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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.


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

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Department News



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.


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


Roberta Waite, EdD, PMHCNS-BC, FAAN, ANEF, associate professor and assistant dean of academic integration and evaluation of community programs in the Doctoral Nursing Department, was chosen as the recipient of the 2015 Pennsylvania State Nurses Association (PSNA) Distinguished Nurse of the Year Award. The award recognizes a nurse who has demonstrated leadership characteristics and rendered distinguished service to the profession. 
The Physician Assistant Program was granted accreditation – continued status by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). The ARC-PA noted zero areas of noncompliance with the Standards.
Lisa Schmidt, PhD, associate director and associate clinical professor in the Behavioral Health Counseling Department, and Veronica Carey, PhD, assistant clinical professor and associate director of the Saturday Scholars Program in the Behavioral Health Counseling Department, have been selected to present a 90-minute workshop on “Community Based Learning – How Students and Community Partners Learn from One Another” at the 12th Congress of World Association for Psychosocial Rehabilitation (WAPR) being held in Seoul, Korea from November 2-5, 2015.  
Julie Kinzel, MEd, PA-C, assistant clinical professor in the Physician Assistant Department, was named the recipient of the Physician Assistant Educator of the Year Award, Pennsylvania Society of Physician Assistants (PSPA). 
Megan Schneider, MAMS, MSPH, clinical instructor in the Physician Assistant Department, was nominated for the Rising Star Award, Physician Assistant Education Association, which recognizes a program faculty member who has made noteworthy contributions to PA education. 
Linda Dayer-Berenson, PhD, associate clinical professor in the Division of Undergraduate Nursing, was recently interviewed by NPR Latino USA regarding pain management of Hispanic men and its associated cultural implications. The story was pre-recorded to air at a later date, yet to be determined.
Stephanie Brooks, PhD, associate clinical professor in the Department of Couple and Family Therapy, was appointed as the new director of the Minority Fellowship Program (MFP), part of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). 
Rose Ann DiMaria–Ghalili, PhD, associate professor in the Division of Graduate Nursing and the Department of Nutrition Sciences, was appointed to a four-year term on the Department of Veterans Affairs Rehabilitation Research and Development Service Scientific Merit Review Board for the Rehabilitation Engineering and Prosthetics/Orthotics Subcommittee. Additionally, a paper that DiMaria-Ghalili co-authored, entitled “Addressing Disease Related Malnutrition in Hospitalized Patients: A Call for a Natioanl Goal”, was published in the Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety. She also presented at the October meeting of the Institute of Medicine on meeting the dietary needs of older adults. 
Elizabeth Jane McCarthy, PhD, CRNA, FAAN, CAPT (RET), NC, PHS, adjunct faculty member, was awarded the “2015 USU Graduate School of Medicine Award” from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Alumni Association for outstanding contributions to education, research and advocacy.
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