Current Winner

Carl A. Whitaker Award

The Carl A. Whitaker Award is given to an MFT who has distinguished themselves by contributing to the field of Marriage and Family Therapy in creative or innovative ways. It is named after Carl Whitaker because he was a pioneer in the marriage and family therapy field. Through his experiential family therapy, he was personally engaged in helping families bring about change and flexibility in the family system.

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Deb Polacek

Deb Polacek is a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) in Wisconsin. She has worked within the field since 2011 and trained to be an Approved Supervisor with the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) in 2014. She is recognized by the state’s Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) as a pre-approved supervisor and currently mentors AAMFT supervisor candidates. She maintains membership as an AAMFT Clinical Fellow and APA Associate.

After many years in program administration, teaching courses, overseeing urgent care clinicals, and operating a private practice, Deb Polacek decided to step into the role of Associate Dean and Program Director for Edgewood College’s Marriage and Family Therapy graduate program. In this role, she has enhanced the quality of therapy training while growing community mental health support throughout the state of Wisconsin. For 2023, she is excited to receive the coveted Carl A. Whitaker Award for her contribution to the field.

Prior to entering this field, many influences were at play guiding Deb Polacek’s journey. For more than 10 years, she was an independent page layout and design computer consultant collaborating with renowned national and international companies. Her passion for supporting women in business led her to host special events and monthly networking groups at local businesses. She is quick to say that her most impactful experience, her largest area of growth, and her most meaningful role continues to be, being a mother to two beautiful human beings.