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Couple and Family Therapy Department

Diversity Thrives Here

Internationally recognized faculty train culturally aware and culturally sensitive therapists dedicated to serving a diverse client base.

Couple and Family Therapy Department

The Couple and Family Therapy Department prepares students to succeed in today's mental health environment through quality education and clinical preparation. 

We train therapists to be both culturally aware and culturally sensitive. Through our programs, students build an excellent foundation on which to build their future careers in couple and family therapy within the context of a highly culturally diverse marketplace.  

Our internationally recognized faculty are highly respected with expertise in areas such as Culture, Trauma, Medical Family Therapy, Health Policy, Supervision and Training, Forensic Family Therapy, Divorce Mediation, Substance Abuse, Youth and Family Violence, Sex Therapy, Interdisciplinary Healthcare Initiatives, LGBT and Mixed Orientation relationships and EFT.

We invite you to explore the degree programs and certificate programs offered through this department that will help you begin or elevate your career in individual, couple and family therapy. Please explore our web pages for a wealth of information about our programs, students, faculty, research and clinical practice.

Selected MFT applicants are eligible for our Dean’s Scholarship. Additional funding opportunities for MFT and PhD applicants can be found at the AAMFT Research & Education Foundation's Minority Fellowship Program webpage.

Programs

Master of Family Therapy Degree Program
Family therapy: from family of origin to the global community.

Post-Master's Certificate Program in Couple and Family Therapy
Continue your education in couple and family therapy with Drexel's innovative professional training programs.

Post-Graduate Certificate Program in Medical Family Therapy
The Post-Graduate Certificate Program in Medical Family Therapy bridges gaps in the healthcare system.

Doctoral Degree Program in Couple and Family Therapy
The PhD Program in Couple and Family Therapy will prepare you for a career in academia, research, and behavioral healthcare.

Couple and Family Therapy Faculty

View Profiles

Department News

 

01/19/16

Since 2013, the Couple and Family Therapy Department has built a relationship with the LGBTQA Student Center at Drexel – from providing student volunteers to developing more understanding clinician advocates. There to oversee the blossoming partnership, enhancing it along the way, was Christian Jordal, PhD, associate director of the Master in Family Therapy Program.

Jordal was a member of the faculty, staff and alumni committee that brought the LGBTQA to life two years ago. “We were tasked with increasing visibility and support for LGBTQA identifying students. In the time we’ve been at it, the department assisted in the creation of the first LGBTQA Student Center at Drexel, which is on main campus,” said Jordal.

His role in the committee aligned naturally with his academic, research and clinical interests all of which meld in the area of LGBTQ identification and relationships. “Being involved in the committee allowed me to further my work in a subject I was interested in, as well as serve an important part of the Drexel community.”

Once the Center was established, Jordal began to see it as a valuable learning opportunity for students in the Master in Family Therapy Program – a program with cultural competency and social justice at the core of its mission. “We want to graduate students who understand how to assess and work with issues of identity, however they are defined; who take advocacy beyond the therapy room to promote justice within the larger society; and who recognize that none of us is perfect,” said Jordal. “Our graduates are mindful of who they are as clinicians and how that informs their work.”

So how does the program support the development of such future clinicians? In order to graduate, students must complete a social justice experience where they serve for approximately 40 hours over the course of two years, doing something to immerse themselves in a community that may be unfamiliar to them. Jordal said, “Ultimately, it’s a non-clinical experience, but our goals is to increase their awareness of others.”

Jordal established a student volunteer relationship with the LGBTQA Student Center, which allows students to accrue those hours at this location, building their experience level and familiarity with the resources available to the community. They are provided with training on how to be an ally and work with LGBTQ students each term, and they hold office hours and interact with the faculty, staff and students utilizing the center.

The student volunteers are benefitting from the experience as much as the Drexel LGBTQA community has benefitted from the Center’s presence on campus. “One of the steps to become culturally competent and socially just as a clinician is to recognize that we as clinicians must develop our own knowledge and understanding rather than burdening our clients with educating us on how they identify,” said Jordal.  “So many of our students are aware of what’s going on in U.S. culture around LGBTQ issues, and they’re curious about that, but they may not necessarily have a lot of knowledge of what it might mean to identify within those communities, nor the discrimination or oppression that those individuals oftentimes experience. It’s something they need to be aware of to develop the base knowledge to best work with LGBTQA clients.”

Jordal believes Drexel as a whole is devoted to increasing connections to others, whether it’s in the community in which we are situated or internationally, he recognizes a broader scope as a priority of the University. But he advises that diversity is a two way street.  “On one level this is about our students building knowledge and giving back, and on the other level continuing to support projects such as the Center that increase the visibility of the diversity that exists within Drexel and increase awareness outside of Drexel that we are a University which promotes inclusion and diversity.”
 

10/26/15

Nicole McKinney is a doctoral candidate in her fifth year of the Couple and Family Therapy Program. Though still completing her dissertation research and internship requirements, Nicole has made impressive strides in the completion of coursework, defending dissertation prospectus successfully and developing her professional portfolio. In 2012, she started working with Roberta Waite, PhD, professor and assistant dean of academic integration and evaluation of community programs in the Doctoral Nursing Department, as a research assistant. This project paired with McKinney’s other research has led to the publication of 10 peer-reviewed papers.

“Nicole truly embodies the work ethic and scholarly conduct we aspire from our professional research students,” said Waite. “Her own ambition drives her to continue with the learning process and is a model for other graduate students.”

McKinney shares her advice on balancing work and scholarship, learning (and contributing) across disciplines, finding mentors and maintaining valuable professional connections.

Q: Tell our Off the Charts readers about your path to Drexel’s Couple and Family Therapy Program. What is your career objective once you’ve completed your doctoral degree?

A: The path leading me to Drexel’s Couple and Family Therapy program was rather unpredictable, interesting and that of divine intervention. Coming from a counseling psychology background in my master-level education with several years of experience working with persons with traumatic brain injuries, a clinical psychology program with a neuropsychology focus was my initial desire. However, as I scrolled through the doctoral programs Drexel University offered, I realized I hadn’t had much educational exposure to the systemic framework couple and family therapy offers.

I yearned to look beyond the individual and recognized the importance of all players of the family. Drexel University’s Couple and Family Therapy program offered the missing pieces to complete my specific mission as a therapist -- social justice, systemic conceptualization, diversity, cultural sensitivity, self of the therapist work and recognizing, extracting and factoring in contextual variables.

Seeking a doctoral degree from Drexel University has set me on a path to fulfill my ultimate passions of: 1. teaching on the collegiate level, 2. continued involvement with non-profit organizations and community outreach, 3. providing therapy to couples and families and 4. participating in research. As I conclude my doctoral studies, the experience and training I’ve received in the program has put me in a competitive position to attain all of my career goals, some of which I have already achieved.

Q: Your accomplishments show that you truly know how to leverage opportunities for professional and educational development. How did you come across opportunities to work with mentors?

A: I was selected by Dr. Kenneth Hardy to work as his graduate assistant for my first three years. Working with Dr. Hardy, a skilled therapist professional, professor and remarkable speaker, assisted in the development of my clinical abilities. Embarking on my personal self-work helped in heightening my self-awareness, uncovering therapeutic blind-spots and refining my voice.

Shortly after the start of my second year, I had the opportunity to interview to work with Dr. Roberta Waite, a renowned nurse, professor, researcher and leader in various community settings. Being awarded an assistantship with Dr. Waite in the Nursing Department for two years permitted me to network across disciplines. Strengthening my quantitative SPSS data analysis abilities, accelerating my research writing skills and crafting/publishing empirical research-based manuscripts were among a few opportunities I was afforded while working with Dr. Waite.

Q: Your work is what some might consider unconventional in the sense that you’ve collaborated across disciplines. How has this work made you a stronger candidate for future opportunities/employment?

A: Working for Dr. Waite has cultivated my professional growth. Her breadth of knowledge and experience of the nursing field (as a nurse and educator) has enriched my learning as to how to be a proficient teacher, researcher and how to build authentic relationships. I have learned by branching out and working with Dr. Waite that the nursing profession and the marriage and family therapy disciplines have many overlapping themes within the healthcare sector. Furthermore, the importance of professional collaboration and building scholarship were elements of success Dr. Waite instilled in me.

The venues of interdisciplinary work I’ve engaged have not only spread across disciplines but also of that of numerous communities. Being a biracial woman has enriched my life and has positioned me to relate to and identify with both privileged and underserved persons. Typically, poverty stricken, racially profiled areas are prey to locations of underserved minority populations. One of my visions as a family therapist is to give a voice to those underrepresented persons who do not have vociferous influence, particularly minority populations. Since 2012, I’ve had the pleasure of volunteering to better prepare minority adolescent females, in grades 6-8, to transition more smoothly into the older teen years with necessary skills to obtain educational, emotional, professional and personal success. More recently, this year I spoke as a panelist in the topic area of “Breaking the Mold: Having Confidence in Your Gift” for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Youth Jurisdictional Youth Department Convocation having another opportunity to encourage young people. However, the most rewarding and empowering outreach experience occurred this year when I participated in my very first mission trip to the Dominican Republic with the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Church of God in Christ (COGIC) missions providing medical support, distributing donated food and clothing and praying for/with those met on the voyage.

I look forward to making further contributions to the field through providing therapy to clients, conducting research, presenting at conferences, and attaining publications in the future made possible through doctoral work with Drexel University.

Q: What advice would you give to other students who hope to build their own body of work? How can they find opportunities as you have? Where should they look?

A: My advice to other students in building their own body of work is to do just that – build your own work. Awareness of one’s hopes, dreams and goals should always be in the forefront when deciding what opportunities to pursue and accept. Pray. Seek counsel from educators, peers, family, friends and community leaders. Network, network, network! You never know who knows who or what and can link you to valuable prospects. Take advantage of opportunities. Yet, be mindful every opportunity is not for everyone. Do not count any potential opportunity out until learning more about it first. Choose those opportunities that best gel with your career path and future goals. Be willing to be challenged. Be willing to take risks and chances. Continually acknowledge it’s a learning process. Trust the process. Understand it’s hard work. And always believe in yourself.

10/26/15

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – a time to increase awareness of the disease. While women who are currently battling breast cancer, those who have fought the disease and won and loved ones who were lost to breast cancer tend to be the primary focus, breast cancer has victims beyond the afflicted individual – their families.
 
Maureen Davey, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Couple and Family Therapy said, “A lot of oncology providers forget to ask if patients have children or partners/spouses at home. It’s understandable – oncology providers have limited time and tend to focus on case management and treating the cancer. Providers may not know how to help patients and their families cope with the psychosocial aspects of the disease. Couple and family therapists can help families coping with breast cancer.”
 
Couple and family therapists are trained to use relational approaches, partnering with oncologists and patients to help children and partners cope with a diagnosis. “In my opinion, breast cancer affects the whole family, not just patients, so it really is a natural fit for us to help them,” said Davey.
 
An estimated 30% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have one or more school-aged or adolescent child still living in the home. Children and adolescents often report struggling with their parents’ lack of availability, which can lead to developmental and psychosocial issues. For older adolescents, especially girls, when a mother has breast cancer, the risk of being distressed is greater. “If mom can’t go to the school play, mom and dad are busy with doctor’s appointments or mom is sick from her treatment – all of these contribute to making the parent less emotionally and practically available, which affects many kids,” said Davey. 
 
Communication is often impacted by a breast cancer diagnosis. Kids may not tell their parents how they’re feeling because they don’t want to burden them, and similarly, parents may not tell their kids what’s going on because they believe if they don’t tell them it won’t affect them. Davey said that although it is understandable parents want to protect to their children, it has the opposite effect. “It often affects them the worst when you don’t tell them because then they imagine the worse possible scenario.”
 
So how can a couple and family therapist intervene? The best practice for helping children cope with a parental breast cancer diagnosis is working with parents and children both separately and then together. A promising program is the Enhancing Connections program developed by Dr. Frances Marcus Lewis,  a University of Washington Medical Center Endowed Professor in Nursing and Fred Hutch research affiliate, which aims to improve communication between mothers coping with breast cancer and children ages 8-12. This 5-session in-home intervention program primarily works with parents to help them talk more openly to their children and in between sessions parents are encouraged to use workbooks and activity books to help illustrate and initiate conversations about feelings of stress, treatment and the mother’s diagnosis. Several randomized control trials support the positive impact of this program on mothers and their children. 
 
Another factor that heavily impacts children is the quality of their parents’ marriage. Parenting can become impaired because of the understandable stress of navigating the many medical appointments and side effects of treatment (e.g., fatigue, nausea), so kids may experience a less engaged parent as well as decreased supervision, lack of consistency and sometimes more hostility. Approximately 25% of children coping with parental cancer will have behavioral, social and self-esteem issues.
In couples where one partner is diagnosed with cancer, there is often less intimacy and lower relationship satisfaction. A leading cause for this relationship strain is depression in both the patient and partner. “When women are coping with breast cancer, it often leads to feelings of anxiety and depression,” said Davey. “A lot of patients are actually still distressed up to three years post-treatment. 
When breast cancer patients are emotionally distressed, it affects how they’re going to relate to their partner. Couple and family therapists can help couples coping with cancer and improve quality of life for the patient and her partner. It makes sense that you’re scared and depressed. How can you then turn to your partner and be present for your kids as you’re going through this really tough treatment regimen?”
 
There are many interventions for couples coping with cancer, in particular cognitive behavioral and psychoeducation models where the patient is the focus and the partner is a support person.  However, Hold Me Tight (developed by Susan Johnson, 2009) which Davey and her team have adapted for couples coping with cancer in pilot studies, focuses on both partners and uses an attachment framework. Five multiple-couple support groups focus on increasing their connection to each other and facilitating secure attachment so couples are not fighting the cancer alone, but together as a securely attached and emotionally responsive couple. 
 
“A lot of couples may not be as attuned to each other and are unable to recognize each other’s needs at this tough time,” said Davey. “We want them to turn to each other and be more responsive instead of pushing each other away out of feelings of fear.” Again, her recently completed pilot feasibility study with Drs. Lynch, Liu and Komarnicky showed the positive impact -- both partners and patients reported their relationship improved and they experienced less stress about the cancer after completing the 5 couple support group sessions of Hold Me Tight.
 
“Couple and family therapists are relationship experts who put the family at the center of healthcare. How can we help support this person and bring in the people around them to help them through this really tough treatment regimen? It can be as simple as getting someone to drive them to treatment because afterward they’re not feeling well enough to drive home.” The effects of breast cancer are far-reaching. Couple and family therapists have a unique ability to help couples and families cope with cancer which is systemic and considers the individual coping with breast cancer in the context of partners and children at home. 
 
Individual, couple and family therapy services are offered at Parkway Health & Wellness (1601 Cherry Street, second floor) and at 3020 Market Street (suite 510). To make an appointment, call 215.571.3409 or email CFTappts@drexel.edu.
 
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