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   Marriage & Family Therapy PhD Program

Frequently Asked Questions
What is the mission of your program?
The mission of the Marriage and Family Therapy PhD Program is to graduate well rounded scholar‐clinicians who will make a difference in the field of MFT, through practice, research, teaching, service, or a combination of all four, and who demonstrate an understanding of and respect for cultural diversity.   As a research and practice centered program, we believe graduates should be able to do all these things well, though they have a wide number of career choices once they have finished.   No single choice is right for everyone.

What type of student are you looking for?
A wide range of types — students who are interested in developing their ideas in a variety of ways and who are motivated to explore new ideas about themselves, relationships, and psychotherapy with an equally wide range of other learners.

What are your philosophies about diversity?
The MFT program upholds a broad understanding of diversity that includes beliefs, values, and life experiences in addition to race, ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual orientation, age, and ability.   Ultimately, we are seeking a diversity that leads not only to social complexity and variety, but to diverse clinical and scholarly outcomes: new ideas and approaches that will help improve the way all human beings live their lives.   A good part of the research conducted by our students and faculty over the years has been directed toward a variety of diversity related topics.

What is the diversity of your students and faculty?
For the past several years, our student body has fluctuated between 15 and 30 per cent members of underrepresented groups, and included several students from other countries, as well as students from over 24 states with a wide variety of beliefs and values. (Our small numbers mean that very small changes in enrollment cause relatively large changes in percentages).  Our faculty are half female, half male, and include African American and European American members.

What kind of students apply to your program?
We typically attract candidates from COAMFTE accredited MFT masters programs and other mental health curricula with high GPAs and above average GREs who are committed to their own growth as therapists and scholars, and to the growth of the field. Their GPAs have tended to average about 3.8 on a 4.0 scale; their GRE verbal and quantitative scores have been averaging about 1050.  Many students are accepted, however, whose numbers are well above, or occasionally below these norms.

Where are they from?
Click here to see a map of the countries our students come from.

What master's courses and clinical experience should I have had?
6 hours of family therapy theory, 9 hours of additional clinical coursework (not including practica), 6 hours of family studies or human development courses, 3 hours of ethics, 3 hours of assessment/psychopathology, 3 hours of research methods or statistics, 3 hours of electives, and 500 hours of supervised clinical practice, preferably under a licensed family therapist or Approved Supervisor.

How many students do you usually accept, and what kind of support do you offer?
We typically accept about six students per year. Historically, all program students seeking assistantships have received at least half time (ten hours) support.  For the past several years we have been able to support nearly all program students at the level they have requested.   (Students have received the number of hours they asked for.)   Assistantships remit all or part tuition, depending on the hours the assistantship carries.  A ten hour assistantship remits half of the cost of tuition; a fifteen hour remits three-quarters; a twenty hour assistantship (full support) remits full tuition.  Students receiving ten hour or greater assistantships pay in-state tuition.

What costs are not covered by assistantships?
Student Fees
All students must pay student fees for any term for which they enroll.  Fees are about $900 per year.  These fees pay for access to health care, student activities like concerts or recreational sports, discount access to sporting events, free access to the local bus service, and similar non-academic services.  

Summer Practicum
Summer practicum tuition at the end of the first academic year is also not supported, though students sometimes are paid to teach a summer undergraduate course, which helps cover tuition for the summer term.  In-state tuition costs, which apply to all program students, are about $2,000 for the summer term. (Though students need only register for one hour of summer practicum, the Graduate School requires a minimum enrollment of three hours.)

Internships for U.S. and F1 Visa Students, and Continuous Enrollment
Effective fall of 2015, the Graduate School has instituted an In Absentia Policy for students on internship.  The purpose of this policy is to take into consideration the reduced demands on University resources made by students during their internship year, as well as to encourage U.S. students on internship to remain continuously enrolled.  (F1 Visa students always must be enrolled under slightly different protocols.)  The In Absentia Policy in essence allows students on internship to register for 1 credit hour of HD 5474, Internship, and remain continuously enrolled, rather than being required to enroll for the usual minimum 3 credit hours, as is the rule for on-campus students.  In or out of state charges will be determined by the Bursar’s Office.

Students whose internships fall within a radius of 50 miles of Blacksburg will be required to have their advisors certify that, 1) they will not be enrolled in any other VT coursework except internship credit, 2) the student will not be meeting regularly with her or his advisor, 3) the student will not be using local VT Blacksburg lab space or other resources for thesis or dissertation data collection, and 4) the student will not hold a VT assistantship. 

Students who fail to maintain continuous enrollment will be dropped from the Graduate School rolls, though they may apply for readmission.  Readmission is typically granted, but not guaranteed.   The In Absentia Request form is here.

F1 visa students must register for one hour of GRAD 7944, Graduate Cooperative Education Program while on internship. The tuition for GRAD 7994 is about $1,300 per term. This cost comes from the federal government requirement that all F1 visa students must be registered for courses in the Curricular Practical Training (CPT) program (or the OPT program, below) during their internship year.  F1 visa students also have the option of completing their internship under a program called Optional Practical Training, or OPT, but the OPT option has serious restrictions on how long F1 students can remain in the U.S. after completing their internship service. F1 students can, however, follow a year of CPT with another period of OPT.  Tech's International Graduate Student Support Services can help with specific questions about this regulation. 

Students on internship also may wish to apply for a comprehensive fee waiver if they are working off campus, which remits comprehensive fees.  The form to request this waiver is available from the Bursar's Office.

Is there a standard date by which new students offered assistantships by any MFT doctoral program must accept them?
Generally yes. For any MFT program housed in a university that is a member of the Council of Graduate Schools, which includes nearly all accredited MFT doctoral programs, a student offered financial support has until April 15th to decide whether to accept it.   Programs may set any decision deadline they wish for students not offered support.

What kind of dissertations have your students done?
Why don't you have a Facebook page (Twitter account, etc...)
It is much too easy to publish confidential information or inaccurate information (or plain horrible information) on the web, by accident or design, especially through social media, and you can't un-ring the bell.   People's lives can be ruined by that.   We love the web - we love giving lots of public information on our website - but we value client, student, and therapist confidentiality too much to risk inadvertently exposing anyone to violations of their privacy, intentionally or by mistake.

How long does it take to complete the program?
Students have taken as few as three years and as long as ten to complete the program.    Completion times for individual students vary greatly, depending on internship choices, previous preparation, dissertation topics, and family life issues like personal health, relocations, employment decisions, and marriage and pregnancy. The average for all 136 graduates since the program began is four and a half years.  The official advertised length of the program, which takes into account typical course loads, internship service, dissertation proposal development and completion, and personal life events, is seven years.  The maximum allowable time for completion is twelve years.

Where can we review your COAMFTE Student Achievement Criteria?
Click here to see our Student Achievement Criteria data

What are your specific Student Learning Outcomes, Faculty Outcomes, and Program Outcomes, and how are they measured?
All our Educational Outcomes can be found here. Our benchmarks for their assessment, as we report annually to the COAMFTE, include, but are not limited to, licensure exam pass rates and overall licensure rates, graduation rates, found on our Student Achievement Data page, and are also based upon surveys of clients, employers, referrers, alumni, and current students.  Thus far, all students and graduates who have taken the licensure exam have passed and gone on to become licensed. 85% of all entering students have graduated since the late 1970s, and clients, employers, referrers, and clinical supervisors all rate our graduates and therapists highly on the five core aspects of our Educational Outcomes: Clinical Practice, Research, Teaching, Service, and Cultural Competence.

What kinds of careers do your graduates have?
Our graduates have careers that span the range of teaching and the helping professions, and sometimes include a few in entirely different fields.   They have chosen positions as far away as Australia and as close to home as Blacksburg.   Below is a rough breakdown of our graduates' careers through 2012, though it is important to remember that some of the divisions in this chart don't reflect the often wide overlap in their actual practice, or the fact that many graduates shift between areas over the course of their work experiences.   Note also that some categories, such as Private Practice, cover a broad range of activities, including organizational and human resource consulting, executive coaching, work with sex offenders or substance abuse, treatment for sexual and other dysfunctions, working with chronic illness, or art and other specialized therapies, as well as traditional therapy with individuals, couples, and families.
Social Work
Medical School
Family Studies
Administration & Practice
Private Practice
Institute/ Agency
Academic Admin
Other Careers
Real Estate
Missionary Work