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Oct 23, 2020
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What is the primary reason one would not choose an online DFMT degree (e.g. northcentral) over a regular MFT (master’s level) on campus, from a local state university? Lengthwise (considering that doctorate requires 1000 post-graduation hours vs 3000 for masters) they seem roughly equivalent, and generally speaking a doctorate is associated with larger salary.

The reasons I can think of:

  • State (in my case Texas) wouldn’t recognize the degree for licensure purposes (although on the ncu site they explicitly state that they would)
  • I wouldn’t pass the licensure exam due to less rigorous education (I can probably compensate for this myself)
  • Employers would ignore applicants with online degrees (if true, nothing I can really do about this)
  • Anything else?
More generally, is any online PhD in any mental health discipline an absolute NO?
 

summerbabe

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More generally, is any online PhD in any mental health discipline an absolute NO?
Hard no for me. If you were a consumer of therapy or had a loved one who was seeking a therapist, what would you prefer or recommend? Programs hold a gatekeeping responsibility for producing clinicians who won't harm clients, practice ethically, and hopefully provide valuable therapeutic interventions. I just don't see how this can happen in a fully virtual setting.

As for why one should not choose the NCU DMFT program, their handbook pretty much states why:
Although students achieving licensure is not a goal of the DMFT program, applicants who desire to become fully licensed as an MFT (i.e., LMFT) may want to compose a plan to obtain licensure, including exploring the requirements of finding a clinical practicum site and supervisor, as well as post-master’s degree requirements for licensure. In addition, as the DMFT curriculum is not designed for licensure purposes (that’s the role of the master’s degree in MFT), students who desire licensure should discuss the education requirements for the state in which they desire to become licensed to determine how the program might support them in meeting those requirements.
A doctoral degree in MFT has no direct clinical value since full scope of practice and licensure occurs at the Master's level for MFTs. This additional degree might help somebody secure an academic position or promotion if their work requires a more advanced degree or be used for (possibly shady) marketing purposes to therapy clients who might not know any differently or maybe just make somebody feel better that they can call themselves a doctor (even though they are still technically practicing as a Master's level clinician).

If your goal is to be a therapist, stick with a respected brick and mortar institution, especially one that has a good reputation and networking opportunities where you hope to practice.
 
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Thank you very much for your reply!

BTW, I didn't want to come off as lazy and/or trying to circumvent the necessary training; it is just that the ROI of an extra long Master's degree + 3000 unpaid hours to end up being paid on a level of an elementary school teacher is pretty hard to swallow, despite my genuine interest.
 
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chicandtoughness

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generally speaking a doctorate is associated with larger salary

Nooooooo.

So to clarify, the PhD in MFT and the Masters in MFT would both be recognized for licensure purposes... you would just get the same license (LMFT) and command the same going rate. For insurance in Texas, BCBS will pay about $75-85 for an LMFT's hour-long therapy session (CPT code 90837), regardless of whether you have the masters or the doctorate. So is it really worth it to spend MORE money and MORE time for the exact same return? You decide.

Please please please read the administrative code for LMFT licensing before you start a program. You will need 3000 postgraduate hours regardless of your degree to get licensed as an LMFT in Texas. If you have excess graduate internship hours (which I kind of doubt, with NCU's program), you can count 500 of those if the program is accredited by COAMFTE. (Btw, only NCU's PhD is accredited, not the DMFT). So at the absolute minimum, you will need 2500 postgraduate hours with the doctorate.

Maybe you could make an argument for setting private pay rates higher because you have a (sketchy online) PhD, but personally I think that's ethically ambiguous and other practitioners in the area will smell your money-focused practices from a mile away, therefore might be harder to get referrals.

If you genuinely love the theory and want to learn more, I would recommend getting your masters first for licensure purposes, and then going back for a PhD in the future at a low cost (or employer-funded), reputable program, simply for continuing education. NCU is not low cost or reputable by any means ($1100 per credit, are you kidding me?!)... don't do it!!
 
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Thank you for the very useful information!
Based on what you said, I definitely won't be pursuing the DFTM any time soon.

So even with $75-85 reimbursement rate, the therapist still ends up making about 40K per year?
 

chicandtoughness

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So even with $75-85 reimbursement rate, the therapist still ends up making about 40K per year?

The 40k you hear quoted tends to be a starting salary. When you first graduate, you will most likely not be able to take insurance (most insurance panels will not reimburse for associates). So you’re probably going to be employed on a salary, or charging very low self pay rates. Once you’re fully licensed, assuming you see 25 folks per week, that’s 25*80 = 2000/wk or 8000/month, but if you’re self employed in private practice a lot of that is going to business expenses, health insurance, and TAXES (set aside at least 1/3rd of your income for taxes, if not more - depends on your state).
 

foreverbull

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For anyone who reads this thread, a DMFT is throwing away your money for no professional gain. It does not lead to licensure to practice at all. I’ve never met a DMFT anywhere in my 10 years of working in various settings, which should be a red flag. Employers will not understand a master’s level licensed person (assuming you get a master’s in another program first) holding a weird/unknown doctorate in which you cannot supervise doctoral level therapists because your degree isn’t a doctorate in psychology—even with your doctorate you can ONLY supervise master’s level therapists at best should you go into the DMFT program with master’s level licensure.

Programs like these prey upon students who have no idea about licensure rules and how impractical and useless getting a degree like this is. This degree is largely worthless, to be blunt, because it doesn’t actually prepare one for research, academia, or practice careers (it pretends to prepare one for practice, except without the ability to seek doctoral level licensure as a psychologist, so you’d have to get licensed some other way as a master’s level therapist in a master’s program!).

Please don’t be fooled by a doctorate that has no state license to practice.

And finally, master’s and doctoral programs that are online are generally poor quality and they accept pretty much anyone who applies which is a HUGE red flag. Churning out a bunch of ill-prepared graduates is not good for our profession, so taking the easy way out (convenience! Location! But they’ll accept my application!) is actually harmful to everyone because it cheapens our entire field and is more likely to translate to poor practice/malpractice, which harms clients. If you find yourself saying “but this program will accept me” when no brick and mortar programs will because you need more experience or a higher GPA, think about why that may not actually be a good thing to pick a program that takes anyone.
 
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What is the primary reason one would not choose an online DFMT degree (e.g. northcentral) over a regular MFT (master’s level) on campus, from a local state university?
I can give readers about 50,000 (or more) primary (hint: $$$) reasons;-)

Average MFT program at state university = around $12-25k
Average DMFT program at [predatory] private professional schools = around $70-120k (or more!!)

Both degrees = the same mid-level license = the same billing rate.
 
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