11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Working with the Mother-Daughter Relationship

Hosted by: Systemic Perspectives Across the Lifespan

Rosjke Hasseldine, MS

The mother-daughter relationship remains one of the most disregarded and under-researched topics in the mental health profession, even though the mother-daughter relationship is inextricably linked to the understanding of our female clients. As Adrienne Rich wrote in Of Women Born (Rich, 1977) this omission has a long history, and with a few exceptions, it continues today in training courses. It is therefore no surprise that colleagues tell me that they feel unprepared when faced with mother-daughter relationship issues. No one has taught them how to work with this relationship. And, with today’s #MeToo movement, too few mental health professionals have been taught that the mother-daughter relationship is central to understanding women’s experience with sexism and sexual abuse/harassment

Mother-Daughter Relationship therapy provides mental health professionals with the tools they need to facilitate positive therapeutic outcomes, emotional empowerment, and generational change.

I Don't Know What I Don't Know: LGBTQ+ 101

Hosted by: Queer and Trans Advocacy Network 

Neli Morris, PhD
Mary R. Nedela, PhD
M. Evan Thomas, PhD

This session is ideal for clinicians who are interested in learning introductory concepts related to working with queer and trans clients. This includes clinicians who have never worked with this population, who recently started working with this population, faculty or supervisors who are unfamiliar with cultural dynamics of this population, or anyone else with minimal knowledge of queer and trans clinical considerations.

During the session, the presenters will discuss ethical considerations of working (or not working) with this population, including ethical reasons for referral. We will also discuss sociopolitical influences on queer and trans individuals and tips for creating a welcoming practice. The presenters will provide several resources regarding terminology/definitions and create a brave space to ask questions.

Treating Low-Sexual Desire Couples

Hosted by: Couples and Intimate Relationships

Deborah J. Fox, MSW

This presentation will explain how couples come to find themselves no longer having sex and what you can do to help them reconnect. Common issues that disrupt a sexual relationship will be outlined, the dual control model of sexuality will be explained, and different sexual styles that lead to sexual difficulties will be explored. Practical applications will be presented to enable participants to integrate these interventions into their relational practices with couples.

1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

The Promise of Systemic Interventions for Couples in the Context of Complex - PTSD

Hosted by: Couples and Intimate Relationships

Jennifer VanBoxel, LMFT

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is linked to pervasive disturbances in intimate relationships. This session will synthesize cutting edge research for C-PTSD intervention and detail how a systemic approach is uniquely equipped to treat the underlying components of C-PTSD. This trauma-informed session will present key evidence-based interventions for clinical practice with couples in the context of C-PTSD.  Finally, this session will guide MFT’s through the assessment process for contraindications for care and the diagnosis process using the International Classification of Diseases International Trauma Questionnaire.

Reviving a Dying Art: Putting the “Family” Back in Family Therapy

Hosted by: Systemic Perspectives Across the Lifespan

Michael Whitehead, PhD
Alicia Lucas, MA

Oed and Gonyea (2019) recently found that among current students and recent graduates from COAMFTE accredited programs, over 90% agreed that including children in family therapy would be beneficial. They also found that almost 80% agreed that it would not be okay for a family therapist to exclude children from family therapy if the therapist just didn’t prefer to work with children. Yet, over 60% of family therapists actively exclude children from their practices. Many child therapists do not attend to the family system concerns, and instead refer each member of the family to their own therapist (Koocher, 2008). These competing beliefs and practices leave many systemic patterns unaddressed, likely leading to perpetuation of the need for services. Carr (2018) reviewed the evidence of Systemic Family Therapy and found that family therapy is evidence-based, effective, cost-efficient, and short term. As Systemic Family Therapists, we understand the research, and need for a holistic view of clients to provide them the best care possible. This presentation will discuss some of the reasons MFT’s shy away from including children, as well as provide real life examples on how to begin including children in their work.

Kink-Affirming Family Therapy Practices

Hosted by: Queer and Trans Advocacy Network 

Sheila M. Addison, LMFT
Markie L.C. Twist, PhD

Researchers have found that over half of United States (US) adults engage in “kinky” sexual behaviors (BDSM [bondage, discipline/dominance, submission/sadism, and masochism], leather, etc.) at least some of the time, while a significant minority identify to some degree with kink as community or as an erotic identity. For many sexual and gender minority individuals participation in BDSM activities can be closely linked with their experience of identity and community. Indeed, research shows that members of sexual and gender minority communities are more likely to also engage in BDSM at least some of the time.

Despite the prevalence of these practices, many family therapists (FTs) still stigmatize and pathologize “kinky” sex and erotic identities even if they espouse queer and trans affirming attitudes. Indeed, in working with kink-identifying clients many FTs may struggle to understand appropriate therapeutic goal-setting, particularly if they are unable to set aside assumptions that pathologize such practices. Clients in distress may find themselves educating their therapist on BDSM/kink, fending off labels like “paraphilia” or “borderline,” or even hiding their BDSM/kink activities, identities, and/or relationships from their therapist. Even therapists with an open and affirming stance towards sexuality sometimes struggle to know how to work effectively with kinky clients.

In this presentation, we provide a brief overview of the basic practices and rules of engagement affiliated with BDSM and kink activities, with attention to sexual and gender minority communities. We will outline how to appropriately assess  the differences between consensual BDSM/kink activities and nonconsensual sexual violence, and identify when clients are using BDSM/kink practices as helpful healing practices after trauma. We will offer suggestions for helping clients new to BDSM clarify their interests and boundaries with a focus on consent and safety, especially when exploring kink is closely tied to identity development and acceptance. We will also briefly address working with couples and intimate relationships in which there is disparate interest in kink activities. Finally, we will identify clinical microskills in kink-affirming practices and suggest ways for clinicians to recognize and challenge their biases. Clinicians will receive practical tools for exploring this topic further on their own.


2:15 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.

Sex Therapy Beyond the Binary: Trans Erotic Embodiment

Hosted by: Queer and Trans Advocacy Network

Lucie Fielding, MA

Our embodied lives are replete with transition and change, through puberty, pregnancy, illness, disability, and aging. Sex at 70 can be intensely rich, playful, and pleasurable, but it will likely look and feel different than it did when we were 20. Likewise, those who pursue any form of social and/or medical gender transition may observe sexual identity fluidity; relational identity fluidity; shifts in how they experience desire as well as in how, where, and in what contexts they experience pleasure. Too often, as sex coach Susanna Brisk (2018) writes, "our past experiences of our embodied sexual selves get in the way of present experiencing, because those past experiences encourage one to “approach the new as if it were just as an extension of the old.”

 The challenge (and opportunity) of life transitions, I contend, is to engage in “embodied re-visioning,” to mystify—and thereby impassion—our erotic selves anew. Drawing upon current research and the personal as well as the clinical experiences of a non-binary trans sexuality professional, this workshop will provide theoretical frameworks for case conceptualization and hosting pleasure-centered explorations of erotic embodiment with trans, non-binary, and gender expansive clients, as well as interventions and activities to upgrade clinical practice and deepen culturally humble empathic attunement.

First, Second and Third Order Change: Systemic Lessons from the Covid - 19 Pandemic

Hosted by: Family Therapists in Schools

Kathleen Laundy, PsyD
Erin Cushing, MA
Wade Fuqua, PhD
Mike Rankin, MA
Eileen Klima, MA
Sandi Cox

The provision of special educational services in the US has historically been based on a eurocentric model of service.  That is, students with special needs have received Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs) of service since 1975 to help them achieve, based their placement in individual categories of learning inefficiency. Over the years since the US enacted legislation, the emergence of multi-tiered systems of support  (MTSS) was initiated at the turn of the century and has expanded throughout the country.  Health care professionals have increasingly joined school teams to facilitate student achievement and resiliency through family and classroom and other supports. The coronavirus epidemic and recent social justice events have only intensified the systemic stressors that dramatically affect students, teachers and families in schools on many levels, calling for first, second and third order change. Current events provide important, timely opportunities for systemically trained clinicians in schools to create new, innovative partnerships and initiatives to address access to services to help students learn and thrive. Leaders from the Family Therapy in Schools Topical Interest Network will highlight these stressors  and opportunities, as well the family therapists, counselors, psychologists and social workers who are addressing these issues in the US through their multidisciplinary teamwork.

Deep Healing in Couples Therapy - Working with our Inner Child Parts

Hosted by: Systemic Perspectives Across the Lifespan Network

Terry Real

This workshop introduces participants to a new form of couples therapy – one that does deep individual work in the presence of the partner. Most of us, when faced in couples therapy with one or both partners needing trauma work or work on their characters refer these individuals to individual treatment. RLT offers a combination of loving confrontation (Joining through the truth), educational coaching on relational skills, and inner child work that, taken together, produce quick, profound, and lasting change. Who Should Attend? Any mental health professional or coach dealing with relational issues in his or her work. It is relevant to both couples therapists and individual therapists with a relational perspective. Anyone interested in how to integrate trauma work into couples therapy. Anyone wishing to go more deeply in their own clinical work.

Mitigating Barriers to Mental Health Treatment with Foster Youth

Deanna Linville

Saralyn Ruff

Reed Connell

This session will focus on understanding the barriers that former and current foster youth face when trying to access mental health services and what Marriage and Family Therapists can do to help mitigate them. The presenters will summarize the current research literature related to the psychosocial health challenges that current and former foster youth may experience. In addition, they will provide ideas for how marriage and family therapists can mitigate barriers for mental health service provision. Recommended clinical strategies for engaging foster youth in therapy will be shared. Participants will have an opportunity to discuss their ideas for mitigating barriers to mental health care as well as share their related professional experiences with foster youth.

Brain Differences Matter: The Basics of Neurodiverse and Neurodivergent Couple Therapy

Hosted by: Couples and Intimate Relationships

Kelli Willard

Neurodiversity refers to the natural occurrence of a wide range of brain variations and their associated qualities among humans. Neurodiversity is not a social construct - it’s a biological reality backed by science. Neurodiverse and neurodivergent couples represent a large but underserved population. In accordance with the ethical guidelines of our profession, Marriage and Family Therapists should work to increase their confidence, competence, and compassion when working with neurodiverse and neurodivergent couples. Marriage and Family Therapists should also work to examine their own neurodivergent identity narratives, if applicable, as well as to recognize any knowledge gaps or biases. This is an important measure to avoid perpetuating explicit or implicit ableism in case conceptualization, treatment planning, or providing therapy.  Join Kelli Willard as she details:

  • What neurodiversity is
  • What neurodiversity isn’t
  • Brief history of the Neurodiversity Movement
  • Definition of key terms: Neurotype, neurodivergent (ND), neurodiverse, Neurodiversity Movement, neurotypical (NT), allistic, ableism, person-first language (PFL) vs. identity-first language (IFL)
  • Recognizing neurodivergence from the moment of the client’s initial contact to your office
  • Supporting neurodivergence in session via simple accommodations to the therapy environment and therapy interventions
  • Knowing when and where to refer for brain assessments
  • The “diagnose or not diagnose" dilemma
  • How to nurture neurodivergent identity formation
  • Dos and don’ts for couple therapy/Best practices in order to avoid ableism
  • Common neurodiverse couple presentations
  • Common neurodivergent couple presentations
  • Physiological Awareness Scale, Time Out, and modified Speaker-Listener Skill as vital trifecta of early psychoeducation skills
  • Spoon Theory

3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Enhanced Education Discussion Groups

Anti-Trans Legislation and its Impact on the Community

Amanda Veldorale-Griffin, PhD

We will provide an overview of some of the current anti-trans legislation across the United States. The focus will be on discrimination and conversion therapy bills, how those impact transgender individuals and their families, and how MFTs can provide support within clinical settings as well as advocate for our gender diverse clients in today’s society. There will be a brief (15 minute) presentation followed by an interactive clinical discussion.


Using Clinical Skills to Advocate for the Profession

Keiko Berkon

This session explores the ways you can use your learned skills as an MFT and apply them to advocacy efforts to promote the profession of marriage and family therapy. The Panelists will address their own experiences in advocacy, and how their clinical skills influenced their success in a free-flowing discussion.

Discuss the Barriers to Mental Health Treatment with Foster Youth

Deanna Linville

Saralyn Ruff

Reed Connell

Join with colleagues to discuss the complex world that former and current foster care youth must navigate. Participants are encouraged to ask questions, discuss their ideas for mitigating barriers to mental health care as well as share their related professional experiences with foster youth.