The Doctoral Education of Professional Marriage and Family Therapists


  • Robert E. Lee, III, is Norejane Hendrickson Professor and Director, Doctoral Program in Marriage and Family Therapy, Florida State University. William C. Nichols resides in Athens, Georgia.

Address correspondence to Robert E. Lee, III, 240 Sandels Building, Tallahassee, Florida 32306-1491; E-mail:


The professional practice of marriage and family therapy (MFT) scholarship is regulated at the master’s level in the United States. Consequently, contemporary curricular issues have largely been focused on what is to be achieved within the master’s degree, with an emphasis on clinical practice. We consider here what value may and should be added through the doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy. Doctoral programs are the developmental stage wherein we should seek to transmit the specialized knowledge and skills germane to MFT scholarship and practice in diverse settings, e.g., clinical and research intensive university, family law, health care, child development and education, child welfare, juvenile justice, faith based, and business. However, underlying this specialty education are three transcendental goals: sophistication of family systems scholarship, socialization into the profession of MFT, and cultivation of professional maturity.