10 Best Doctorates in Family Counseling Grad School Degrees

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Updated: February 29, 2024, Reading time: 18 minutes

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As a fundamental structure for human life and society, a family provides security and a sense of belonging. However, it is not immune to challenges that may even lead to the breaking down of relationships.

Family members in disagreements may need the help of professionals to address their conflicts and rebuild their bond. This is where family counseling is needed. During family counseling, the psychological, behavioral, and emotional issues that are the roots of family problems are addressed.

Family therapists and other professionals in related positions may consider earning an online Doctorate in Family Counseling to enhance their credentials, advance their careers, and boost their earning potential.

They can acquire advanced knowledge, skills, and approaches to prepare for rewarding careers in counseling, academia, and research. Many graduates of this terminal degree take on leadership roles in various work settings, including private practice, mental health centers, and even government agencies.

Currently, there are more than 65,000 marriage and family therapists in the country. This number will likely go up as the career outlook for this profession is projected to rise by 14%, says the Labor Statistics Bureau.

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Most online Doctorate In Family Counseling programs are ideal for professionals seeking an advanced degree to improve their opportunities for career advancement and higher compensation. It is most suitable for those who are empathetic, detail-oriented, and good with interpersonal communication.

The program requirement often involves completing between 50 to 75 credits. While it can be typically completed in three to five years, this doctoral degree may take longer to earn if the dissertation requirement is factored in. A supervised field experience is also common in many online programs in family counseling. This comes in handy if one is planning to earn a state licensure as a counselor.


The doctorate in family therapy online programs gathered in this list are carefully picked based on the following factors:

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Top Online Doctorate in Family Counseling Programs

Online Doctorate in Family Counseling

Liberty University

Liberty University

EdD in Community Care & Counseling: Marriage & Family

Liberty University offers the Doctor of Education in Community Care & Counselling: Marriage & Family which is fully available online. This terminal degree is designed to prepare working professionals for leadership roles in the field of counseling, specializing in family problems and healing.

The program is most suitable for marriage and family therapists, licensed marriage and family counselors, and ministry associates.

To earn this online doctorate in marriage and family therapy degree, students need to complete a total of 57 credit hours, which can take around 2.5 to years on average. Students will be able to gain ethical, evidence-based knowledge to help them effectively minister to people in a complex, diverse society.

They are also expected to learn how to solve real-world problems with advanced research while also acquiring the mastery of utilizing specialized assessment tools and methods integral to helping clients build better relationships and stronger families.

The program’s curriculum includes courses such as:

This online doctorate program has an integrated dissertation process, allowing students to work on this part of the degree requirements while completing other coursework. Students will be able to gain content that can be applied to other marriage and family counseling certifications, including Prepare and Enrich and Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts.

National University

National University

Doctorate of Marriage & Family Therapy

The Doctorate of Marriage and Family Therapy degree program at National University is designed to help prospective students prepare for advanced careers in marriage and family therapy. It equips students with the essential skills required for effective relational and systemic practice, preparing them to provide clinical services, take on administrative positions, supervise other clinicians, and oversee various mental health practices.

The program’s curriculum comprises 60 credit hours, although students may be required to complete additional credit hours as needed for the doctoral research project. Some of the topics covered in the doctoral degree include grant writing, program development and evaluation, research coursework, supervision, and advanced clinical education.

Doctoral students are expected to cultivate competence in working with diverse populations and prepare applied projects needed to make a measurable difference. For those who want to tailor their doctorate degree according to their career goals, some specialization options are available, including:

Apart from the coursework, students are required to complete a portfolio or Doctoral Comprehensive Evaluation, a living document that demonstrates their expertise and competencies in the discipline. They will also need to complete a doctoral project related to marriage and family therapy.

Drexel University

Drexel University - College of Nursing and Health Professions

Doctor of Couple and Family Therapy

Offered under the College of Nursing and Health Professions, Drexel University’s Doctor of Couple and Family Therapy degree program to help prospective students become advanced marriage and family therapy clinicians. This online program offers flexibility for working professionals who want to pursue a terminal degree in the field while juggling their careers.

Students will be able to explore a practice doctoral degree with advanced clinical practice education and training, preparing them to take on leadership roles in the field of family therapy, including positions such as administrators, educators, and clinicians.

They are expected to effectively transfer their acquired knowledge to practice and policy, allowing them to engage and actively contribute to the ongoing and continuous development of the profession. The program focuses on evidence-informed practices in relation to couple therapy, trauma, and addiction.

Other features of the program include opportunities to take part in a teaching practicum, portfolio development, and internship, all of which are designed to provide graduates with a hands-on learning experience. The program curriculum explores a broad range of topics, including sex therapy, trauma and addiction, advanced ethics, supervision, and grant writing and research skills.

Eastern University

Eastern University

PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy

Eastern University offers a PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy. This 60-credit doctorate program is specially designed for professionals who want to expand their knowledge and skills in meeting the challenges in family and therapy with the use of advanced counseling theories and practice along with research and theological inquiry. This family counseling degree is offered online, which means more flexibility for working professionals interested in the program.

This Family Therapy program can be typically earned in 4 to 6 years, with additional credits required to complete the dissertation process. Students are expected to demonstrate advanced counseling skills required to meet the needs of families, couples, individuals, and congregations seeking services and programs in mental health.

By the end of the program, students should be able to create and present a relevant research project culminating in a dissertation, greatly contributing to the field of marriage and family therapy.

The courses in the program are designed to train students to take on leadership roles in various work settings, including academia, pastoral care, research, and behavioral healthcare. The doctorate program is offered under the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences. 

Alliant International University

Alliant International University

PsyD in Marital and Family Therapy

The Doctor of Psychology in Marital and Family Therapy offered at Alliant International University is designed for prospective students who want to advance beyond their master’s degree. This online program expands students’ skills and knowledge in clinical practice for professional psychology, developing their ability to treat clients with the use of holistic methods.

In this online degree, students will be equipped with the tools and knowledge to succeed in couple-family therapy and mental health counseling practice.

In the family therapy specialization, online students will be able to explore courses such as the social basis of behavior, advanced couple therapy, and qualitative and quantitative research methods. They can expect cultural competency at their program’s core, allowing them to become culturally and linguistically qualified professionals in the health science workforce.

This program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education, making it easier for students to obtain licensure and become licensed marriage and family therapists.

Students may get 1,300 hours’ worth of hands-on training, including direct client contact, supervision hours, and professional development hours. These can be applied toward their license upon completion of the marital and family therapy degree program. 

Regent University

Regent University

PhD in Counseling & Psychological Studies – Marriage & Family Ministry

Regent University offers one of the best family counseling programs. The PhD in Counseling and Psychological Studies with a concentration in Marriage and Family Ministry prepares students for a career in dynamic fields, including research, education, psychological science, and mental health counseling. It is designed for those who want to influence change in the PhD counseling arena without the need for professional accreditation.

This online doctoral program is composed of 51 credit hours and is offered in a distance learning format. Students are expected to research critical areas such as conflict and crisis management, eating disorders, sexuality, child behavior, and inner healing. They will also gain field experience that will strengthen their skills through the completion of 150 hours of on-site experience and human services work.

Doctoral students will learn how to develop techniques that encourage family participation in the therapeutic process. It is also part of their learning experience to integrate research methods that foster understanding of spousal needs and enrich marriages.

There are numerous specialization options on offer in this PhD program. This includes:

To get admitted into the program, students must hold a master’s degree in the mental health field such as psychology, counseling, pastoral counseling, and social work from a regionally accredited institution.

Loma Linda University

Loma Linda University

Doctor in Marital and Family Therapy (DMFT)

Loma Linda University offers a Doctor in Marital and Family Therapy (DMFT) program that is a blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning formats. While the program requirements are fully available online, this doctoral degree is only available in the United States. Students can usually complete the doctoral degree in 3 years.

The program has several areas of focus. This includes program development, implementation, evaluation, and critical practice. Students can expect to utilize the practitioner-evaluator model, allowing them to focus on applied skill development integral to advanced positions such as:

The program integrates culture and ethics into the curriculum, helping students serve as ethically competent leaders while advancing the marital and family therapy profession.

This doctoral program holds the distinction of being the only Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapy program to have been granted accreditation through the COAMFTE – Council on Accreditation of Marriage and Family Therapy Education. Interested students will need to hold a Master’s in Marital & Family Therapy or Clinical Counseling.

Fuller Theological Seminary

Fuller Theological Seminary

Doctor of Marriage & Family Therapy

Fuller University’s School of Psychology and Marriage and Family Therapy offers online doctoral programs for working professionals. One of which is the Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapy degree, designed for licensed mental health clinicians who want to gain deeper clinical expertise and advanced professional training. This hybrid degree can be completed online and in person, usually within two years.

The DMFT program utilizes the clinician-consultant model, allowing licensed clinicians to expand their clinical skills, all the while learning how to apply their expertise as consultants in diverse settings. Students can expect rigorous experiential learning, expanding their specific modalities as well as developing techniques from systemic theories. This model is integral to helping students transform clinical acumen into practical interventions that are crucial in helping diverse populations.  

Students in this program may receive in-depth clinical consultation with clinical faculty members. Eventually, they are expected to complete a clinically focused dissertation to demonstrate their ability to utilize research in clinical practice.

Another option is completing a clinical project. Both are original works that may include program evaluation, clinical case study, resource development, and critical analysis of literature.

Mount Mercy University

Mount Mercy University

PhD in Marriage & Family Therapy (PhD-MFT)

The PhD in Marriage & Family Therapy (PhD-MFT), offered at Mount Mercy University, has online options for some courses. It provides a personalized approach to learning where a unique apprenticeship-mentor model is being followed. Students can expect to attend both research-based classes and clinical experiences. The latter can be completed on-site at Olson Marriage & Family Therapy Clinic.

In this online marriage and family therapy program, students will be able to gain necessary skills integral to advanced clinicians and leaders who are research-informed. It is distinguishable because of its underpinning in neuroscience.

The latter leads to neuroscientific discoveries that can drive greater awareness of how the environment and culture shape the individual. This is vital to marriage and family therapists who wish to solve the problems faced by many families.

Students may customize their learning by choosing a specialization. They have three options, namely the Neuroscience and Psychophysiology, Leadership and Social Justice, and Advanced Couples Therapy. The online learning format of the program means students can complete the degree at their own pace. They can also choose flexible and part-time paths.

Antioch University

Antioch University

PhD in Couple & Family Therapy

Antioch University offers the Doctor of Philosophy in Couple and Family Therapy. This doctoral degree has a focus on Social Justice applications, preparing graduates for leadership, research, and supervision careers. Students can expect to receive both research training and clinical training, all the while emphasizing principles of social justice. The program is COAMFTE-accredited. 

While the courses are predominantly offered online, this low-residency program requires face-to-face meetings that are to take place three times a year. Each of these residency requirement takes 5 days to complete.

Students can expect to find opportunities to take part in clinical and supervision training on campus at the university’s Couple and Family Therapy Institute. International and out-of-state students will be assisted in finding suitable locations for their clinical and supervisory or leadership experiences.

This PhD program can be a qualifying degree for licensure in cases where their master’s degree does not meet the licensure requirements. At the end of the program, students will need to develop an academic portfolio that encompasses all their achievements throughout the whole learning experience, mostly dedicated to teaching, research, supervision and leadership, and clinical theory.

Online Doctorate in Family Counseling Program Requirements

Online programs in family therapy or counseling often require students to complete coursework online. Some of them are in asynchronous formats but many are also offered as synchronous courses. The latter requires students to meet for online classes at a set time in the week, month, or semester.

This gives them the opportunity to learn together with their peers, exchange ideas, and build their network. Still, there are courses that may be offered on campus, which means students will need to have campus visits a few times a year.

Many online doctoral programs require dissertation or doctoral research projects. This means that students will need to prepare their proposal and present their dissertation to a committee. In cases where a dissertation is not a requirement, students may need to complete a capstone project or portfolio where they can showcase their specific professional projects and accomplishments across the different domains of the degree, including clinical practice, leadership, teaching, and scholarship.

There may also be clinical requirements in the form of an internship, often in the third year of the program. This includes rendering clinical hours in family counseling. Some universities need students to secure appropriate internships onsite, depending on their state of residence. More often than not, doctoral students are required to complete a clinical internship regardless of their licensure status as a professional 

Specializations within the Online Doctorate in Family Counseling Programs

Some doctoral programs in family therapy offer options for specialization. This means students can choose among concentration options so they can tailor their advanced education according to their career needs and goals. Having a specialization will also give them an edge over their peers in the leadership positions they are pursuing.

Neuroscience and Psychophysiology

This learning track equips students with knowledge and competencies when it comes to mental health care. Mental health care professionals will find this a good opportunity to specialize in a leading area of integrated care.

Leadership and Social Justice

In this specialization, students will be able to enhance their competencies in applying systematic principles in the context of mental health leadership while tackling social justice advocacy. This can help them improve mental health care services provided in communities.

Advanced Couples Therapy

Students will be able to cultivate their competencies in the area of clinical practice by providing quality and effective couple therapy. They will be well-prepared to service individuals, couples, and families.  

Online Doctorate in Family Counseling - fact

Frequently Asked Questions

What can doctoral students learn from an online Doctorate in Family Therapy degree?  

Online programs in family counseling provide students with a solid foundation and advanced knowledge and skills for couple and family therapists. Students can expect to practice as advanced clinicians in family counseling and also take on leadership roles in education or administration.

They will be taught to critically evaluate and synthesize various aspects of family counseling, including theory, research, and health policy.

What are the admission requirements to an online degree program in Family Counseling?

Before getting admitted into this advanced degree program, students will need to ensure they have the academic experience and professional competence to see the program through. For one, students need to hold a master’s degree in family therapy, clinical counseling, and other relevant programs.

Some may be required to have a master’s degree that is qualified for licensure in the applicant’s state. There are universities that stipulate a minimum master’s GPA, usually 3.0 or higher.

Other requirements include three letters of recommendation, official transcripts, a resume, a personal statement, and a work sample. The decision for admission often lies on a doctoral admissions committee, a body that evaluates suitable applicants and invites them for interviews.

How long does it take to complete a Doctoral in Family Counseling degree?

Most online doctoral programs in family counseling require the completion of 50 to 75 credits. On average, doctoral programs can be earned in a matter of three years. However, if it entails a dissertation, the program duration can be longer.  

Are there available financial aid options for prospective Family Counseling doctorate students?

Many universities and colleges offering family therapy programs have available financial aid options to help students fund their terminal degree. This includes private loans, scholarships, and grants. Some hybrid programs provide fellowship where students get to serve their communities by providing therapy through a community partner or teaching a master’s or undergraduate-level course. In return, students are entitled to full funding of their doctoral degree and up to a $12,000 stipend.

There may also be tuition discounts for employer partners and veterans’ benefits such as the Yellow Ribbon program. Out-of-state students may also want to check if the tuition rates are the same for in-state and out-of-state, and whether there are discounts for online options. 

Key Takeaways

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