To help meet a critical need for mental health services, leadership and program administration in Hawaii, Chaminade University has launched a new Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapy (DMFT) program and is already receiving applications for the inaugural cohort—whose members will begin instruction in Fall 2022.
The doctoral degree received WASC accreditation, in recognition of the high quality of academic preparation and rigor for participating students, said the program’s director Dr. Blendine Hawkins.
Hawkins, an assistant professor of Psychology at Chaminade and a licensed marriage and family therapist, said the graduate degree will welcome students with diverse educational and professional backgrounds, including in psychology, counseling, social work or marriage and family therapy. Applicants must have a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy or completed coursework sufficient for MFT licensure. They also must be clinically active or be working to achieve licensure.
“We want to take their skills to the next level as they become expert clinicians, serving Hawaii in a culturally sensitive way,” she said, adding that the degree will prepare students for leadership, supervision and consultation, teaching in higher education, and for program administration.
“Hawaii has a dearth of experts in this field,” Hawkins said. “This program is about helping the next generation of marriage and family therapy clinicians build their skills. We think with the family in mind all the time and that’s really what sets us apart. Our prime purpose is to strengthen those connections, to honor families, to look at those areas of hurt and pain, and to help people build resilience.”
The Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapy will be delivered fully online, with both synchronous and asynchronous classes. With 10-week terms, students can complete their degree in as few as 36 months.
The degree, the only one of its kind in Hawaii, is also practice-focused and designed for working professionals. The cohort system allows participants to make progress toward their degree as a team, Hawkins said, supporting one another and building strong relationships along the way.
As part of the degree, participants will complete a dissertation and be encouraged to select an action research project focused on hands-on learning and maximizing their positive impact. “Students will be able to conduct their dissertation research in their workplace or as part of a clinic experience, understanding how to better help their clients and evaluating programs,” Hawkins said.
Chaminade President Lynn Babington, PhD, said the doctoral degree helps to meet a strong need for marriage and family therapy clinicians operating at the highest levels of the discipline. “The Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapy is all about leadership and preparing students to take the next step in their careers so they can better advocate for families and build healthier family units which in turn positively impacts our community,” she said.
“Service and social justice are at the foundation of this degree, aligning with our broader Marianist values at Chaminade that seek to educate the whole person and help students pursue positive change.”
Dr. Dale Fryxell, dean of the School of Education and Behavioral Sciences, added that the professors serving the program were hand-picked and are all experts in their field. “These faculty-mentors are not only well-versed in theory but in practice, bringing decades of experience to the program,” Fryxell said.
“They are perfectly suited to supporting our DMFT participants as they build on their professional identities in advanced levels of clinical intervention and also grow adept at systemic leadership, program building and consultation to practitioners, nonprofit organizations and healthcare entities.”
Hawkins said the program is designed to appeal to a wide range of students, including mid-career professionals and those who have just completed a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.
Participants, she added, will have access to a strong network of support from faculty members, program advisors and Chaminade support staff. Hawkins also said the coursework—like the dissertation—is designed to stress experiential learning, skills building and leadership development.
“They’ll have opportunities to hone their skills in real-world settings, weaving in unique challenges, complexities and nuances present in Hawaii,” Hawkins said. “And at every turn, we will employ a socially just, informed lens to working with clients while recognizing no two families are alike.”