Lee News

College of Arts and Sciences Announces New PhD Program


By Ashley Walker

Lee University has received approval to launch its first College of Arts and Sciences Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program in the fall of 2020. The degree will be in marriage and family therapy in the graduate counseling division of behavioral and social sciences (BEHSC). The approval comes from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC) in time for fall enrollment to begin. The Helen DeVos College of Education is also adding a Doctor of Education (EdD) program this fall.

“This program comes at the right time,” said Dr. Debbie Murray, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “We have many gifted public educators, counselors, and therapists in the region who could, through these programs, enhance their qualifications and skills, making it possible for them to have even greater impact on the children and families they serve.”

The decision to expand Lee’s doctoral programs came after a series of conversations that weighed which disciplines seemed the most logical choices. According to Murray, of the potential degrees reviewed, counseling stood out. Lee’s graduate programs in counseling have offered degrees in the helping professions since 1998 and have enjoyed strong enrollments. The BEHSC department shifted from mental health counseling to marriage and family therapy (MFT) as its flagship graduate program in 2011, and it became the first COAMFTE (Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education) accredited program in Tennessee in 2016. Over 100 students have graduated from the MFT program since its launch.

Lee is one of only two COAMFTE accredited MFT master’s programs in Tennessee and will be the only doctoral program in marriage and family therapy in the state, with only two others in the region.

“The primary target audience for the PhD in MFT includes new professionals that have recently graduated from a master’s program in marriage and family therapy, clinicians that are already licensed as marriage and family therapists, or allied professions that could qualify for marriage and family licensure through some additional coursework,” said Dr. Trevor Milliron, head of the program development and professor of psychology.

The PhD in marriage and family therapy will include 60 credit hours and all necessary steps for gaining licensures during the program. Under normal circumstances, the degree will take at least three years to complete.

“Our master’s program in marriage and family therapy is one of the few faith-based COAMFTE accredited programs in the whole country,” said Dr. Jeffrey Sargent, BEHSC department chair. “We believe that our new PhD program will attract students who want to successfully integrate their faith and psychology in preparation to serve in ministry, clinical practice, and the academy.”

For more information about the new program, contact Milliron at tmilliron@leeuniversity.edu or visit MFT site.

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