirements:
- 1000 approved client contact hours (applies only to Couples and Family Therapy specialty), and
- 200 approved hours of clinical supervision (applies only to Couple and Family Therapy specialty), and
- A written qualifying examination, and
- An oral defense of the doctoral dissertation.
Normal time to complete the program
4 years (15 academic quarters) based on full-time enrollment
Additional required courses for MFT licensure in California
Students entering the PhD program without a COAMFTE accredited master’s degree, who wish to obtain licensure in California, will be required to meet the course requirements of the M.S. in Marital & Family Therapy program . A course–by-course evaluation will be done to determine which courses in the student’s previous master’s degree program fulfill specific course requirements for California licensure.