Program director
Nichola Seaton Ribadu

The Doctor of Marital and Family Therapy (D.M.F.T.) program is the only online D.M.F.T. program in the United States that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). The program is fully online, and online delivery utilizes synchronous and asynchronous formats.

The curriculum adopts the practitioner-administrator-evaluator approach and focuses on applied skill development for use in clinical practice and administrative positions. The goal of the curriculum is to prepare students to apply evidence-based standards to the systemic/relational principles of marriage and family therapy as they design, evaluate, and administer programs that impact a clinical population. Graduates of the D.M.F.T. program use a multicultural lens and are well-prepared to serve as ethically competent leaders who advance the marital and family therapy profession. Alumni most often work as program directors, grant proposal writers, program evaluators, advanced clinicians, and clinical supervisors. Some alumni also serve in university settings as faculty members and adjunct professors. 

The 77-unit D.M.F.T. degree curriculum requires a minimum of three years of full-time study for completion. This includes coursework, a doctoral project, and supervised professional development experiences.

Knowledge and skills promoted

Theory and practice

Students study the work of the original thinkers in marital and family therapy, as well as the most recent developments in the field—such as social constructionism, evidence-based practice, and global perspectives. D.M.F.T. students will develop skills in applying marriage and family therapy principles and frameworks to public and private clinical practice settings. They will develop a critical understanding of the theoretical and philosophical foundations of marriage and family therapy, be conversant with the current issues in the field, and use this knowledge to develop programs and services.

Personal development

The program encourages students to develop a clear understanding of themselves, and invites reflection and consideration of the impact of their personal values, social positions, and contexts on their clinical, administrative, and program development practices. Students are supported in the development of their strengths as they create an epistemological framework and ethical consciousness that guide their approach to professional practice in their lives. They are also encouraged to engage beyond their local communities to include experiences in wider cultural and global contexts.

Practice and supervisory skills

Students will apply an in-depth understanding of theory as it relates to the practice of marital and family therapy interventions and program activities at family, community, and societal levels—drawing on the core marriage and family therapy frameworks. They will develop sophistication in clinical, administrative, and supervisory skills necessary for multisystemic engagement. Since it is COAMFTE-accredited, the D.M.F.T. program offers students the opportunity to complete the requirements for becoming AAMFT-approved supervisors prior to graduation. Students are responsible for ensuring they are following the AAMFT Approved Supervisor application processes and submitting their application directly to AAMFT. The application is not a requirement of the D.M.F.T. program. 

Evaluation skills

Students will develop skills and understanding of the process of applied research related to marital and family therapy programs and services. 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. D.M.F.T. students will focus on evaluation of program performance and outcomes in practice-based settings. 

Program goal and outcomes

The goal of the D.M.F.T. program is to prepare doctoral-level marital and family therapists to serve as program developers, as well as evaluators/administrators, who will promote the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities. This goal works in combination with the larger University mission of advancing health services that attend to the whole person by developing practiced-based knowledge in marriage and family therapy. 

There are two overall program outcomes. These outcomes integrate the University's commitment to diversity and quality training of health-care professionals with the need for diverse doctoral-level practitioners skilled in program development/evaluation and administration. The program outcomes are:

  1. Graduating a diverse student body prepared to advance the field of marriage and family therapy through practice-based leadership, founded on the consumption of current and reliable research.
  2. Preparing doctoral-level family therapy professionals to apply the systemic/relational principles of the field to develop, evaluate, and administer ethically competent programs that contribute to MFT practice. 

Program learning outcomes

By the end of this program, the graduate should be able to:

  1. Develop a professional identity as a doctoral-level marital and family therapist aligned with national practice standards.
  2. Become adept in systems/relational practice, demonstrating sophistication as a therapist, program developer, evaluator, and administrator of marital and family therapy services.
  3. Use marital and family therapy, human development, and family science literatures to design and evaluate programs, clinical protocols, organizational structures, and service-delivery processes.
  4. Further benefit families and communities by demonstrating the ability to use research and evaluation methodologies to improve human service program performance and outcomes.
  5. Be responsive to the societal, cultural, and spiritual contexts in which health and well-being are embedded.
  6. Develop an ethical consciousness that guides their practice in all aspects of professional work.

Advanced standing policy

National accreditation and certification processes ensure that degrees are comparable across institutional boundaries. This advanced standing policy recognizes the value of these professional review processes on the part of the Department of Counseling and Family Sciences, and facilitates cooperation in professional training within the marital and family therapy discipline. The policy ensures that 60 percent of doctoral academic credit will be earned at Loma Linda University, while enabling cooperative relationships with other accredited programs. 


Advanced standing may be granted for previous coursework, equivalent in content and scope to required counseling and family sciences courses. This reduces the number of units to be taken at this University. Determination of advanced standing is based on the following guidelines:

  1. Residency requirements.
    1. Doctoral degree. Advanced standing may not reduce total units below 47 units for the Doctor of Marital and Family Therapy (D.M.F.T.) degree. 
  2. Determination of equivalency.
    1. Credits applied to advanced standing must be graduate-level courses earned at an accredited institution. No credit may be applied for grades lower than a "B."
    2. Students seeking advanced standing based upon units earned at other institutions will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis in accordance with COAMFTE standards. 
    3. Advanced standing is not granted for religion courses.
    4. Doctoral courses taken more than seven years prior to enrollment as a student in the Department of Counseling and Family Sciences may be considered for advanced standing only if the content has been used professionally on a regular basis, and the student can demonstrate current knowledge in the field.
  3. Approval process.

Students seeking advanced standing should meet with their program director prior to admission or within the first two quarters of study, supplying copies of each syllabus of prior coursework. Following the course review, the student will initiate an academic variance specifying the coursework and/or work experience, with documentation of coursework and experience for every course submitted for advance standing. 

Financial assistance

For information regarding funding opportunities, see Student Aid in the financial polices section of this CATALOG.

Students who are accepted into the D.M.F.T. degree curriculum in marital and family therapy may apply for work-study and department-funded research, teaching, and administrative assistantships awarded by the Department of Counseling and Family Sciences. Departmental awards are contingent upon the availability of funds. Students may also apply for need-based financial aid, such as a loan or other work-study programs on campus. Students may also apply for the School of Behavioral Health-based scholarships offered each year. Students accepted into the D.M.F.T. degree curriculum in marital and family therapy are eligible for and encouraged to apply for the AAMFT minority fellowships. Visit for information.

The Doctor of Marital and Family Therapy degree program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), the accrediting body for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), 112 South Alfred Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314; telephone: 703/838-9808; email:

Applicants must meet Loma Linda University and School of Behavioral Health admissions requirements; and provide evidence of academic ability, professional comportment, and mature judgment. The Doctor of Marital and Family Therapy 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:

  • Clinical master's degree in Marital and Family Therapy, or clinical counseling. The master's degree must be a qualifying degree for licensure in the applicant's state of residence. 
  • Grade point average (3.3 minimum).
  • Structured oral interview with department faculty (virtual group interview).
  • Three letters of reference (two academic and one professional preferred).

Pre-entrance clearance:

  • Health clearance.

Anti-discrimination policy

In the department of Counseling and Family Sciences, we adhere to University policy and do not discriminate against anyone on the basis of socioeconomic or relationship status. 

Theory and practice
CFSD 504Advanced Theory in Marital and Family Therapy4
CFSD 506Foundations of Systems Thinking: Theory and Application3
CFSD 519Teaching in Higher Education3
CFSD 546Multicultural and Global Mental Health 33
CFSD 634APracticum in Couple and Family Therapy3
CFSD 634BPracticum in Couple and Family Therapy3
CFSD 634CPracticum in Couple and Family Therapy3
CFSD 501Fundamentals of Supervision in Marital and Family Therapy3
Program development and administration
CFSD 524Marital and Family Therapy Administration: Organizational Structure, Process and Behavior3
CFSD 526Advanced Marital and Family Therapy Assessment3
CFSD 555Organizational Development and Change3
CFSD 624Program Development for Families and Communities3
CFSD 625Grant Writing3
CFSD 626Program Design, Evaluation and Monitoring3
RELE 5__ Graduate-level ethical studies elective3
RELR 5__ Graduate-level relational studies elective3
RELT 5__ Graduate-level theological studies elective3
CFSD 545Research and Practice with Couples and Families3
CFSD 605Advanced Quantitative Methods3
CFSD 611Qualitative Research Methods I4
CFSD 627Statistical Analysis for Program Evaluation3
Doctoral project
CFSD 695Project Research12
Total Units77
Professional development and practice 2
CFSD 786Professional Development Proposal0
CFSD 786A and 786B total combined units 136
Professional Development Doctoral Portfolio
Professional Internship in Couple and Family Therapy
Total Units36

 Course repeated to fulfill total unit requirement


700-numbered courses do not count in total didactic units required for the degree


Fulfills service learning requirement

Noncourse requirements

Doctoral degrees in Marital and Family Therapy will be awarded when students have completed all required coursework and the following non-course requirements:

  • Professional development consistent with leadership in the field of marriage and family therapy. Activities can include, but are not limited to, teaching in higher education, supervision of MFT trainees, advanced clinical training, MFT administration, grant writing, and research. 
  • A written qualifying examination.
  • An oral defense of the doctoral project.

Normal time to complete the program

Three (3) years (eleven [11] academic quarters) — based on full-time enrollment