Top 10 Accredited Online Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy Degree Programs 2016

Best Counseling Degrees - Top Online Master's Programs 2016
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By Kirsten Hughes
January 2016

An online master’s in marriage and family therapy will prepare graduates to work as marriage and family therapists counseling individuals, couples, and families. Marriage and family therapists are trained to support clients experiencing a variety of mental health and relational challenges, in a range of settings such as community mental health centers, schools, churches, university health centers, and private practice. Graduates of these programs will be prepared to work towards licensure as a marriage and family therapist or as a professional counselor with a specialization in marriage, couple, and family counseling.

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Internship/ Practicum Experience: Most online master’s in marriage and family therapy degrees require the completion of a supervised internship and a practicum experience. Do not let these requirements dissuade you from pursuing these programs. The practicum and internship requirements are built into the programs to be completed in ways that feel manageable for even the busiest students. To support students in obtaining licensure following graduation, COAMFTE and CACREP standards require the completion of supervised direct client contact clinical hours. Practicum and internships are generally completed in your local community and provide valuable learning opportunities and skill development. Additionally, the experience you gain and the relationships you build during this time are good resume builders and references for future employment opportunities.

Residency: Many of the online marriage and family therapy degree programs listed here also require what is called a residency. The residency is a brief visit to campus where students and faculty meet face-to face. Residencies generally take place a couple of times during the course of the program for a few days to a week at a time. Residencies provide numerous benefits, including developing relationships with fellow students and faculty, developing clinical and counseling skills, and enhancing the educational experience overall. Many graduates of online counseling programs list the residency as a top highlight. Most residencies take place on the main campus. Generally, additional costs per residency apply (fees, airfare, lodging, meals etc.). All residencies listed by the programs are included here.

A note on accreditation and licensure: All schools in this list of online master’s in marriage and family therapy are regionally accredited and two of them are also accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), and three are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educations Programs (CACREP). Students graduating from regionally accredited programs, and even more so from COAMFTE and CACREP accredited programs, have a competitive career advantage and often experience a more seamless process towards licensure. Post graduation requirements for licensure vary by state. It is recommended that you check with your state licensing board directly to determine if the program you are interested in meets the educational requirements necessary to work towards licensure in your home state. Following graduation you can begin the licensure process of completing clinical hours and supervision and taking the licensure exam. You must be licensed by your state to practice as a counselor (or work under the direct supervision of a licensed counselor). Contact your state board directly for further information.

If you are motivated to pursue an online master’s in marriage and family therapy degree, choosing the school that is the best fit for you is the first step towards accomplishing your goal and advancing your career.

For information on how these programs were selected for the ranking, see the methodology statement at the end of the article.

10. Regent University

Virginia Beach, VA

Master of Arts in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling Online

Regent University offers a 60-credit Master of Arts in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling degree online that can be completed in as little as two years. Students in this program will cover a range of topics in coursework including marriage and family therapy models, techniques, and theories. Throughout the time in the program students will be grounded with a biblical framework to support a spiritual balance in counseling. Graduates of this program will be prepared to take the marriage and family therapy licensing exam (in most states) for a career in marriage and family counseling.

  • Regional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges & Schools
  • Graduate Tuition: $15,600

Residency requirements:

Students in this online master’s in marriage and family therapy degree program are required to complete three week-long residencies during the course of the program. Residencies provide students the opportunity to consult and collaborate with peers and faculty.

9. Mid-America Christian University

Oklahoma City, OK

Master of Science Counseling, Marital, and Family Therapy Online

Mid-America Christian University (MACU) is a private, Christian liberal arts college offering a Master of Science in Counseling, Marital, and Family Therapy degree online. Courses are integrated with a Christian faith-based perspective to prepare graduates to pursue careers in both secular and ministry settings. Through coursework the program prepares graduates to practice as individual, marriage and family therapists and provides a foundation for licensure as a licensed Marital and Family Therapist. Courses are 100% online and are offered in 5-10 week sessions allowing students to focus on completing coursework at an independent pace at convenient times.

  • Regional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Graduate Tuition: $13,560

Courses include:

Theories and principles of counseling and psychotherapy; marriage and family systems and treatment; human development; research methods; multicultural treatment planning for individuals and families; dynamics and intervention of individuals and families in crisis.

8. Amridge University

Montgomery, AL

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy Online

Master of Divinity in Marriage and Family Therapy Online

Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy Online

The School of Human Services at Amridge University offers three online marriage and family therapy degree programs: a Master of Arts (M.A.), Master of Divinity (M.Div.), and a Doctorate (Phd.) in Marriage and Family Therapy online. Amridge University is a faith-based institution committed to the teaching and practice of Christianity. The student body welcomes and is made up of students from various faiths. Distance learning is the primary instructional delivery system for all programs at Amridge University. The M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy program works to prepare graduates for licensure in Marriage and Family Therapy in their resident state and/ or for advanced study in their field. The M.Div. in Marriage and Family Therapy is a professional-level degree program designed for students interested in careers in full-time ministry. This program also helps prepare students for licensure in Marriage and Family Therapy (with the completion of additional courses) in their home state and/ or advanced study in the field. The Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy is designed for students that have already completed their master’s in marriage and family therapy (and received their license if interested) that wish to pursue a research oriented advanced degree to enhance therapeutic expertise and scholarship.

  • Regional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges & Schools
  • Graduate Tuition: $12,600

Graduates can pursue careers in settings such as:

In-patient facilities; community mental health centers; schools, social service agencies; universities and research centers; justice system, private practice; counseling centers; churches; and employee assistance programs.

7. Grand Canyon University

Phoenix, AZ

Master of Science in Professional Counseling with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy Online

Post-Master of Science in Counseling: Marriage and Family Therapy Certificate Online

Grand Canyon University offers a M.S. in Professional Counseling with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy online designed to prepare graduates for careers as professional counselors. The program curriculum emphasizes a systems theory approach to addressing individual, couple, and family issues. Students will learn to address issues such as communication, substance use, parent-child relationships, cultural diversity, and couple’s issues. The College of Humanities and Social Sciences has designed the marriage and family therapy program to match the standards established by the National Board for Certified Counselors. While graduates will be educated in how to approach clinical issues from a systems perspective the degree does not lead to marriage and family licensure. As with all programs students are advised to review their home states marriage and family licensure board requirements. Additionally, Grand Canyon University offers a Post-Master of Science in Counseling: Marriage and Family Therapy Certificate for professionals interested in advancing their career in counseling.

  • Regional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Graduate Tuition: $9,563

Graduates will be competent in areas including:

Professional counseling models and practice; ethics; social and cultural foundations; research; professional growth and development in professional counseling; and marriage and family therapy.

6. Liberty University

Lynchburg, VA

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy Online

Liberty University’s Counseling Department offers a licensure track Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy Online. This degree requires the completion of 60 credit hours. The Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy prepares graduates to seek licensure as a Marriage and Family therapist. An emphasis in this program is on the integration of faith into counseling practice which will prepare graduates to work in faith based as well as secular settings. Graduates will also have a strong understanding of ethical, professional, and legal issues in counseling. In addition to online coursework, five on-campus intensives are required.

  • Regional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges & Schools
  • Graduate Tuition: $9,360

Residency requirements:

Five on-campus residencies are required.

5. Touro University Worldwide

Los Alamitos, CA

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy Online

Touro University Worldwide (TUW), a Jewish-sponsored non profit institution of higher learning, offers a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy online. Students from all cultures and backgrounds are encouraged to apply. This 60 credit hour program is designed to prepare graduates for marriage and family therapy licensure in the State of California (and most other states) without requiring graduates to complete any additional coursework. Students are encouraged to consult their home state board of marriage and family therapy for specific licensure requirements. Courses are offered completely online, without any residency requirements, and run over 8 week sessions. Students will gain clinical experience through supervised direct client contact in a TUW approved practicum placement in their home town.

  • Regional Accreditation: Western Association of Schools & Colleges
  • Graduate Tuition: $9,000

The most affordable school on this list:

TUW’s tuition is $500 per semester credit unit. TUW offers prospective students tuition assistance programs including scholarships and students loans. Touro University Worldwide provides tuition assistance counselors to all interested students to determine eligibility for financial aid and other tuition assistance programs. TUW offers tuition discounts to active duty service members and their family, DoD, Veterans and Reserve.

4. Messiah College

Mechanicsburg, PA

Master of Arts in Counseling: Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling Online

Messiah College offers a CACREP accredited, faith-based program in marriage, couple and family counseling. Messiah College is the only online marriage, couple, and family counseling program in the country that is both faith-based and CACREP accredited. The program is designed so that all students take the core courses followed by their chosen track. The other two tracks available are clinical mental health counseling and school counseling. Students in this program will complete online coursework, two one-week face-to-face courses, and supervised practicum and internship experience. Students are encouraged to choose to complete the program following the two, three, or four year model. However, students have up to six years to complete the program. Graduates of this program will be academically prepared to sit for their professional counselor licensing exam.

  • Regional Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • CACREP Accredited
  • Graduate Tuition: $10,710

Residency requirements:

Students in this program are required to take two face-to-face courses as one-week intensive courses. The two courses are 1) professional issues and ethics for counselors and 2) counseling techniques. The courses are offered a couple of times a year (Monday- Friday 8 hours a day) on Messiah College’s campus in Grantham, PA. Students will engage in lecture, group discussion, group work, and various exercises throughout the day as well as alone and in groups in the evening to prepare for the next day’s class.

3. Walden University

Minneapolis, MN

Master of Science in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling Online

Walden University offers a CACREP accredited Master of Science in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling online. The program offers several areas of specialization. Graduates of this program will be prepared to provide evidence-based clinical services to diverse clients, at various stages in life, in a variety of settings. Graduates will be able to successfully navigate challenging marriage, couple, and family related issues with clients such as family conflicts, divorce, child rearing challenges, and family violence. The program offers two 6-day residencies to strengthen professional skills. Walden University is currently offering students accepted into the program a $7,500 Counseling Changemaker Grant toward the cost of tuition, to be applied over the course of 8 terms.

  • Regional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • CACREP Accredited
  • Graduate Tuition: $11,925

Specializations available include:

Addiction counseling; career counseling; forensic counseling; military families and culture; and trauma and crisis counseling. Residencies: Students in this program will complete two residencies (6 days each) while in the program. Residencies are offered in convenient locations throughout the year to fit the individual needs of all students. In the face-to-face residencies students will have the opportunity to participate in workshops and group activities with peers and faculty. Students will develop and strengthen clinical skills in areas such as interviewing, multicultural and diversity competencies; research; and preparation for licensure exams.

2. Capella University

Minneapolis, MN

Master of Science in Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy Online

Contemporary Theory in Couple and Family Systems Specialization Graduate Certificate

The Harold Abel School of Social and Behavioral Science at Capella University offers a Master of Science in Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy online. This COAMFTE and CACREP accredited program prepares graduates through educational and clinical experience to work towards state licensure in the field of counseling. Capella University integrates online coursework, residencies, and clinical practicum/ internship to provide students with a rigorous educational and clinical experience. Graduates of this program will understand how to apply research and theories in the practice of marriage and family therapy with diverse client populations. In addition to the M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy, Capella currently offers three other CACREP-accredited programs: Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision; M.S. in Mental Health Counseling; and the M.S. in School Counseling. Additionally, Capella University offers an online Contemporary Theory in Couple and Family Systems Certificate to support individuals who are interested in updating their knowledge of family therapy and counseling.

  • Regional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • COAMFTE Accredited
  • CACREP Accredited
  • Graduate Tuition: $13,770

Residency requirements:

Many graduates of Capella University list their residency experience as the most valuable part of their educational experience. Students are required to complete two in person residencies. Each residency is 6 days long and takes place in the middle of a corresponding 6 week course. During residencies students will have the opportunity to participate in small and large group exercises, consult with and receive feedback from faculty, and engage in peer review sessions. Residencies are offered in alternating locations throughout the U.S. annually.

1. Northcentral University

Prescott Valley, AZ

Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy Online

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy Online

Post-Master’s Certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy Online

Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy Online

Doctorate of Marriage and Family Therapy Online

The School of Marriage and Family Sciences at Northcentral University (NCU) offers several options for students interested in pursuing an online degree or certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy. The M.A. and Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy are both COAMFTE accredited and are the first distance-based programs to receive COAMFTE accreditation. NCU does not require students to complete residencies, all coursework can be completed online, and practicum and internship experiences can be completed along with face-to-face supervision with a qualified supervisor in the student’s local area. The program strives to create a flexible learning environment with weekly course starts to fit the individual needs of each student. All professors at NCU hold a doctorate degree. A number of specializations are available to support graduates in pursuing their professional clinical goals and leaders in the field of Marriage and Family Therapy.

  • Regional Accreditation: Western Association of Schools & Colleges
  • Regional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • COAMFTE Accredited
  • Graduate Tuition: $15,307

Specialization opportunities include:

Child and adolescent therapy; couple therapy; general family therapy; medical family therapy; therapy with military families; and LGBTQ couple and family therapy.

Methodology for the Top 10 Accredited Online Marriage and Family Therapy Degrees

To develop the ranking of the Top 10 Accredited Online Marriage and Family Therapy Counseling degrees, we started by using the Institute of Education Sciences’ College Navigator to gather a list of schools that offered advanced degrees in marriage and family therapy/counseling with a distance education option. We then added to this list from schools listed in the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) database that offered advanced degrees in marriage, couple, and family counseling with a distance education option. From this combined list of programs, we cross-referenced with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to keep only regionally accredited schools. Priority was then given to programs accredited by the COAMFTE, followed by those accredited by the CACREP. When there was more than one COAMFTE/ CACREP accredited program, preference was given to the program that offered a specialization. The schools were then ranked based on the average graduate student tuition and fees for the academic year 2014-2015 as listed on the College Navigator web site.

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