Do you want to teach in a medical family therapy or marriage and family therapy program or in a medical school? Are you interested in becoming a policy maker for best practices in health-care systems?

The medical family therapy (MedFT) program at East Carolina University was the first of its kind in the nation. In 2005, East Carolina University created the first doctoral program in medical family therapy. At ECU, MedFT students conduct research, teach, and supervise from a relational and systemic perspective through the incorporation of a biopsychosocial-spiritual approach. The aim of the MedFT program is to widen students knowledge base in health care by furthering competency in biopsychosocial-spiritual and family based treatment via integrated care, research, and theoretical understanding of medical and mental health issues. The mission of the doctoral program in medical family therapy is to advance students learning in the areas of research, theory, clinical practice, leadership, supervision, and teaching in order to prepare and qualify them to pursue employment as researchers, educators, administrators, and/or clinicians in the field of medical family therapy.

ECU Advantage

The East Carolina University medical family therapy doctoral program graduated its first students in 2008 and was first accredited by COAMFTE in 2009 and reaccredited in 2013. Most of our graduates are employed as faculty in COAMFTE accredited programs at either the master's or doctoral level via marriage and family therapy or medical family therapy programs. Some alumni are teaching in residency programs within medical schools while others work at research institutes. Our alumni have remained active contributors to the field through peer reviewed publications and national presentations.

What You Will Study

Program Coordinator: Jennifer Hodgson (114 Redditt House; 252-328-1349; hodgsonj@ecu.edu)

The objective of the PhD program in medical family therapy is to graduate individuals who will collaborate with health care providers and families to resolve biopsychosocial issues inherent with acute and chronic illness. Students must complete a standard curriculum for doctoral programs as stipulated by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). The program includes: research (14 s.h.), theory (12 s.h.), clinical practice (3 s.h.), clinical supervision (3 s.h.), cognates (6 s.h.), electives (6 s.h.), dissertation (6 s.h.), and internship (9 s.h.). Students are expected to complete the program in no more than five years. Students completing the program will be expected to fulfill educational and clinical requirements for marriage and family therapy licensure.

The medical family therapy program requires 59 s.h. as follows:

Degree Requirements
    1. Research - 14 s.h.
    • BIOS 7021 - Biostatistics for Health Professionals I or
    • NURS 8226 - Statistical Methods for Nursing Research I or
    • PSYC 6430 - Statistics and Research Design or
    • PSYC 7431 - Advanced Research Design

    • BIOS 7022 - Biostatistics for Health Professionals II or
    • NURS 8227 - Statistical Methods for Nursing Research II or
    • PSYC 6327 - Methods in Human Measurement or
    • PSYC 7505 - Structural Equation and Hierarchical Linear Modeling

    • HDFS 8400 - Advanced Research Methods in Medical Family Therapy

    • HLTH 6700 - Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods or
    • HLTH 7100 - Qualitative Research: Analysis and Interpretation or
    • NURS 8235 - Qualitative Methods I

    • HUMS 7004 - Ethics and Research: Humanities and Basic Medical Sciences
    2. Theory - 12 s.h.
    • HDFS 7401 - Introduction to Medical Family Therapy
    • HDFS 7409 - Illness and Disability Across the Lifespan
    • HDFS 8402 - Advanced Family Therapy Theories
    • HDFS 8403 - Gender and Ethnicity in Medical Family Therapy
    3. Clinical practice - 3 s.h.
    • HDFS 8404 - Medical Family Therapy Practicum
    4. Clinical supervision - 3 s.h.
    • HDFS 7502 - Family Therapy Supervision Methods and Practice
    5. Cognates - 6 s.h.

    (If a course counts as a cognate, it cannot count as an elective.)

      Select from the following:
      • ADRE 6703 - Foundations of Addictions and Clinical Counseling
      • ADRE 6375 - Military and Trauma Counseling
      • MPH 6011 - Introduction to Epidemiology
      • MPH 6600 - Planning Public Health Programs
      • PSYC 8995 - Seminar in Health Psychology
      • RCTX 6001 - Biofeedback: Principles and Practices
      • RCTX 6002 - Biofeedback Laboratory
      • RCTX 6003 - Advanced Biofeedback Laboratory
    6. Electives - 6 s.h.

    (If a course counts as an elective, it cannot count as a cognate.)

      Select from the following:
      • ADRE 6375 - Military and Trauma Counseling
      • ADRE 6703 - Foundations of Addictions and Clinical Counseling
      • HDFS 6500 - Independent Study
      • HDFS 8000 - Special Topics in Medical Family Therapy
      • HDFS 8405 - Medical Family Therapy Practicum
      • HDFS 8406 - Medical Family Therapy Practicum
      • HDFS 8407 - Medical Family Therapy Practicum
      • MPH 6011 - Introduction to Epidemiology
      • MPH 6600 - Planning Public Health Programs
      • PSYC 6327 - Methods in Human Measurement
      • PSYC 6519 - Directed Research I
      • PSYC 7433 - Multivariate Statistical Analysis
      • PSYC 7505 - Structural Equation and Hierarchical Linear Modeling
      • PSYC 8995 - Seminar in Health Psychology
      • RCTX 6001 - Biofeedback: Principles and Practices
      • RCTX 6002 - Biofeedback Laboratory
      • RCTX 6003 - Advanced Biofeedback Laboratory
    7. Dissertation - 6 s.h.
    • HDFS 9000 - Dissertation
    8. Internship - 9 s.h.
    • HDFS 8910 - Family Therapy Internship
    • HDFS 8911 - Family Therapy Internship
    • HDFS 8912 - Family Therapy Internship

Applicants must have a master's degree in marriage and family therapy or a related discipline. Applicants from a related field should have completed a course of studies that demonstrates competencies in basic marriage and family therapy studies and clinical experience. Additional requirements for admission include: acceptable performance on the GRE and a cumulative GPA of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale in graduate work; a sample of scholarly writing which may be a thesis, a published or unpublished reprint, or a research paper; as well as a statement of purpose that summarizes the reasons for pursuing doctoral study in medical family therapy; a personal interview with the program faculty; and other requirements included in the Graduate School's application packet.

    Client Contact Hours and Supervision Requirement

    Before graduating from the PhD program, students are required to complete 500 hours of direct client contact and 100 hours of supervision. Hours completed under an American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy approved supervisor during their master's program may be eligible. All students must complete at least one semester of practicum (HDFS 8404) and must be clinically active at the ECU Family Therapy Clinic until they successfully pass their clinical competency exam. If students have never practiced as a family therapist in a medical setting for a minimum of 4 months, they are required to enroll in HDFS 8404 and HDFS 8405 at a minimum.

    Students who already hold a valid marriage and family therapy license will be asked to submit a copy of their license to the program director. All students must take HDFS 8404 and pass the clinical competency exam regardless of whether they are licensed or not. If it is determined that the student is not ready for the clinical competency exam, or did not successfully pass the clinical competency exam, he/she will continue to register for practicum credits until the exam is passed. If a student does not pass the exam on his/her second attempt, he/she will not be allowed to continue in the program.

      Doctoral Candidacy Requirements

      Admission to candidacy for the PhD requires students to pass a preliminary examination testing basic knowledge in medical family therapy. Subsequent to passing the preliminary examination, students will be permitted to complete a dissertation and a nine-month internship.

        Thesis or Thesis Equivalency Requirement

        All students preparing to enter the PhD program should have a candidacy project (i.e., thesis or thesis equivalency) near completion by the start of the PhD program. Students must provide evidence of a completed thesis or evidence that the candidacy project is at least 75% complete prior to the start of the program. This evidence must be provided to the PhD program director no later than the first day of classes.

        If a candidacy project is unsuccessfully completed by the end of the first academic year (April 30), the student will not be allowed to continue in the program.

          Transfer Credit

          A maximum of 9 s.h. of course work taken beyond the master’s degree may be applied toward the doctoral degree at the discretion of the medical family therapy faculty, the department chair, and the dean of the Graduate School.

            For more information about this degree visit the university's academic catalogs.

            Careers With This Degree

            Graduates with this degree are successful in many fields and careers, including the following:

            • Marriage and Family Therapy/Counseling
            • Education and Training
            • Marriage and Family Therapists
            • Psychology Teachers, Postsecondary
            • Marriage and Family Therapy/Counseling

            Career Opportunities

            ECU has developed resources to help you learn more about career opportunities and job market outlook. In addition, the websites below provide specific information on careers in the various majors from which students may choose:

            NC Tower

            This website provides graphs and tables of in-depth information on employment rates, wages and ongoing higher education enrollment of graduates from the North Carolina Community College System and from the University of North Carolina system schools. NC Tower includes data on former UNC students who are working in roughly 90% of all jobs in North Carolina. This database excludes information for graduates who are:

            • Self-employed;
            • Work for the federal government, including the military: or
            • Work outside of North Carolina.

            US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook

            This website also provides in-depth information regarding pay, projected new jobs, required education, growth rate and on-the-job training information on various occupations.

            Degree-specific internships

            For information on internship information for specific majors, go to the home page of the department in which the major is located and, as available, find the link to the information on internships in that major.