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Ph.D. - Family Social Science

Couple and Family Therapy Specialization

The mission of the Couple and Family Therapy (CFT) program is to educate and mentor the next generation of leaders and agents of social change in the field of couple/marriage and family therapy (C/MFT) to work systemically with diverse families and communities locally and internationally. Faculty and students engage in scholarship that advances a relational perspective within the science and practice of improving the health and well-being of individuals, couples, families, and society.

Family social science includes several components:

Child Adjustment in Family Context

Faculty working and researching in this area include

Families and Culture

Faculty working and researching in this area include

Families and Financial Decisions

Faculty working and researching in this area include

Family Formation and Intergenerational Studies

Faculty working and researching in this area include

Families, Loss, and Trauma

Faculty working and researching in this area include

Intimate Family Relationships

Faculty working and researching in this area include

Students gain a broad knowledge of family theory, families across the lifespan, family research methods, and are able to engage in independent research related to families. Visit our Graduate Students page to learn more about what our students accomplish.

Students in the Couple and Family Therapy program typically seek positions in

  • Academic research, teaching, and community engagement
  • Program administration
  • Clinical practice

Students may enter the doctoral degree in the CFT program after receiving a clinical master's degree or having achieved equivalent clinical experience as determined by the CFT faculty.

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is conferred in recognition of the breadth and depth of scholarly knowledge and of demonstrated ability to investigate problems independently, rather than simply completing specific courses within a stated period of time.

The student's program of study must be rationally unified: courses must contribute to an organized program of study and research. To attain doctoral level knowledge, a student must go far beyond coursework and credits and be committed to learning and researching independently and collaboratively, striving constantly for breadth, seeking the greatest depth of knowledge, and developing competencies in critical thinking.


Program, Student Learning, and Faculty Outcomes

Our Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) accreditation requires us to articulate the desired outcomes for the program, students, and faculty. These outcomes shape and inform our approach to doctoral education and provide an overview of what we hope to accomplish as a program.

Program Outcomes

The CFT program will

  1. Be recognized as a leader in C/MFT doctoral education.
  2. Maintain a diverse faculty and student body in accordance with COAMFTE standards that have a core identity as scientist-practitioners in C/MFT.
  3. Graduate students who are prepared to engage in C/MFT scholarship across teaching, research, and service.
  4. Prepare students to secure employment in an area specific to C/MFT (including post-doctoral experiences).

Student Learning Outcomes

All graduates of the CFT program will

  1. Be knowledgeable consumers and producers of relationally oriented research that seeks to improve the health and well-being of individuals, couples, families, and societies.
  2. Be prepared to independently teach at the university level.
  3. Be prepared to articulate the diverse social contexts that influence their work and the influence their work has on those diverse social contexts.
  4. Be competent C/MFT clinicians (work with a wide range of families and populations) who meet the didactic requirements to be an AAMFT Approved Supervisor.

Faculty Outcomes

All CFT faculty members will

  1. Be engaged in research relevant to couple/marriage and family therapy.
  2. Demonstrate effective teaching abilities including the use of technology and attention to diversity issues related to the subject matter.
  3. Be clinically active and meet state licensing and credentialing standards appropriate to their developmental level and supervisory obligations.
  4. Provide service in the department, university, the field, and to other interested and diverse communities.

Student Achievement Criteria

The COAMFTE publishes the Student Achievement Criteria for all COAMFTE accredited programs.

If you have questions about this information please direct them to Dr. Steven M. Harris, CFT Program Director.

Supervision Training Program

Third year CFT doctoral students are eligible to apply for the supervision practicum. They provide supervision to masters students whose academic programs give approval. This supervision is supervised by CFT faculty members and meets a portion of the requirements for AAMFT approved supervisor status.

Racial, Cultural, and Epistemological Composition of Faculty, Students, and Supervisors

The CFT program values and welcomes diversity in all its forms. We use the COAMFTE definition of diversity in how we conceptualize and track the program’s diversity goals and allow individuals in the program to “self-identify” whether or not they meet the standards we’ve set.

We strive for “…representation of multiple groups...with regard to gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, culture, environment, health/ability, nationality, religion, spirituality, and socio-economic status” along the following program outcomes

We believe that in meeting these program outcomes faculty, supervisors, and students are more likely to be in touch with the lived experiences of those in our program’s communities of interest, including our clients, research participants, potential employers, and program alumni. Further, we believe that allowing individuals in the program to self-identify with these criteria enhances our opportunity for dialogue around diversity topics.


Admission to the couple and family therapy program is available to doctoral applicants who have already obtained a clinical master's degree, or have achieved equivalent clinical experience as determined by the CFT faculty.

Admission to the Department of Family Social Science (FSoS) is based on a review of multiple sources of information with no single factor determining an applicant's success or failure.

Admission Criteria

  • Evidence of strong academic preparation and the ability and desire to perform graduate level scholarship, including research.
  • Fit of applicant's professional goals with FSoS faculty scholarship and with the overall FSoS mission: enhancing the well-being of diverse families in a changing world.
  • Unique contributions the applicant would make to FSoS values, including social relevance, collaboration, inclusiveness, excellence, innovation, and diversity.

No applicant to the CFT program looks exactly the same, however over time we have noticed successful applicants tend to

Application Procedures

Complete applications are due December 1st.
Faculty are not obligated to review incomplete applications.

Learn more about application procedures and instructions.

After Applying

The number of graduate applicants admitted into the program varies from year to year, depending on applicant qualifications (academic preparation, fit, and unique contributions), the availability of faculty advisers, and available financial support.

A typical incoming graduate student cohort includes 9-12 students (a few M.A. degree-seeking students and a majority of Ph.D. degree-seeking students).

Ph.D. and M.A./Ph.D. applicants who pass an initial review by faculty will be invited to an on-campus interview February 5 - 6, 2017.

Students must inform the Department of Family Social Science of their final decision to attend or not attend by April 15th.


Visit OneStop Student Services: Finances for information on tuition, fees, and financial aid.

Visit Assistantships, Fellowships, & Other Funding for more information on funding opportunities through FSoS, CEHD and UMN.

More information regarding assistantships and benefits can be found on the Office of Human Resources website.

If you have any additional questions, please e-mail