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Curriculum Requirements

This Ph.D. in Couple and Family Therapy is an 81 – 114 variable credit-hour program (depending on the student’s educational background) that integrates systemically oriented theory and clinical practice, language and thinking systems, and qualitative and quantitative research. Students must complete their Ph.D. program within seven years from the date of first enrollment. This means that students are expected to graduate with the Ph.D. degree within this time period.

SFTD 5001 - Doctoral Seminar I (1 credit)

General orientation to doctoral studies: Students learn advanced ethics, diversity, and social justice while focusing on research, writing, and library skills necessary for authoring papers in doctoral courses and for publications.

SFTD 5002 - Doctoral Seminar II (1 credit)

Continuation of SFTD 5001: Students are introduced to professional development opportunities in diverse settings, specific details regarding professionalism, program and portfolio requirements, internships, and dissertation.  Prerequisite: SFTD 5001.

SFTD 5003 - Doctoral Seminar III (1 credit)

Continuation of SFTD 5002: Students are tutored in the skills necessary to develop a successful coursework, clinical, and academic/research portfolios as part of the doctoral program requirements.  Prerequisite: SFTD 5002.

SFTD 5004 - Reading/Writing/Editing for Doctoral Scholars (3 credits)

Excellent reading, writing, and editing skills are essential for family therapists who wish to make scholarly contributions to the field. Researchers, supervisors, and clinicians must be able to compose and publish clear descriptions of their work, and professors and journal reviewers must be able to read with discernment and effectively critique the writings of others. This course develops and hones the necessary skills for making such contributions.

SFTD 5010 - Systemic Family Therapy I (3 credits)

The study of those systemic therapies informed by cybernetics and oriented to the social organization of communication are included in this course. Emphasizes are placed on the work of the Mental Research Institute and Solution-Focused Brief Therapy.  Prerequisites: Core courses and corequisite SFTD 5006.

SFTD 5020 - Systemic Family Therapy II (3 credits)

This course centers on Narrative Therapy theory and practice. Students will extensively explore assumptions, including distinctions between structuralist and post structuralist thought, which underline this model and contrast with other therapeutic models. Practice methods will focus on various maps and scaffolds which describe and organize Narrative practices. Students will explore the application of these assumptions and practices to a range of therapeutic problems as well as diversity and community issues.  Prerequisites: core courses and SFTD 5010.

SFTD 5030 - Systemic Family Therapy III (3 credits)

This course acquaints students with the basic concepts of the natural systems approach to family therapy. Emphasizes are placed on family-of-origin issues, multigenerational systems processes, and biological/evolutionary contributions to the understanding of human systems.  Prerequisite: SFTD 5020

SFTD 5040 - Systemic Family Therapy IV (3 credits)

Study of the complexities and subtleties of language and the art of therapeutic implication are focused on in this course with discussions on the relationships between hypnosis and brief therapy; draws on the work of Milton Erickson as a primary resource.  Prerequisite: SFTD 5030

SFTD 5110 - Language Systems (3 credits)

This course locates the practice of therapy within cultural, philosophical, and scientific domains; it uses notions about the relational nature of language as a means of examining, critiquing, and explicating therapeutic practice.  Prerequisite: SFTD 5006.

SFTD 5120 - Thinking Systems (3 credits)

The study of systemic theory, particularly the ideas of relationship, difference, and context is the focus of this course, which emphasizes the ideas of Gregory Bateson.  Prerequisites: SFTD 5006, SFTD 5110.

SFTD 5410 - Quantitative Research I (3 credits)

This course covers fundamental concepts and practices in quantitative research method by introducing measurement and statistics, questionnaire development, and experimental and quasi-experimental research designs for the study of human sciences. Exemplary studies from family therapy literature are included.  Prerequisite: SFTD 5007 or equivalent.

SFTD 6200 - Internal Practicum I-V (3 credits)

These four supervised clinical courses consist of the application of systemic therapy ideas and practices at the Department of Family Therapy in house Family Therapy Clinic. Approval needed to register for Internal Practicum IV.  Prerequisites: SFTD 5006, SFTD 5008, SFTD 5300.

SFTD 6320 - Supervision Practicum (3 credits)

Extensive live supervision and case consultation experience with clinicians in learning systemic therapies is conducted in the DFT in house Family Therapy Clinic. Students receive supervision of their supervision of others by AAMFT faculty supervisors. Faculty approval required.  Prerequisite: SFTD 6325.

SFTD 6321 - Fundamentals of Teaching Marriage and Family Therapy (3 credits)

This course will introduce students to the fundamentals of teaching Marriage and Family Therapy in both a Graduate and Undergraduate learning environment. It will cover the distinctions between clinical and theoretical courses, practicum instruction, as well as those designed specifically to prepare students for state licensing examinations. Students will be exposed to the basic elements of syllabus construction, the application of evaluative rubrics, and other evaluative teaching mechanisms. They will also be required to demonstrate skills in course planning, lecture construction and delivery.

SFTD 6325 - Fundamentals of Supervision in Marriage and Family Therapy (3 credits)

This course will introduce students to the fundamentals of supervision in marriage and family therapy in clinical settings. It also meets the coursework requirements for becoming an AAMFT Approved Supervisor. Offered summer term.

SFTD 6410 - Quantitative Research II (3 credits)

This course provides an overview of the principles and techniques of computer-aided data analysis with an introduction to the use of univariate, bivariate, and multivariate statistics for hypothesis testing. An in-depth look at the theory and assessment of reliability and validity are included.  Prerequisite: SFTD 6410

SFTD 6430 - Qualitative Research I (3 credits)

This course focuses on the introduction to qualitative research methodologies and the use of the investigator as the research instrument of choice. Participant observation and interviewing strategies are discussed. Students are introduced to methods for transcribing and organizing interviews and field notes. Exemplary studies from other disciplines are used; however, studies from the family therapy literature, when available, are offered.  Prerequisite: SFTD 6410.

SFTD 6900 - Dissertation (3 credit)

The development, writing, and defense of the dissertation. When approved, students register for at least 3 credits per term for a minimum of 9 credits.  All coursework, with the exception of Clinical Internship, Supervision Practicum, and Teaching Practicum needs to be completed prior to registering for dissertation credits.

SFTD 7350 - Qualitative Research II (3 credits)

This research course explores how qualitative data are transformed and categorized during description, explanation, and interpretation. Students are introduced to a variety of inductive, deductive, and abductive methods for categorizing meaning and interactive processes. Computer-assisted qualitative data analysis methods are addressed. Family therapy-related studies are offered.  Prerequisite: SFTD 6430.

SFTD 7360 - Teaching Practicum (3 credits)

Supervised teaching experience in undergraduate or graduate instruction in family therapy or related field provides students opportunities to develop their pedagogical understanding of teaching and enhance their teaching skills.  Prerequisites: SFTD 6321 and faculty approval.

SFTD 7410 - Clinical Internship (3 credit)

The Clinical Internship provides students the opportunity to advance their clinical and practice skills while they complete the clinical requirements for program and clinical requirements for MFT licensure. Students who are already licensed can take the Research Internship to expand their research skills and/or work with faculty on a research project. Faculty approval is required. When approved, students register for at least three credits per term for a minimum of 9 credits.  Prerequisites: Successful completion of the Clinical Portfolio.

SFTD XXXX – Elective (3 credits)

Students select a minimum of one elective course.  Many students choose to take SFTD 5311 Substance Abuse/Addictions and Critical Issues in Systems Theory, which fulfill state licensure requirements.

Before starting the core courses, all students must document 11 graduate level pathway courses (3 credits each). Any student not having these courses or their equivalent must initially take and pass, as leveling courses, the following pathway courses:

SFTD 5006 - Introduction to Systems Theories (3 credits)

This course provides an overview of theories that use metaphors of system, pattern, interaction, and communication to describe human behavior and relationships as well as the study of the emergence of theories from cybernetics to language studies.

SFTD 5007 - Research in Marriage and Family Therapy (3 credits)

This course offers a review of quantitative and qualitative methods of inquiry, as exemplified in recent marital and family therapy research studies. The course focuses on teaching students to be intelligent, critical consumers of research in the field. 

SFTD 5008 - Introduction to Marital and Family Therapy: Counseling Theories and Techniques (3 credits)

An introduction and review of the history of marital and family therapy and the clinical approaches of interactional therapies are included in this course. The focus is based on basic therapeutic concepts and skills.

SFTD 5009 - Theories of Marital and Family Therapy (3 credits)

This course offers a comparative study of theories of marital and family therapy, systemic, structural, strategic, intergenerational, contextual, behavioral, and other therapies, and provides a survey of differences in clinical practices.

SFTD 5045 - Group Psychotherapy (3 credits)

This class is designed to provide an opportunity to students and professionals to develop a set of core competencies in general group work from a systemic perspective. These core competencies include knowledge of group theories, common group dynamics, common group types, and legal and ethical issues. During the course students will also be introduced to various specialty/advanced competency areas in group work. The development of core skills will occur through a combination of didactic lecture in group theory, classroom discussion, and an experiential group.

SFTD 5046 - Human Development Across the Life Cycle (3 credits)

This course covers the stages of the individual life cycle, and of the family life cycle, in cultural context. The interplay of individual development, unique individual difference, culture, socioeconomic context, and family context, will be considered and integrated with major models of family therapy. Therapy techniques appropriate for each stage of development will be explored.

Students can take the following course to meet licensure requirements:

SFTD 5300 - Legal, Ethical and Professional Issues (3 credits)

This course offers an in depth explanation of accreditation and licensure organizations, along with the ethical codes they promote in family therapy and related fields. This includes a review of the therapist's legal responsibilities and liabilities in mental health and family law, insurance claims, and private practice management with inclusion of an overview of professional opportunities in public service and training programs.

All students must take and pass the following requirements prior to or during the beginning of their first trimester and prior to enrolling in Internal Practicum I:

  • Two HIPAA certificate courses
  • A full Background check, including fingerprinting
  • Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) course prior to conducing any research

SFTD 6520 – Diversity and Psychosocial Issues (3 credits)

Human development in the context of family transitions across the life cycle such as childbirth, childhood, adolescence, courtship, marriage, maturity, aging, and death are reviewed. This course focuses on the diversity of psychosocial development across ethnicity, class, gender, race, age, and culture with discussions and implications for interactional therapies and practices. Prerequisite: SFTD 6200 I.

SFTD 7301 – Assessment in Mental and Family Therapy (3 credits)

This course provides an overview of methods and instruments used to define problems and indicate solutions; including a comparative study of interactional approaches and individual and family dysfunction assessments. Prerequisite: SFTD 6200.

SFTD 7302 – Theories of Personality and Psychopathology (3 credits)

A review of major theories of personality and psychopathology are the focus of this course, emphasizing psychiatric diagnostic classification systems. The study of implications for treatment and comparisons with interactional approaches are included.  Prerequisite: SFTD 5006.

SFTD 7311 – Human Sexuality and Gender (3 credits)

This course provides a review of the psychosocial development of sexuality and gender from childhood through aging. Also addressed is a summary of clinical approaches to sexual and gender issues comparing interactional approaches with psychodynamic and behavioral models.  Prerequisite: SFTD 5006.

Following is a sample of a degree plan for full-time students who begin their studies in the Fall trimester. Degree plans will be modified based on a student's enrollment date and pace of study.

Fall Winter Summer
Year 1

SFTD 5001: Doctoral Seminar I

SFTD 5006: Introduction to Systems Theories*

SFTD 5008: Introduction to Marital and Family Therapy*

SFTD 5046: Human Development Across the Life Cycle*

SFTD 5300: Legal, Ethical, and Professional Issues*

SFTD 5004: Reading/Writing/ Editing for Doctoral Scholars

SFTD 5007: Research in Marital and Family Therapy*

SFTD 5009: Theories of Marital and Family Therapy*

SFTD 7311: Human Sexuality and Gender

SFTD 5045: Group Psychotherapy

SFTD 7301: Assessment in Marital and Family Therapy*

SFTD 7302: Theories of Personality and Psychopathology*

Annual Review I

Year 2

SFTD 5002: Doctoral Seminar II

SFTD 5010: Systemic Family Therapy I

SFTD 5120: Thinking Systems

SFTD 6200: Internal Practicum I

SFTD 6520: Diversity and Psychosocial Issues*

SFTD 5020: Systemic Family Therapy II

SFTD 5110: Language Systems

SFTD 6200: Internal Practicum II

SFTD XXXX: Elective

SFTD 5410: Quantitative Research I

SFTD 6200: Internal Practicum III

SFTD 6321: Fundamentals of Teaching Marriage and Family Therapy

Annual Review II

Year 3

SFTD 5003: Doctoral Seminar III

SFTD 5030: Systemic Family Therapy III

SFTD 6200: Internal Practicum IV

SFTD 6410: Quantitative Research II

SFTD 5040: Systemic Family Therapy IV

SFTD 6430: Qualitative Research I

SFTD 7360: Teaching Practicum Clinical Portfolio

SFTD 6320: Supervision Practicum

SFTD 6325: Fundamentals of Supervision in Marriage and Family Therapy

SFTD 7350: Qualitative Research II

Annual Review III

Year 4

SFTD 7410: Clinical Internship I

SFTD 6900: Dissertation I

SFTD 7410: Clinical Internship II

SFTD 6900: Dissertation II

SFTD 7410: Clinical Internship III

SFTD 6900: Dissertation III

*Pathway Courses

In order to successfully complete the program, students are required to have computer and Internet access and knowledge of computer applications such as Word, PowerPoint, Zoom, and Outlook. Other applications and software may be needed depending on the program's academic requirements. Student are required to have computer skills to be able to perform certain academic tasks. These tasks include, but are not limited to, using the electronic resources at the NSU libraries (such as accessing and searching online databases and catalogs), registering via SharkLink at, and participating in classes via NSU's online learning management system, Canvas. Computers are available at NSU libraries: Assistance with technology is also available for current NSU students: Students also need to know how to communicate via NSU SharkMail email accounts. Students must use their NSU email accounts when sending email to faculty and staff. When communicating with students via email, faculty and staff members will send emails only to NSU email accounts using NSU-recognized usernames. Assistance is available for students to set up SharkMail Email accounts:
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