Our Program

Our Program 2018-10-12T16:21:35+00:00

Pushing the Boundaries of Knowledge.  Mentoring Future Leaders and Innovators.

For detailed information about Virginia Tech’s Marriage and Family Therapy Doctoral Program, see our MFT Program Handbook.


As a doctoral program in marriage and family therapy, our mission is to develop scholar-clinicians who demonstrate respect for diversity and inclusion and will advance the field of marriage and family therapy through research, clinical supervision, teaching, practice, and community and professional engagement.  To accomplish our mission, we take a hands-on, collaborative approach to training.

Research Training

The research training offered within the program is designed to produce scholars who have skills necessary to conduct methodologically sophisticated research that advances scientific knowledge and has clinical implications for marriage and family therapy.

Faculty Mentorship is the hallmark feature of the program’s approach to research training.  Students work closely and collaboratively with their advisors and other faculty on research projects.  These faculty-student collaborations frequently lead to professional presentations and publications.

Examples of recent student-faculty collaborations include:

Contemporary Family Therapy
Gay & Lesbian Social Services
Family Relations
Journal of Homosexuality

Statistical & Methodological Training is a core component of the MFT curriculum.  Required coursework includes qualitative methods, clinical research methods, and advanced quantitative methods.  Students can further their statistical and methodological knowledge by taking a variety of elective courses including program evaluation, mixed methods, measurement design, and HLM, among others.

Research Teams are a semester-long opportunity for MFT students to work closely with faculty to gain hands-on research experience.  Through the research teams, students may participate in study conceptualization, data collection, and/or data analysis.  Students may also gain valuable experience with grant writing and professional presentations and publications.  Over the course of their time in the program, MFT students participate in four research teams.

Clinical Training

We value advanced clinical training and are highly invested in our students’ continued growth and development as marriage and family therapists.  Advanced clinical training also supports our graduates’ ability to become effective supervisors who train the next generation of marriage and family therapists.

Students see clients at our on-campus training clinic, the Family Therapy Center, from spring of their first year through fall of their third year.  The MFT faculty provide individual and group supervision during practicum, and all are AAMFT Approved Supervisors or AAMFT Approved Supervisor Candidates.  Opportunities for live and video supervision are enhanced by a state-of-the-art digital video recording system.  Most students gain over 200 hours of clinical contact through their clinical work at the Family Therapy Center.  A total of 1000 (400 relational) direct client contact hours and 200 hours of supervision are required for graduation.  For more information about the program’s clinical requirements, see the MFT Program Handbook.

During their third year, students take a course in supervision of marriage and family therapy.  The course meets the pedagogical requirement for the AAMFT Approved Supervision designation.  Students in the supervision course provide supervision to other Family Therapy Center therapists and receive individual and group supervision mentoring from AAMFT Approved Supervisors.

Teaching Training

During their time in the program, MFT students can gain independent collegiate teaching experience.  Students teach online or classroom-based undergraduate courses in the Department of Human Development and Family Science.  Given the Department’s focus on excellence in instruction, students holding teaching appointments participate in a seminar that provides intensive training in course design, assessment/grading, classroom management, and effective instruction. 

Advanced Practical Experience

During their fourth year in the program, MFT students complete a full-time, 9-month advanced practical experience, which is similar to an internship.  Through the Advanced Practical Experience, students can pursue opportunities for advanced training and experience in research, teaching, supervision, clinical practice, grant writing, and policy development, among others topics.  Students work closely with their advisors to develop a plan for the advanced practical experience that is tailored to their career goals.  For more information about the Advanced Practical Experience, please see the MFT Program Handbook.

Program graduates have held Advanced Practical Experience placements at prestigious medical centers, universities, and mental health agencies including Houston Galveston Institute, Chicago Center for Family Health, St. Mary’s Medical Center, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Indiana University School of Medicine, Mercer University, University of Nebraska Medical Center, New River Valley Community Services, Palo Alto Mental Research Institute, University of Oregon, and a number of other community mental health agencies.


Our curriculum emphasizes quantitative and qualitative research methods, advanced training in MFT theories and models, contemporary clinical issues, MFT supervision, and human development and family science theories and research.  All of the MFT courses emphasize relational/systemic philosophies, are multiculturally informed, and underscore the importance of ethical behavior and practice.  A total of 90 credits are required for graduation, which includes 30 research and dissertation credits and up to 12 transfer credits.  Please click to view the MFT Doctoral Program curriculum.

In addition to the required coursework, MFT students can also choose to pursue a variety of graduate certificates.  Program graduates have completed graduate certificates in the Future Professoriate, Gerontology, Human Sexuality Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies, among others.


The timeline for completing the MFT Doctoral Program varies greatly, depending on previous preparation, dissertation topics, Advanced Practical Experience choices, and personal or family issues.  On average, it takes students 5 years to complete the program.  It is possible to complete the program in as few as 4 years.  The maximum amount of time allowed for program completion is 8 years.  Students work closely with their doctoral advisory committees to plan their coursework, program milestones, and time in the program.

Program Plan

Year 1:

  • MFT/HDFS/Research Coursework
  • Begin clinical work at the Family Therapy Center (Spring Semester, Year 1)

Year 2:

  • MFT/HDFS/Research Coursework
  • Continue clinical work at the Family Therapy Center
  • Preliminary Examination

Year 3:

  • MFT Supervision Course (Spring Semester, Year 3)
  • Finish clinical work at the Family Therapy Center (Fall Semester, Year 3)
  • Dissertation Proposal/Research

Year 4:

  • Advanced Practical Experience
  • Dissertation Research/Completion

For more information about these program milestones, please see the MFT Program Handbook.



The Department of Human Development and Family Science provides MFT students with full-time assistantship support for 3 years, pending satisfactory performance in the program.  Students holding full-time assistantships work 20 hours a week in research, teaching, and/or administrative appointments.  Full-time assistantships provide a living stipend (approximately $1700/month for 9 months) and full tuition remission for the Fall and Spring semesters.  Many of our students have also been successful in securing competitive scholarships.


Tuition rates are available through the Bursar’s Office.  Students not on full-time assistantships are required to cover their own tuition expenses.  Whether a student pays in-state or out-of-state tuition rates is determined by the Bursar’s Office.  All MFT doctoral students are encouraged to obtain Virginia residency.

Financial Obligations

MFT doctoral students are responsible for several costs that are not covered by assistantships.

Comprehensive Fees 2018-09-23T00:56:29+00:00

All students must pay student fees for each semester in which they enroll.  Fees can change from semester to semester, but tend to be about $1000/academic year.  These fees cover access to health care, student activities, recreational sports, discounted sporting events, free local bus services, and similar non-academic services.  More information about these fees is available at the Bursar’s Office.  Non-residents pay higher comprehensive fees than students who obtain Virginia residency.

Summer Practicum 2018-10-02T03:36:09+00:00

Students are responsible for all tuition and comprehensive fee costs for practicum during the summers before their second and third years in the program.  Students holding assistantships the previous academic year are eligible for in-state tuition for the summer, which is about $2300 for three credits of summer enrollment.

To offset the cost of summer enrollment, students often have the opportunity to work on a research project or teach a summer undergraduate course.  In previous years, MFT students have received an exemption to the minimum enrollment requirement for summer sessions, which allows them to enroll for one credit (instead of the required three credits).  In this case, enrollment for one credit is approximately $700.  It should be noted that this exception is requested by the department on an annual basis and is NOT guaranteed.  Students will be informed in a timely manner as to what arrangements have been made for a given summer.

Advanced Practical Experience 2018-10-02T03:31:45+00:00

Students must register for one credit hour of HD 5754 during the last academic (i.e., fall or spring) of their Advanced Practical Experience, and are responsible for covering these costs, unless they are covered by an assistantship.

Research & Dissertation 2018-09-23T00:59:55+00:00

Students who are no longer covered by an assistantship, but still need to complete their dissertations, are responsible for all costs associated with enrollment in HD 7994 (Research & Dissertation).