Monday

Monday

Breakout Sessions 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.

Please be aware that the schedule reflects the Eastern Time Zone. The programming schedule will be continuously updated leading up to the event.


Systemic Interventions to Assist Victims and Perpetrators of Hate and Violent Extremism in North America

Tara Sheppard-Luangkhot, MMFT

Doctoral dissertation research findings will be briefly discussed that provide an evidence base for cutting edge, systemic therapy community and family focused programs to assist MMFT’s to work with perpetrators and victims of far right, Incel, and violent political Islamist extremist hate towards 2SLBTQI+ people in North America. Factors that are important for community and family focused capacity building programs for 2SLGBTQI+ child victims of hate will also be discussed.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session's content, I can understand the importance of Intersectional feminist and Indigenous paradigms when intervening systemically into hate and violent extremist violence impacting families and 2SLGBTQI+ people.
  • Based on this session's content, I can integrate 4 important factors when designing therapy interventions, policies, programs, and supporting community and family systems that wraparound 2SLBTQI+ victims of hate and violent extremism.
  • Based on this session's content, I can consider 4 important factors when designing therapy interventions, policies, and programs for community and family systems that wraparound 2SLBTQI+ perpetrators of hate and violent extremism.

Pathways to Earned Attachment Security when Facing Addiction in the Family

Everette Coffman, PhD, LMFT, LMHC

Ryan Henry, PhD, LMFT

This presentation represents two research studies on attachment, addiction, and spirituality. Attendees will learn about how interpersonal and spiritual attachment throughout their lifetime can be explored when working with individuals and families affected by substance abuse. Original research data from two studies will examine how attachment security may be impacted by spirituality, therapy, and community-based healing.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session's content, I am able to understand foundational principles related to Attachment Theory as it correlates to childhood and adulthood.
  • Based on this session's content, I am able to utilize an attachment framework to analyze addiction and how families may be impacted by substance use.
  • Based on this session's content, I am able to explore strategies related to helping clients learn ways to build attachment security later in life.


The Three-Body Problem: Triangles in Couple Therapy

Jacob Priest, PhD, LMFT, AAMFT Approved Supervisor

In 1687, Isaac Newton proposed what is known in physics as the two-body problem. He asked, “How will two masses move in space if the only force on them is their mutual gravitational attraction?” To solve this problem, Newton used differential equations. He showed that two planets will rotate around their shared center of mass – what we know as an orbit. This two-body problem is pretty straightforward – most students can learn to solve the two-body problem in their physics courses. But the solution to the two-body problem has one obvious flaw – most planets in the solar system interact with more than just the sun. Which brings us to the three-body problem. When it comes to planetary orbits, if we ask the same question Newton did, but just change the “two” to “three,” things get chaotic and very difficult to solve. 

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to state the hypotheses of family systems therapy.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to assess and diagnose common couple therapy triangles.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to know how to structure interventions to help couples be robust to triangulation. 

Grief and the Special Needs Marriage

Brad Lee

Grief and the Special Needs Marriage explores various systemic and complex components of grief associated with raising and caring for a special needs child/family member. From the grief and loss of that “which could have been,” at birth or diagnosis, to the grief of comparison throughout childhood, to the unrealized grief and loss of relationships, finances, opportunities, grief permeates special needs families in often silent and unnoticed ways. Grief is often played backwards as special needs children enter adolescence and become teenagers, and even become adults that are still dependent upon their parents for survival. Part I examines these dynamics and will discuss strategies that clinicians can employ to foster hope and healing for their clients.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to identify immediate grief responses for special needs parents and families.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to identify evolving and long-term impacts of grief for special needs parents and families.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to strategically intervene to provide support to special needs marriages and families experiencing grief.

The Crisis Management Phase of Affair Recovery

Tina Timm, PhD

The discovery of an affair is often a confusing and overwhelming experience for couples. Both partners are often in pain and their existing relational patterns will be intensified. When they show up in the therapist’s office they are looking for concrete guidance as to what they should do and not do to begin the healing process. This presentation is specifically about the crisis phase of therapy when couples have recently found out about an affair. Based on more than 30 years of clinical experience, the presenter will offer a specific structure for assessment, rapport building, and strategies for managing affect to help with this intense relational rupture.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session's content, I can identify potential post-traumatic stress symptoms of the injured partner.
  • Based on this session's content, I can effectively build a therapeutic relationship with both partners.
  • Based on this session's content, I can teach the 80/20 rule of affect regulation.

From Research to the Room: Reinvigorating Your Clinical Work through Application of JMFT Article(s)

Shelley Hanson, MA

Erin Schaefer

Marvarene Oliver, Ed.D.

Too often, practitioners struggle to make application of the leading research produced by JMFT. This two-part session will make use of the JMFT Article, An attachment perspective on couple interaction: Helping couples signal needs clearly and respond appropriately (1 Sept, 2023 by Ryan B. Seedall, PhD and Karen S. Wampler, PhD) to explore how these insights may be applied within the clinical room. Examples, role play, and discussion will be facilitated by the four presenters who bring more than 100 years combined experience of clinical applications. 

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to more fully conceptualize clinical application of the research presented.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to explore new techniques for my clinical work.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to recognize attachment signaling and/or trauma responses with greater clarity.

MFTs in Medicare

Patricia Barton

Join AAMFT staff for an overview of Medicare, how MFTs can enroll as Medicare providers, and the Medicare laws and policies that MFTs will need to know about when providing services to Medicare beneficiaries. 

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session's content, I have a basic understanding of the Medicare program.
  • Based on this session's content, I am able to move forward with knowledge of how to enroll as a Medicare provider.
  • Based on this session's content, I am able to understand Medicare’s laws and policies that apply to MFTs. 

Retirement as Process: Systemic Approaches to Supporting Older Adults Through This Life-Altering Transition

Carol Podgorski

More than 5.6 million Americans retire each year. For most people retirement is not an event; it is a process that requires years of planning and adjustments on several levels – relational, financial, emotional. For some retirement is a choice while others retire due to circumstances beyond their control. For some, it marks an ending, and for others, a new beginning. AgeWave Founder/CEO, Ken Dychtwald, PhD, describes five stages of retirement that can span over 25 years. This session will: 1) provide an overview of the tasks, emotions, and behavioral health needs associated with the pre-and post-phases of retirement as well as the impact of retirement more broadly on selfhood, relationships, and community; and 2) encourage participants to envision opportunities for application of systemic therapy skills in these populations.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to identify tasks and emotions associated with the five stages of retirement.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to describe systemic interventions that can be supportive and therapeutic at various stages of retirement.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to envision opportunities and markets systemic therapists are uniquely qualified to fill in addressing the gamut of needs in the populations of those in pre- and post-phases of retirement.

Transitional Family Sculpting: Resolve Conflict with Creativity and Action; Part 1

Judith Landau

During COVID-19 people found themselves returning to simpler times and primary values, recognizing the importance of connection to family and friends—the core underpinning of resilience. Additional global stressors have increased behavioral, mental health, and substance use issues and dormant relational and cultural differences have escalated, driving a higher need for couples and family services. Clients and families need to gain a sense of control of their lives and environment through models that offer action and creativity rather than talk therapy. This experiential workshop offers an innovative technique, Transitional Family Sculpting, incorporating here-and-now, larger environment/ecosystem, and intergenerational influences. This method provides families with a springboard from their intergenerational survival strengths to apply to both the present and future. They can move forward with vigor, understanding and resolution with the capacity to select their strengths rather than their vulnerabilities. Transitional Family Sculpting grew from Virginia Satir’s original method of sculpting which she described as “a tool for making an external picture or sculpt of an internal process such as a feeling, experience, or perception (Satir, 1964).” Transitional Family Sculpting also builds on Moreno’s Psychodrama, turning family sculpting into an action-based method for clients and families to understand their relational challenges in the here and now and across time it provides an opportunity for them to identify the potential strengths of their current relationships as well as a guide towards the resolution of past conflicts and trauma.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session's content I can describe the importance of understanding intergenerational strengths and legacies.
  • Based on this session's content I can help families gain control of their current situations and challenges.
  • Based on this session's content I can understand the importance of practicing integrative family therapy with the example of Transitional Family Therapy (TFT).

Breakout Sessions 9:15 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.


First Responder Mental Health: Mass Shootings, Cultural Competency, and the Field’s Giant Blind Spot

Angela Nauss, LMFT 

Jason Mills, LPC

Kelly Lynch, MA

This panel will be an introduction to the underserved population of first responders and their mental healthcare. Learn what “debriefing” is and how it was implemented after the mass shooter event in Lewiston, Maine, in 2023. Hear from a former EMT about why cultural competency is crucial to recognizing how this population presents with burnout. Finally, the results of a recent nationwide survey about the systemic factors that put this population’s mental health care 20 years behind the rest of the field.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to describe what “debriefing” is and how it can be implemented. 
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to describe the presentation of compassion fatigue and burnout in first responders.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to identify the significance of cultural competency in building rapport with first responders.


Perinatal Mental Health Basics: It’s Not Just the Baby Blues

Stephanie Risinger, LCMFT

The Baby Blues is a common experience in the first two weeks after birth, often resolves quickly, and is not considered a mental health disorder. What many parents are facing is much more of a challenge. What was once simply called "Postpartum Depression" is now understood to encompass several Perinatal Mental Health Disorders that can begin before or after birth. It's time more mental health clinicians became familiar with these nuanced and often misunderstood mental health challenges faced by as many as one in five pregnant or postpartum women. This presentation is for anyone working with women and/or families during the reproductive years. You will learn the prevalance, risk factors, symptoms, and commonly used treatment modalities for Perinatal Mental Health Disorders.   

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to list three risk factors for Perinatal Mental Health Disorders.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to determine the differences between Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to name effective treatment strategies for Perinatal Anxiety.

Finding the Joy of Grief in the Special Needs Marriage

Brad Lee

Grief is a part of life and plays a significant role in the journey of special needs families and marriages. But it can also be a conduit of joy and newfound experience. We will explore possibilities of embracing grief to find meaning and purpose in the special needs marriage. Helping couples grieve the complexities of special needs parenting can foster new echelons of intimacy creating hope. Part II will explore and discuss resources as well as strategies to achieve effective outcomes for special needs marriages and families helping them from surviving to thriving.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to conceptualize grief as a conduit to connection and intimacy for special needs couples/families.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to identify entry points into the world of grief for the special needs marriage.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to foster and instill hope for special needs couples/families in their grief.

Healing Self and Others: Self Care and Healing Strategies for Front Line Family Therapists

Anne Rambo, PhD

Emily Gonzalez-Abreu

Michaelle Valbrun-Pope, EdD

Two seasoned family therapists with school-based experience, together with along time educator, present solution focused and mind/body healing strategies, to help therapists cope with trauma and build resilience in difficult systems. Experience after traumatic events and with underserved populations will be discussed. The session will be experiential and participants will learn specific strategies.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session's content, I can Identify the effect of stress on everyday functioning, including cognition and physical responses.
  • Based on this session's content, I can identify and practice two solution focused stress reduction strategies.
  • Based on this session's content, I can identify and practice two mind/body healing practices.

A Systemic Framework for Adult Clients with a History of Early Childhood Trauma and Adult Physical and Mental Health Diseases Among Kenyans

Michelle Karume, PhD

This session is curated from a quantitative study. “ Correlation between early life trauma and adult physical and mental health diseases among Kenyans; with a sample size of over 2000 patients, the results showed that indeed there was a correlation between early life trauma and adult physical disease amongst Kenyans. Globally studies on ACEs have been conducted but as the researcher I was interested in the now what? Now that this is true even in Kenya (collectivistic cultures), how then can we utilize medical family therapy as well as the systemic framework to work with the adults but also develop preventative measures so as to curb the issue at childhood. Using a didactic format this session will look at the results of ACEs collected from a Kenyan population. With the results showing the correlation of ACEs on the adult physical and mental diseases, how do we use a systemic framework to promote healing with these clients. The session will highlight medical family therapy techniques that would help meet the needs of these clients. What role does the Kenyan culture play in perpetuating the problem or serving as a healing balm.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session's content, I can utilize the medical family therapy techniques when working with adults healing from childhood ACE.
  • Based on this session's content, I can understand how to use the Systemic framework with the same population.
  • Based on this session's content, I am able to understand how to use culture to facilitate healing with this population.

Doing Sex Therapy with Trans, Nonbinary &/or Gender Expansive Clients.

Alex Iantaffi, PhD, MS, SEP, CST, CST-S, LMFT

When addressing working with trans, nonbinary &/or gender expansive (TNBGE) clients, there can be an emphasis on the initial exploratory and coming out stages. However, TNBGE clients can come to us for a range of reasons and to address a number of issues. As marriage and family therapists, one of these reasons can include tackling intimacy and sexuality issues within their own relationships, yet we might feel unprepared to work on those issues and/or with  TNBGE clients. In this session, I will address some issues to consider when doing sex therapy with TNBGE clients and use clinical examples to illustrate those issues. I will also discuss how our own positioning might impact the therapeutic relationship when doing this work. Finally, I will conclude the presentation highlighting how becoming more competent in providing sex therapy to TNBGE client has the potential to improve the care we provide to all our clients. 

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session's content, I can recognize a range of issues that TNBGE clients might bring to therapy.
  • Based on this session's content, I can identify suitable approaches to doing sex therapy with TNBGE clients.
  • Based on this session's content, I can evaluate areas for further training and development to better serve TNBGE clients engaging in sex and relationship therapy.

Transitional Family Sculpting: Resolve Conflict with Creativity and Action; Part 2

Judith Landau

This interactive workshop will provide an opportunity to practice the technique of Transitional Sculpting. Transitional Sculpting is strength-based and provides a clear pathway for future growth and healing of clients and their families. It is particularly appropriate for families where there may be a challenge of language and emotional expression or cross-cultural issues. This non-verbal process encourages the enactment of feelings that are difficult to express. The technique can be used with couples, nuclear and extended families (blood or choice) and their major support systems. It illustrates periods of successful and challenging transitions with lessons that can be learned allowing for resolution of couples and family conflict. Role play will help attendees practice the technique and come away from the workshop with a new skill.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session's content I can understand how to apply the technique of Transitional Family Sculpting.
  • Based on this session’s content I can see the utility of Transitional Family Sculpting in my work with couples and families who are struggling with cross-cultural, language or learning style issues.
  • Based on this session's content I can apply my role play experience to conducting effective intergenerational Transitional Family Sculpting with my own clients.

Breakout Sessions 10:45 p.m. – 11:45 p.m.

The Impact of Toxic Shame on Sexual Dynamics within Intimate Relationships Among Heterosexual Couples

Rehema Nyambura Gathumbi, MA

Toxic shame exerts a profound influence on interpersonal relationships by impeding effective communication, diminishing self-esteem, and undermining intimacy. Those ensnared by toxic shame frequently encounter difficulties in authentically expressing themselves due to apprehensions surrounding potential judgment or rejection. Consequently, this barrier to communication precipitates instances of misunderstanding and conflict within relationships. Furthermore, the presence of toxic shame corrodes one's sense of self-worth, instigating a pervasive sentiment of unworthiness and incompetence within relational contexts. Such sentiments often manifest as an incessant quest for external validation or reassurance, thereby placing  unimaginable strain on the relational bond between partners. Additionally, the fear of vulnerability prevailing amidst individuals grappling with toxic shame hinder the cultivation of intimacy and trust within the relationship. Negative self-dialogue and self-criticism further exacerbate this cycle of negativity within the relational dynamic. Moreover, the phenomenon of toxic shame frequently fosters codependent behaviors, wherein individuals seek external validation to compensate for internal deficits in self-worth. Consequently, trust-related issues often emerge, fueled by past experiences of betrayal or abandonment, thereby obstructing the formation of deep, meaningful connections. Effective mitigation of toxic shame necessitates a multifaceted approach encompassing transparent communication, empathic understanding, and access to professional therapeutic interventions aimed at cultivating self-compassion and engendering healthier relational dynamics.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session's content, I can learn the intersection of shame and sexual trauma.
  • Based on this session's content, I can understand how shame shows up in the body and its effects the clients sexual relationships.
  • Based on this session's content, I can help clients manage their toxic shame through treatment interventions by use of: Mindfulness; Somatic Exercises; and Acceptance & Commitment Therapeutic Approach.

Emergent Love Model, an Antidote to Love Confusion 

Sara Nasserzadeh, PhD DIp PST CSC AMFT

This talk is based on a new internationally acclaimed book: 'Love By Design, 6 Ingredients to Build a Lifetime of Love'. It will revolutionize the way we experience and express love by introducing a new model of love that is based on two decades of research and more than 20 years of working with couples and individuals across 41 countries. 
"Emergent Love" is an antidote to love confusion that many of our clients grapple with. Emergent love model is not just a clinical observation, it will delve into 6 key ingredients that are needed in any thriving relationship from bedrooms to the boardrooms. The audience will walk away with a fresh perspective on overly used terms such as: love, respect, attraction, vision, loving behaviors, compassion and trust to name a few. This presentation will be interactive and offers practical tools to be used by providers who work with individuals and couples. For more information please refer to www.lovebydesignbook.com 

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to distinguish between various models of love including submergent and emergent love models. 
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to work with various relational configurations (8 common configurations that modern couples find themselves in). 
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to name 6 ingredients that are critical to build any thriving relationship and have new, clear and practical definitions for each to put into practice with the couples and individuals I work with. 

Sexual Satisfaction: Exploring the Role of Flow 

Emily Jamea, PhD, LMFT, LPC

Low sexual desire remains one of the most complex issues that couples and sex therapists treat. Traditional therapeutic interventions fail to give couples the state of erotic transcendence they long to experience. My book Anatomy of Desire: Five Secrets to Create Connection and Cultivate Passion based on my own published research gives clinicians a fresh way of conceptualizing and treating issues around sexual desire and satisfaction. My study was the first to quantitatively examine the relationship between flow state and sexual satisfaction among couples in long-term relationships. Drawing from research across an array of psychological fields such as mindset, curiosity, embodiment, attachment, and positive psychology, I developed a five-factor approach (sensuality, curiosity, adaptability, vulnerability, and attunement) that weaves together flow science with sexuality. My model gives clinicians a new and effective way to help their clients have happier and more meaningful emotional and sexual relationships.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to distinguish between varying degrees of sexual satisfaction when evaluating and treating clients.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to implement five strategies of helping their clients optimize sexual satisfaction.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to identify the 8 components of flow and understand how to apply them to sexual pleasure.

The Thriving Therapist: Practical Burnout Prevention for Busy MFTs 

Diane Gehart, PhD, LMFT

Therapist burnout is at an all-time high post-pandemic. In recent surveys, 46% of all mental health clinicians reported significant levels of anxiety, and 37% reported planning to leave the field by 2028 due to burnout and pay. In this session, we will explore the dynamics fueling therapist burnout in contemporary practice. Additionally, we will identify practical options for preventing burnout, including professional consultation, advanced training, mini-wellness practices, and lifestyle considerations. 

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to develop simple daily habits to prevent burnout.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to identify several options for avoiding compassion fatigue.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to describe the clinical implications for clients who work with burned out therapists.

Illuminating Unique Cultural Experiences of African American Individuals at the Intersection of their LGBTQ+ Identities 

A'Lyric Miles, PhD

This study explored mental health difficulties within the African American LGBTQ+ community, emphasizing the intersection of race and sexual orientation and its impact on mental health professionals amidst societal biases. The goal was to systematically address social and structural issues, aiming to reduce mental health disparities in this marginalized population. Utilizing the Interpretative Phenomenological Approach (IPA), this study investigated the lived experiences of African American LGBTQ+ individuals seeking mental health services. It posed critical questions to reveal perceptions of stigma and strengths, ultimately reshaping the narrative between this community and mental health professionals. The theoretical frameworks highlighted unique challenges encountered by the African American LGBTQ+ community, addressing disparities shaped by historical oppression, familial rejection, and religious complexities. By examining the intersection of racial and sexual orientation identities, this study hoped to provide insights for mental health professionals and contribute to creating inclusive and culturally competent care environments. Four themes emerged from the researched data: African American Cultural Nuances’, Being “Black and Queer”, Accessibility: Barriers to Access and Clinical Growth. Clinical Implications of the results were for Systemic Family Therapist and the African American LGBTQ+ community.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session's content, I can understand the lived experiences of the African American LGBTQ+ Community when seeking mental health services , and how they make meaning of those experiences.
  • Based on this session's content, I can understand how these experiences change the narrative of the relationship between the African American LGBTQ+ community and the mental health profession.
  • Based on this session's content, I can understand the lived experiences of the African American LGBTQ+ community.

Epic Journeys: Harnessing Geek Culture in Your Therapy Practice

Mark Holt, LMFT

Geek culture, encompassing elements from anime to comic books and more, is growing at an exponential rate and increasingly influencing the clients we encounter in therapeutic settings. In this session, you will explore the importance of understanding your clients' geek-related interests and how this knowledge can contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of their identities.
By examining who our clients connect with, how they spend their time, which stories connect with them, and which characters resonate with them, therapists can leverage these insights to foster a deeper therapeutic connection. Utilizing the metaphors and strengths inherent in both our own and our clients' geek fandoms, we can facilitate systemic changes that align with their existing passions. Geek culture resonates with so many diverse populations because it touches on fundamental human experiences—emotions, relationships, and personal journeys. These elements provide clients with relatable models and roadmaps, enhancing their hope for healing and achievement of therapeutic goals. By integrating geek culture into our practice, we can create more effective and engaging therapeutic interventions.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session's content, I can describe Geek Therapy.
  • Based on this session's content, I can gain an understanding of how to use Geek Culture as a therapeutic tool to connect with clients.
  • Based on this session's content, I can develop strategies to address and challenge the stigma and stereotypes often associated with geek culture, promoting a more inclusive and respectful therapeutic environment.

Breakout Sessions 1:15 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.

Compassionate Relational Supervision: Feel Better, Know Better, Do Better 

Bethany Suppes, PhD

This training will summarize the existing literature and methodology of compassion-focused therapy supervision. Rooted in kindness, curiosity, and accountability, this presentation builds on this with an integration of CFT and FST-driven model of supervision, providing a beneficial method of addressing trainee clinical skill development, ethical decision-making, and self-of-the-therapist insight with an emphasis on nonjudgmental curiosity. These are the core features of an AAMFT-approved supervisor's work, leading through isomorphic influence with trainees. While there is minimal published information on a specifically compassionate systemic version of the supervision modality, the speaker will include defining features that such an integration would have. She will also provide a case example when the speaker has utilized this approach.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session's content, I can identify three qualities of CFT supervision that distinguish it from other supervision approaches.
  • Based on this session's content, I am able to provide three compassionate contextualization questions/statements for my trainees in compassion-based supervision.
  • Based on this session's content, I am able to identify compassion-driven concepts that allow a supervisor to address a trainee's self-of-the-therapist without wandering into the role of being their therapist.

Is It Trauma? A Systemic Approach to the Refugee Experience 

Tanya Elez, PhD, Registered Psychologist and Registered Marriage and Family Therapist

As numbers of refugees around the world continue to grow, their mental health needs are being severely underserved. In spite of the field’s significant advances in trauma counseling, mental health professionals are often hesitant to work with refugee trauma. Too narrow psychological focus inherent in many dominant trauma therapies is partly to blame. Adequate treatment of refugee trauma requires a broader understanding of client context, calls for a true systemic approach and involves competencies that can be learned by most mental health practitioners. Prepared by a professional who immigrated from a war affected country and worked with various refugee communities for over 25 years, this presentation offers comprehensive information about refugee experience including practical suggestions for treating refugee trauma. 

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session's content, I am able to develop a better understanding of refugee mental health concerns.
  • Based on this session's content, I am able to learn about the larger context of refugee experience.
  • Based on this session's content, I am able to expand my conceptual and intervention skills in order to adequately respond to refugee trauma.

Resiliency Through Relationship - Understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences

Tara Byers, EdD, NCC, LPC, ACS

The current training is designed to provide foundational information on developmental trauma and its’ impact on children, caregivers, and parenting (Porges, 2017). The goal of the training is to support clinician understanding of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and their impact on human development (Feliti et al, 1998). Clinician and caregiver attunement/responsiveness will be explored as an important focus of clinical intervention pivotal in the development of resiliency and treatment progress. The hand model of the brain (https://drdansiegel.com/) will be reviewed to conceptualize autonomic nervous system state changes. Finally, the 3 Rs (Regulate, Relate, Reason) (https://www.neurosequential.com/) and the window of tolerance will be explored to support clinician intervention effectiveness with children and families who have experienced developmental trauma (Ford & Courtois, 2016).

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to identify the 10 adverse childhood experiences and their impact on wellness.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to use the 3 Rs to intervene with family members.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to describe the importance of maintaining my own window of tolerance in working with family members.

Access MFTs: Advancing Licensure Portability

Amanda Darnley

Join AAMFT staff for an overview of the Access MFTs effort focused on easing barriers in licensure portability. Highlighting efforts from the 2024 legislative session and looking ahead to the plans for 2025, this session will highlight the ways MFTs can get more involved in this initiative.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session’s content, I can identify methods of licensure portability.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to understand the impacts that barriers to licensure portability have on MFTs and our client communities.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to understand the licensure requirement differences between states and potential barriers that impact multi-state or secondary licensure.

Neurodiversity and Stress: Working with Divergence 

Misty Schmidt, MS

Federico Mendez, MS

Anne Rambo, PhD

Neurodivergent young people, such as those who are autistic and/or ADHD, often perceive and process sensory information, social cues, and emotional signals differently than their neurotypical peers. Their unique neurological profiles can make them more susceptible to stress and trauma, especially when their environment is not adapted to their needs. These differences can also cause issues in relationships. Special attention needs to be given by school-based family therapists, as well as other family therapists working with young people, families, and couples. 

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session's content, I can better understand neurodiversity, including common traits and behaviors associated with conditions like ADHD and autism.
  • Based on this session's content, I am able to use practical skills and strategies to adopt a trauma-informed approach when working with neurodivergent young people and their families.
  • Based on this session's content, I can facilitate self-care strategies tailored for neurodivergent clients.

Breakout Sessions 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Person-of-the-Therapist-Training (POTT): A Resource for Emotionally Focused Couple Therapists

Senem Zeytinoglu Saydam, PhD, LMFT, AAMFT Approved Supervisor, EFT Trainer

Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT) is a therapy model developed based on the premise that couples get stuck in vicious cycles fueled by their underlying primary emotions and unmet attachment needs (Johnson, 2004). As the negative cycle progresses, it becomes more difficult for the partners’ to show their vulnerability; they resort to criticism, contempt and stonewalling. Therapists utilize EFT interventions for naming, validating, reflecting and heightening the emotions and unmet attachment needs underneath the couples’ negative cycle. These interventions are used to cultivate the partners’ vulnerability and capacity to become a secure base for each other. Application of these interventions requires the EFT therapists to stay in touch with and regulate their own emotions, especially when the tension increases in the sessions. Thus, therapists need to have access to tools helping them to regulate their own emotions in sessions while still staying open and vulnerable to their clients. Person-of-the-Therapist Training model (POTT; Aponte and Kissil, 2016) is a guide to effectively use the self in therapy. POTT model emphasizes the importance of increasing the therapists’ understanding, awareness and acceptance of their own personal issues in order to create a more empathic connection with their clients. Since all human beings regardless of their background have their own struggles, hang-ups and insecurities, POTT model highlights how these factors can be used as tools by the therapists in the therapeutic relationship to understand their clients’ experiences and be present with them during the therapeutic journey. In this workshop, the presenter aims to create a roadmap for the therapists interested in working from an EFT perspective for using the POTT model as a tool to enhance their connection to their clients and effectiveness of their interventions.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to become more aware of person of the therapist struggles that I bring to my sessions.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to increase my understanding of the EFT and POTT models.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to have a roadmap for the therapists interested in working from an EFT perspective for using the POTT model.

I'm Rooted and Grounded: How to Develop and Maintain an MFT Professional Identity

Tia Crooms, PhD, LMFT

In this proposed presentation I will highlight the meaning of an MFT professional identity, common barriers to professional identity (i. e. imposter syndrome), and the importance of early networking and connection within our field (i.e. AAMFT student membership, volunteering, local MFT community connections, etc.). I will also address the importance of ongoing supervision and factors to consider when choosing a supervisor.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session's content, I am able to identify three barriers to maintaining an MFT professional identity.
  • Based on this session's content, I am able to determine three action steps to deepen my MFT professional identity.
  • Based on this session's content, I am able to understand the importance of supervision in developing and maintaining a healthy MFT professional identity.

The Impact of Acute Stress, and Adjustment Related Disorders on Black and Brown Romantic Love Relationship 

April Lancit, LMFT

We will explore the impact of Acute stress, and Adjustment related disorders on black and brown romantic love relationship. We will also explore social constructs in black and brown romantic relationships that refer to the beliefs, attitudes, and norms that are influenced by society and culture when black and brown couples couple.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to: learn similarities of acute stress, and adjustment related disorders on the impact and presentations of black and brown couples in treatment.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to: learn social constructs that impact black and brown couples as it relates to their romantic relationships when compared to the dominant culture.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to:learn the implications of racial trauma and toxic stress placed upon black and brown couples within the context of their romantic relationships and within themselves.

Narratives of the Combat-Affected Couple 

Michael Baumann, PhD, LMFT

The topic of my dissertation/presentation is "When the warrior comes home: The traumatic relationship experiences of the combat-affected couple. The research question is, "How do combat-affected couples describe their traumatic, transdiagnostic, systemic experiences. Each couple consisted of a combat veteran who was diagnosed with PTSD and/or another mental health diagnosis that correlates with return from deployment. The narratives of the intimate partners also confirm they have their own traumatic experiences happening as well. This affects the individuals, and systemically affects the relationship. Based on the assumption that the trauma is affecting the couple bi-directionally, the relationship between the combat veteran and the intimate partner was explored. Finally, the participants were asked, "What do you want communities/professionals to know?" The results will be shared with the attendees.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to identify complex, traumatic behaviors in the combat-affected couple.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to empathize with their trauma, without being an expert.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to understand the combat-affected couples’ ideas for support.

Telehealth: The Acceptance and the Advances  

Kat Derrig-Palumbo, MFT, PhD

Online Therapy is an effective medium for using systemic based family therapy approaches and interventions with a broad spectrum of clients. Through lecture, demonstrations, interactive activities and case presentations, attendees will learn cutting edge marketing tools and effective systems based Online Family Therapy to legally and ethically better serve the growing population of clients using the Internet. Lecture and discussion will highlight some of the most effective systemic clinical approaches, theories and interventions when using Online Therapy. Attendees will learn interventions suggested from theorists and practicing clinicians successfully adapting systemic interventions to Online Therapy, including integrated family therapy. Case presentations will highlight strategies for prevention and intervention of a variety of issues, especially that work well with transnational families, adolescent drug abuse, and school-based family therapy. The final part of this session will incorporate effective marketing and business tools for their practice as well as allow attendees to ask questions and discuss specific applications and future implications for preparing family therapists to manage their practices using the Internet. Final discussion includes current legal and ethical challenges represented by state boards and implications for preparing family therapists for future technology advances.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to see the change in Telehealth over the past four years.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to identify and understand changes and advances.
  • Based on this session’s content, I am able to apply basic skills to using Online Therapy/Telehealth.