The State of Systemic Family Therapy

Scott Sells, PhD 
Manijeh Daneshpour, PhD 
David Treadway, PhD
Chris Habben, PhD


Families in Crisis: A Systemic Approach in Treating Man-Made and Natural Disaster Trauma

War, violence, forced migration. Fire, flood, earthquake. The impact of man-made and natural disasters on the emotional functioning of individuals and families and how failure to receive adequate treatment could result in serious long-term effects. Recent global events have raised awareness of the need for effective treatment. Dr. Daneshpour will discuss why a systemic approach is important with these disasters because it goes beyond the individual by examining macro-systemic social and environmental functioning which embraces the extended system within which the family is embedded.

Dr. Manijeh Daneshpour is the system-wide couple and family therapy director and professor of marriage and family therapy at Alliant International University in California and a licensed marriage and family therapist with more than two decades of academic, research, and clinical experience. She is originally from Iran but has lived in the U.S. for the entirety of her adult life and has received all her academic higher education in the United States. However, she has been very closely and deeply connected to Eastern cultural dynamics and has grown to appreciate the very diverse richness of the Eastern backdrop, particularly as it is juxtaposed with her Western way of life on a daily basis. As an academician, she has taught courses in family therapy theories, couples therapy, family in multicultural contexts, and has supervised students’ internships both at the masters and doctoral levels. As a marriage and family therapist, she has provided numerous hours of couple and family therapy to Western and countless therapy sessions to Eastern families. She has trained Western family therapists to provide culturally sensitive couple and family therapy to Eastern families and Easterners to provide therapy relevant to the current Western cultural context. Dr. Daneshpour's main areas of research, publications, and presentations have been centered on issues of multicultural competencies, gender, war and its impact on immigrants and refugees, social justice, and premarital and marital relationships. She has been a keynote presenter for the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, National Council of Family Relations, Minnesota Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, as well as California Association of Marriage and Family Therapy and many other organizations bringing the issues of social justice, ethics of care, gender and power, and multicultural competencies to the forefront of the social science field discourses.

Treating Couples Well: A Practical Guide to Collaborative Couple Therapy

Couples come into treatment presenting a wide array of issues: communication, conflict, sexuality, affairs, parenting, mental illness, substance abuse, multi-generational family problems, etc. Couples often struggle with too many of these issues all at the same time. Dr. Treadway’s innovative collaborative model of organizing couples therapy helps the patients design their own treatment plan. This intensive will demonstrate how to give couples choice whether to work on making changes in the here and now, focus on healing from the wounds of their past, or visit the dynamics of their family of origin. He will discuss how this model helps couples invest in their own treatment, learn how to collaborate respectfully, and tolerate living with unresolved issues while working on changing one aspect of their relationship at a time. In addition to demonstrating this collaborative model of organizing couples treatment, Dr. Treadway will also present a wide range of therapeutic strategies, protocols and interventions for the many typical problems that couples present. A special emphasis will be on how to make “homework” work.

David Treadway, PhD is a nationally known couple therapist and author who has been teaching workshops and trainings around the USA for the past forty years. Dr Treadway is the author of four other books, as well as an award winning author of over thirty articles. He also has appeared on Good Morning America, 20/20 and numerous other television and radio shows, and did host his own radio program on family communications. Treadway considers his greatest accomplishment as being Kate’s husband of fifty-two years and Michael and Sam’s father and now grandfather to Jacob. His family is truly his life’s work.

The Evolution of Clinical Simulation in Family Therapy Training Programs

Learning in family therapy programs far exceeds a simple acquisition of facts and knowledge but includes the development of student abilities to artfully and meaningfully apply theoretical constructs within legal, ethical, and professional standards. Efforts to prepare students for the multiplicity of clinical experiences have often included various methods to simulate a variety of clinical environments, context, and presenting issues. The rapid advancement of digital technology now offers family therapy training programs a unique opportunity for students to participate in a mixed-reality simulation engaging digital characters on a computer screen animated by a live facilitator. Such experiences are not unlike pilots training for various flight realities and challenges in a computer-simulated environment.

This session will introduce the evolutionary efforts made by their program to simulate clinical experience leading to the current mixed-reality simulation opportunties. It will address the real and potential applications beyond student learning such as assessment of clinical learning for accreditation objectives, development of a student portfolio of clinical efforts, use of training for skill remediation, program research and even the readiness of potential students for entry into a training program.

Dr. Christopher M. Habben is a tenured Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy at Friends University and is the Program Director of the MS in Family Therapy Program at Friends University in Kansas City. Licensed to practice Marriage and Family Therapy in both Kansas and Missouri, Dr. Habben has had a small clinical practice for nearly 20 years including service as a post graduate supervisor. Dr. Habben is a Clinical Member of AAMFT, is an AAMFT Approved Supervisor and has held a variety of leadership roles in the association.

Dr. Sarah E. Lyon is an Assistant Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy at Friends University and is the Clinical Director of the MS in Family Therapy Program at Friends University in Kansas City. Dr. Lyon has worked as a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist and as a Community-Based Services Team Leader in an agency setting, primarily serving children, teens, and their families. Dr. Lyon has been a member of AAMFT since 2005 and a Clinical Fellow since 2015, is an AAMFT Approved Supervisor, and has served as Treasurer for the Kansas Division of AAMFT.

Treating the Traumatized Family: A Family Systems Approach

Too often, traumatized children are treated apart from their broader support system of parents, family, friends, or community. The family systems trauma model (FST) integrates structural-strategic theory with step-by-step tools involving trauma playbooks or strategic directives to restructure traumatized child and their families using enactments and new techniques such as undercurrents, stress charts, and an apple tree metaphor. In this workshop, participants will receive concrete tools from the Treating the Traumatized Child book and research studies necessary to quickly engage the parent and child through what are called “motivational phone calls”, diagnoses and assessments through “stress charts”, the use of “trauma playbooks” to heal both childhood and family trauma in the here and now from high level structural-strategic underpinnings. Strategic role plays and video examples from real cases will be illustrated to master the timing and application of these family system trauma techniques along with handouts that can be used the next day at work. Clear touchpoints between structural-strategic theory, trauma, and practical application with handouts and manualization bridge eclectic techniques to advanced integrative practice.

Scott Sells holds a PhD in both Marriage and Family Therapy and Social Work from Florida State University. He has over 20 publications and has authored three books entitled: Treating the Traumatized Child: A Step-by-Step Family Systems Approach (Springer Publishing, 2017), Treating the Tough Adolescent: A Family-Based, Step-by-Step Guide (Guilford Press, 1998) and Parenting Your Out-of-Control Teenager: 7 Steps to Reestablish Authority and Reclaim Love (St. Martin’s Press, 2001). Scott specializes in working with impossible or stuck cases whose families have not been successful with other counselors. Scott was a former Professor of Social Work at Savannah State University in Savannah, GA and Associate Professor at UNLV in Las Vegas, NV. He founded the Parenting with Love and Limits (PLL) model that is being used across the US and Europe. Scott enjoys hiking in Montana, writing, spending quality time with God, and being a husband to his wife, and parent to his twin boys: David and Jonathan.