11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Guardian ad Litem: A Career Option for Student and Retiring MFTs

Richard P. Long, PhD

The Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program provides advocates for children who have been removed from their home due to abuse &/or neglect by their parents. The presenter will address how the program  can best meet the needs of retired therapists looking to transition from working as a therapist to serving families in a different capacity and students who want to enhance their professional portfolio as advocates for dependency cases. This session will clarify what the GAL program is and is not, describe the roles and responsibilities of a GAL, including skills required for serving as an "expert" witness and give examples of typical GAL experiences/cases.

The Science of Family Systems Theory

Jacob B. Priest, PhD

Uniquely focused on how to integrate science as well as theory into clinical practice, the presentation uses science from multiple domains and ties it to family systems theory through the key framework of autonomy and adaptation. Drawing on research from genetics, physiology, emotion regulation, attachment, and triangulation, I demonstrate how a comprehensive science-informed theory of family systems can be applied to a range of problematic family patterns. The presentation also explores self-of-the-therapist work and considers how autonomy and attachment are connected to systems of power, privilege, and oppression.

The Influence of Trauma on LGBTQ Identity Development

John Sovec, LMFT

The experience of coming out is a unique process for LGBTQ communities and the influences of that process can have a powerful effect on identity development. Living as an LGBTQ person in a hetero-normative world can show up as hyper-vigilance, depression, stress, and anxiety, which are the body's mechanism of protection from threatening situations, whether actual or perceived. This process is exacerbated by cis-hetero normative environments where the vast majority of LGBTQ people (87.3%) experienced harassment or assault based on personal characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender expression. This workshop will identify patient care issues that impact mental and physical health of sexual minorities. We will explore the alienation of LGBTQ clients from their family of origin, understand coping mechanisms in LGBTQ identity development, and how by reaffirming the coming out process in a supportive environment, clients can experience more effective care in clinical settings. Issues of sobriety, sexuality, gender, and family dynamics will be explored in this highly interactive workshop.

The Risks and Shortcomings of Person-Centered Dementia Care without a “Family Frame”

Carol Podgorski, PhD

Person- and family-centered dementia care is challenging. Limited knowledge and understanding of the patient’s family dynamics preclude consideration of the complex, interdependent nature of family relationships and how those relationships influence not only the patient information that family members share, but also how they interpret information that gets exchanged with health care providers, and how the dynamics shape the goals of care for which families advocate. Family history and relational dynamics pose threats to effective delivery of person-centered care in a number of important ways including, for example: whether a family member will commit to step into the caregiver role and to what extent; whether, how, and when advance care planning takes place; and whether interdependent family relationships create power dynamics that lead to misrepresentation of the patient’s wishes, elder mistreatment, or family violence. This presentation will: provide evidence to support a rationale for person-centered care approaches to incorporate screening and assessment of patient and family relationship history as a means to better ensure the delivery of person-centered dementia care that promotes safety as well as compliance with legal and ethical standards; and describe the skills and resources needed to implement these practices.

To the Little Boy Inside of Me: Working with Latino and Black Men in therapy

Joslyn C. Armstrong, PhD
Isaias Sanchez

Latino and Black men compose one of the lowest demographics to seek therapy. These men face distinct challenges that many clinicians are unable to address in therapy (Harris, 2002).  Strengthening the therapeutic relationship is an important characteristic for men to undergo therapy. Men are often afraid of and opposed to being insecure and relational in relationships due to their masculine socialization toward stoicism, interpersonal superiority, and self-reliance. Being in therapy, for example, requires men to be ready to ask for support, share insecure emotions, and relinquish authority (Good et al., 2005). In some cultures, experiences of masculinity restrict being vulnerable. In Latino culture, masculinity revolves around being machismo, which is having and reflecting a strong masculine pride. In Black culture, men find it difficult to be vulnerable without appearing “weak”. In this society, there are few places for men to be vulnerable and emotional. In this interactive presentation, we will address relational and systemic challenges Latino and Black men experience, and the need in therapy for safe spaces. By creating safe spaces, we give them room to express their vulnerability without fear or shame. MFT clinicians will gain strategies on how to facilitate safe spaces for men of color in therapy.

Tipping the Scales: Systemic Interventions within the Justice System

Erin Schaefer, LMFT-S

Just as individuals operate within a family system, those individuals and families often interact with the justice system.  How can MFTs impact this system?  How can MFTs help justice system personnel understand the importance of MFT treatment and interventions? Understanding the nuances of the justice system, common challenges for MFTs working within it, and how to help individuals and families walk through this often complex and cumbersome system will be discussed.

Tools To Integrate Trauma Symptoms, For Our Clients and For Ourselves

Audrey L. Cook, M.Phil
Rick Bradshaw, M.Phil

Audrey’s work primarily involves multi-generational trauma impacting individuals, couples, and families. Attachment is her focus.  Rick works with clients suffering from PTSD, CPTSD, and Dissociative Disorders.  We will present simple, useful tools for therapists to teach their clients.  Clients can learn to integrate their traumas, and find peace and freedom from intense anxiety, depression, substance misuse, panic, and dissociation.  Over the past 25 years we have  found these self-help techniques very helpful for clients to use when the need for help arises, rather than waiting for their next appointments.  We have also found the work helpful for ourselves.  We have worked with so much trauma, for so long, that we have hyper-vigilant brains.  All therapists working with extreme, early onset, multiple trauma, neglect, and abuse would likely benefit from this set of self-help tools.

Black Families & Body Image: A Need for a Holistic Approach When Treating Individuals

Charlece Bishop, LMFT

Extensive studies focus on body image and the consequences for mental health. Unfortunately, a scarcity of research examined body image within the context of Black families’ experiences. Issues surrounding body images among Black people must be understood within the broader historical and familial experiences in which they exist. Too often, therapists focus on treating Black people who struggle with body image without understanding the unique experiences of Black families. This presentation centers on the history of and role of the Black family as an integral part in understanding how one might begin to approach treating body image issues among Black clients.

12:15p.m. - 1:15p.m.

Interactive Education Discussion Groups

MFTs in Medicare: Why It’s Important and How to Take Action

Keiko Berkon
Neal Sombke
Roger Smith
Nick Zuleta

Join your fellow MFTs to learn why Medicare is vital to the profession! In this session, speakers will outline the importance of Medicare to the MFT profession, as well as those that could be served by MFTs. Learn how to take effective actions to support MFTs in Medicare, including how to call your Members of Congress. Finally, this session will end with a coordinated advocacy action between all participants!

Ethics, Telehealth, Boundary Issues and Advertising

Tatiana Melendez-Rhodes, PhD

This session will focus on clinical applications of advertising, boundary, and telehealth issues as covered in AAMFT's Code of Ethics with specific emphasis on limitations and potential violations. Technology today has profoundly changed the delivery of therapy to clients. This session will discuss the legal and ethical issues in the advancements of technology as it relates to advertisements, boundary issues, and telehealth.

*Ethics CE

Ultimate Mysteries in Systemic Therapy

Christie Eppler, PhD

Clients’ faith, spiritual, or religious beliefs and practices can be both in session and extra therapeutic elements of healing. Marriage and family therapists must be aware of and utilize clients’ belief systems in competent and compassionate practice. There is a need for therapists to learn skills necessary and explore their own biases to foster faith and spiritualty responsive therapy, especially when different worldviews coexist in the therapeutic alliance. From 2013 to 2021, the presenter directed a multifaith, spiritually-integrated Commission on the Accreditation of Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) accredited couples and family therapy program. After brief remarks about lessons learned from synthesizing faith and clinical education, research, and practice, participants will reflect on their joys and challenges of working with clients who identify as being spiritual or religious.  

Where is the Family in Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Other Radical Constructs

William F. Northey, Jr. PhD

Families are rarely included in substance use disorder (SUD) treatment, and at times actively excluded. This active discussion will focus on ways that MFTs can be engaged in SUD treatment, which can range from providing information to families to concerned about a loved ones problematic use of substances to couple and family interventions shown to be effective in reducing problematic behaviors. Opportunities for case consultation and a discussion of challenges when engaging families will be included.

Exploring Experiences of Sandwich Generations: From Sour Pickles to Sweet Endings

Carol Podgorski

Traditionally defined as middle adults who are responsible for raising kids of their own, maintaining their life and working, and also caring for their parents, the “sandwich generation” now cuts across multiple generations. Twelve percent of parents are part of this population and a growing number are under the age of 30. The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to demographic shifts and, thus, altered the stressors and needs of this special group of caregivers. The experiences of the sandwich generation are now analyzed by age group -- 18-44 versus over-45. While the caregiving stressors on marriages, finances, and careers are present in both groups the practical and emotional responses, as well as the resources available to address those stressors, differ by group. The content of this session will include: 1) a brief presentation describing the demographics, needs, experiences, and health outcomes of those in the sandwich generations; followed by 2) a live, structured, and interactive discussion on: a) exploring protective factors in multigenerational caregiving; b) the role of meaning-making in these families; and c) how family life cycle and sociocultural factors shape the lived experiences for these caregivers.

1:30p.m. - 2:30p.m.

THE THEORY CUBE: Toward a Theory of Theory Selection (Matching 9 Systemic Theories for Best Clinical Fit)

Andrew Mercurio, DMin

This presentation helps MFT students and seasoned therapists form a metatheory for theory selection that helps formulate a "best fit" approach for clinical efficacy. The model of the "Theory Cube" will be offered that organizes nine systemic MFT theories for more proficient utilization. Ten clues, that influence theory selection, will be offered to assist therapists to provide effective conceptualization and treatment practices. Strategic; CBT; Solution-Focused; Structural; EFT; Narrative; Bowenian; Contextual; Object Relations

Shining a Light on Student Loan Forgiveness

Keiko Berkon
Neal Sombke
Roger Smith
Nick Zuleta

Learn all about state and federal loan forgiveness and repayment programs in this session! Which programs can you apply to? What are the eligibility requirements? What if I don’t have a student loan forgiveness program in my state? All your questions will be answered in this important deep dive on student loan forgiveness programs.

Supporting Military Families Impacted By Divorce, Never-Married and Step Family Dynamics

Jay S. Daughtry, MMFT

Tammy Daughtry, MMFT

This workshop will cover the following topics as well as include a short segment from current military leaders who use One Heart, Two Homes to help support military families in a variety of applications across the country:


  1. Co-Parenting: communication, sharing time and making decisions between divided parents
  2. Competing Attachments: when love and support of someone challenges our loyalty to another person that we love and support as well (children & adults experience this)
  3. Hand-Offs: a child's physical and emotional experience when transitioning between homes and often between states or countries while parent(s) are deployed
  4. Co-Parent Meetings: compartmentalized communication, pre-planned meetings, utilizing co-parent apps to increase effective communication and reduce conflict and confusion
  5. Five Categories of Co-parenting: looking at the research and how the five categories impact children raised in divided families
  6. Six Risks for Kids of Divorce: explore the specific risks, how to counteract those risks and what are the therapeutic tasks associated with each of the six risks
  7. Individual sessions, groups and seminars: examples of practical implementation will be shared with the attendees as well as how to implement resources while working with military families
  8. A 3 minute video will be shared: “Ten Things Kids of Divorce Wish They Could Tell Their Parents” along with the printed handout that can be used with clients and families.

Bringing the Common Factors to Life: Instilling Hope in Systemic Therapy

Eli A. Karam, PhD

Adrian Blow, PhD

Systemic therapy works predominantly not because of the unique contributions of any particular model of therapy or unique set of interventions but rather because of a set of common factors or mechanisms of change that cuts across all effective therapies. When speaking broadly, we refer to the following five categories of common factors: 1) client; 2) therapist; 3) therapeutic relationship/alliance; 4) hope/expectancy; and 5) feedback. This presentation builds on this emerging paradigm of why therapy works, with a special emphasis on how common factors may be utilized to increase hope in couple and family therapy. We present practical strategies and exercises to build on your previously existing therapeutic skill set, stoke curiosity for the work, and counter against burnout and frustration. Regardless of your level of experience or preferred theory, this presentation is intended to help you:

  • Apply examples and explore how to integrate a common factors perspective around hope into your current theoretical orientation.
  • Monitor and get feedback on hope by using both practical techniques and user-friendly resources.
  • Renew your motivation, energy, and creativity in your clinical work.
  • Improve your existing clinical skills and personal effectiveness as a couple and family therapist.

Addressing the We of OCD: Supporting the Client and Family Living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Kenneth W. Phelps, PhD

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition characterized by recurrent, intrusive thoughts and associated repetitive behaviors or mental acts that often profoundly impact the client’s quality of life. Like other illnesses, the family is influenced by and influences this condition. Recent researchers stress the inclusion of family across the treatment continuum, from diagnosis to implementation of exposure/response prevention (ERP). In the treatment realm, notable literature has demonstrated the deleterious effects of family accommodation on symptom remission even when the most evidence based care is delivered. Thus, latest treatment approaches have insisted on family involvement. This presentation will provide an overview of OCD, including the varied and complex presentations of the disorder. The bulk of this presentation will outline the essential role of mobilizing family alongside the client to conquer the impairing symptoms. The core treatment components of ACT oriented-ERP (e.g., psychoeducation, defusion, mindfulness, mapping, exposure practice) will be overviewed followed by application of these techniques to highly stressed families. Positive Family Interaction Therapy (PFIT), a systemically oriented set of techniques that increase treatment response will be outlined in detail.

Teletherapy Practice: Next Steps for the Field

Jaclyn D. Cravens-Pickens, LMFT

Over a year after the majority of mental health professionals had to integrate teletherapy into their clinical practice, what have we learned and where do we go from here? As a result of the added attention to teletherapy due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic, the field has seen an increase in integration of technology into clinical and supervisory practices, greater publications focused on teletherapy, and an increase in training and educational opportunities. This was a much needed step to ensure that a field founded on innovation and creativity was moving into the digital age. The purpose of this presentation will be to evaluate what we have learned as we integrated teletherapy into our practice and mastered the foundational skills, but then to critically evaluate the necessary next steps with teletherapy practice. The presenter will focus on advanced issues that still require careful clinical consideration and research, including issues related to intimate partner violence, de-escalation of conflict during teletherapy sessions, and assessing for and treating addictive disorders. Participants will learn about how to de-escalate conflict during video-based teletherapy, assessing for intimate partner violence, and current research about the use of teletherapy within the addiction treatment field.

Improve Accessibility of Mental Health Services through Planned Single-Session-Therapy

Arnold Slive, PhD

This presentation focuses on an emerging form of service delivery: single-session therapy, often in an open access, no-appointment-necessary context. As such the focus is on how to establish and provide clinical services when one hour may be the only contact with a given client (although clients are routinely invited to return). Research support for this form of service delivery is outlined, including what we've learned about the frequency and efficacy of single-sessions in our practices. The major focus of the workshop describes a "single-session mindset" that helps therapists to gain confidence that positive outcomes routinely occur in one session. The focus is not on particular model of clinical practice. Once therapists gain that confidence in a one-hour session, they can adapt their usual ways of working to this form of service delivery. While I personally emphasize strength-based, resource-focused forms of practice, single-session therapists utilize CBT, Emotion Focused, psychodynamic and other models. The most important thing is that therapists accept the idea that positive outcomes can occur in a single-session. Therapists who choose to do this king of work usually find it rewarding. This is because clients show up at a moment it time that is meaningful to them, without having had to jump through the usual hurdles of appointment making and waiting to be seen. In other words, the clients tend to be highly motivated. The workshop will also address common worries and concerns that therapists have about the single-session format.

Circle Time: Using Restorative Justice Practices to Respond to Extreme Behaviors

Roxana Kazemi, MFT-R

Zero tolerance behavior management systems are among the most common behavior management systems used in K-12 education. These systems, however, are often  ineffective in decreasing disciplinary infractions. Although zero tolerance behavior management systems aim to be objective by removing a student perceived as disruptive from the learning environment,  the implementation of zero tolerance behavior management systems have disproportionately affected students of color. As a result, students of color are more likely to be removed from their learning environments, are pathologized as disruptive, and, therefore, under zero-tolerance systems receive an inequitable education compared to their white peers.  Restorative justice (RJ) circles serve as a culturally responsive alternative to zero-tolerance behavior management systems. RJ circles also work to facilitate an open dialogue between both the injurer and injured parties by creating a holding environment where solutions to conflicts and problems can be created in a collaborative way. However, implementing RJ circles requires a comprehensive paradigm shift in attitudes towards disciplinary action within the school system and its stakeholders. Barriers include perceived lack of time and resources to implement this shift in disciplinary practices, an entrenched organizational culture within schools favoring zero-tolerance practices, and an inherent lack of knowledge and understanding about RJ circles. One critical barrier in implementing RJ circles is at the level of teacher-student interactions. Implementing RJ circles requires a psychological shift from pathologizing a child to using a  more contextual and holistic lens. Creating more opportunities to support teachers in their development and training of utilizing a more contextual lens with their students can help facilitate this paradigm shift by providing a therapeutic framework to provide teachers a lens to examine student behavior contextually. This clinical program aims to apply Contextual Family Therapy (CFT) principles to develop an interactive workshop that supports teachers in addressing their students’ social and emotional needs, as well as serving as a preliminary step toward helping teachers implement restorative practices.

2:45p.m. - 3:45p.m.

Exploring Counselor Trainees Therapeutic Voice: Training Strategies to Increase Practice Flexibility

John Robbins, PhD

Heather Ambrose, PhD
Matthew Buckley, EdD

Counselor educators train counseling trainees (CTs) to work effectively with clients through the mastery of counseling skills, conceptualization, ethical competence, and cultural humility. Less explicit in the training process is helping CTs discover their therapeutic voice in counseling. Developmentally, CTs evolve from seeking the “right way” to do counseling, to discovering aspects of their character, presence, and deeply held values that powerfully influence the direction of their growth. The presenters hold that strengthening therapeutic “voice” includes being intentional about helping CTs discover and use their inner wisdom to inform professional and personal experience creatively in the personalization of technique. Innovative techniques and approaches towards this end are described and demonstrated in this presentation.

A Trauma-informed Approach for Managing Suicide Risk Among Adolescents and Adults

Jennifer V. Pemberton, PhD

Assessment and management of suicide risk among traumatized adolescents and adults,  the presentation will review standard of care and best practices.  Prevalence information will be reviewed, along with diversity issues related to suicide risk.  Risk and protective factors will be identified, assessment tools and safety planning procedures will be introduced and reviewed.  A comprehensive trauma-informed model and holistic treatment approach will be discussed. Self-care and supervision issues will also be addressed.

The Ultimate Juggling Act: Parenting in a Pandemic

Mudita Rastogi, PhD
Bahareh Sahebi, PsyD

The COVID-19 global pandemic has irrevocably altered communities, families, and relationships. While the obvious medical and mental health impact of the pandemic are frequently acknowledged, less attention is paid to the ways in which parenting processes in families were/are deeply affected, perhaps for a few generations to come.

 Our clients have frequently expressed sentiments like: “We did not sign up for parenting in a world where schools are closed, play dates are a distant memory, college students are unable to make new friends, visits with elderly parents are a dream, women  suffer career setbacks, and screens are our main link to the outside world.” Further, all of these shifts happened at a time when the US and the world became more sharply aware of health and racial disparities, and racialized violence directly impacted people of the global majority.

Using both an attachment and a DEI framework, the presenters will engage in a conversation to highlight the systemic manner in which the pandemic has altered the meaning and the tasks of parenting in every stage of the life cycle. While sharing examples from a diverse range of clinical and everyday situations, the presenters will highlight the challenges experienced by parents, caregivers, and children of all ages. Special attention will be paid to integrating anti-racism, advocacy and diversity in our understanding of parenting dilemmas in times of extreme global duress. The presenters will also encourage clinicians to identify clients’ strengths, including creative ways in which parents have juggled to resist isolation, cope with loss, speak up, and even thrive within parent-child relationships. Finally, participants will be challenged to consider the future and long-term impact of the pandemic on parenting.

Until Death Do We Part: Couple and Family Interventions for High Mortality Health Conditions

Angela L. Lamson, PhD

The earliest practice and research in the field of marriage and family therapy introduced interventions conducted with families experiencing complex health conditions. This presentation captures an evaluation of efficacy for couple and family interventions  with a focus on the most prevalent health conditions that lead to mortality in the United States. These health conditions include accidents and chromosomal anomalies with infants; accidents and cancer among children aged 4-14; accidents among adolescents aged 15-25; and heart disease, cancer, accidents, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza/pneumonia, and nephritis/nephrosis among adults. Results support the need for inclusion of couples and families in assessments and interventions. The greatest chasm in efficacy research is with minoritized families. Clinical attention includes ways to initiate and implement couple and family interventions in the context of health conditions with particular focus on accessibility, retention, and evaluation with the intervention across social locations (e.g.,, race, ethnicity, ability, age, nation of origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, faith).

This presentation, Until Death Do We Part: Couple and Family Interventions for High Mortality Health Conditions,  coincides with a special issue manuscript in the Journal of Marriage and Family Therapy co-written by the speaker and the following individuals:

Jennifer Hodgson, PhD

Keeley Pratt, PhD

Tai Mendenhall, PhD

Alison Wong, PhD

Erin Sesemann, PhD

Braden Brown, PhD

Erika Taylor, MS

Jacqueline Williams-Reade, PhD

Daniel Blocker, PhD

Jennifer Caspari, PhD

Max Zubatsky, PhD

Matthew Martin, PhD

The Special Needs Marriage

Brad Lee, LMFT

What is it? Why does it matter?  What to do when it walks in your door?  More than 18 million families in North America have a special needs child impacting family systems in great and small ways.  The divorce rate among those with a special needs child is estimated to be as high as 70-80%.  Many times suffering in silence, special needs marriages often have no idea where to get the help that they need. This session will sensitize you to the unique challenges that these marriages face and how to intervene with practical applications helping these relationships survive and thrive.


You've Come a Long Way, Baby: The Evolution of MFTs in Schools

Kathleen C. Laundy, PsyD

MFTs have provided clinical services in schools for the past several decades.  But, as one of the newest licensed mental health professions, our training and its relevance for school-based systemic counseling practice has not been as well adopted in education as that of other mental health disciplines who have a longer school tenure.  Schools have historically provided a eurocentric model of special services to students, based on the 1975 Public Law 94-142 which mandated individualized educational plans for students with special needs (Laundy, 2015).  This session will trace the history of systemic family therapy in education, and will trace its evolution in the past two decades.

Laws passed at the beginning of the 21st century began to invite more systemic ways of boosting student achievement and resiliency through the development of social and emotional learning initiatives and other multi-tiered systems of support (Laundy, Goodman-Scott, Betters-Bubon & Donohue (2017). In 2008, Connecticut passed the first US legislation certifying MFTs for full time employment in schools, and several states have followed suit since then to enact certification legislation.  MFTs have also increasingly joined schools as contracted clinicians from local social agencies and private practice.  Further, in 2017, our AAMFT Family Therapy in Schools Topical Interest Network was established.  Through Zoom bimonthly interview sessions and a Spotlight Newsletter, the TIN has tracked and fostered the growth of systemic practice in education.  It now has a membership that exceeds well over three hundred.  This session will summarize the various ways we have learned how systemically trained clinicians are engaged in collaborative school-based practice in the U.S.

Over the past two years, the coronavirus pandemic and current social justice events have raised significant public awareness of systemic variables that challenge academic success.  Examples include family access to technology, and ethnic and racial barriers to adequate transportation and child care.  It is an opportune time for systemically trained clinicians to join multidisciplinary health partners more actively in schools in order to help students, educators and families thrive.  This session will advocate for the timely growth of school-based family therapist/counselor partnerships with schools.

Taming the Three-headed Dragon: Childhood Trauma, Couple Distress, and Addiction

Bonnie K. Lee, PhD

Adverse childhood experiences (ACE) are highly associated with substance use, gambling and mental health problems. Couple therapists can play a key role in treating addictive disorders and interrupting the patterns of ACE through working with the couple unit. The theoretical framework and systemic interventions of Congruence Couple Therapy, built on the foundation of Satir’s work, will be discussed using case examples. Empirical evidence of the model’s effectiveness will be presented.

Ethics and Court Procedures

Amy Tielemans, MA

This session will focus on clinical applications of court procedure issues as covered in AAMFT's Code of Ethics with specific emphasis on limitations and potential violations. MFTs must comply with all applicable laws but specific circumstances may obfuscate this strict requirement. This session will address the legal process in the therapeutic context such as what steps to take when a complaint is filed or when you are served with a subpoena.

*Ethics CE