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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.

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

 

08/06/17

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation started publishing the Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) more than ten years ago as a tool and resource to help healthcare facilities become more inclusive for LGBTQ+ patients and their families. Over the years, many hospitals and facilities have earned high HEI scores for their commitment to and demonstration of policies for non-discrimination and equal visitation raising the bar and also helping LGBTQ+ patients find facilities that provide equitable care. There is much more to be done not only to provide unbiased healthcare services for individuals in the LGBTQ+ communities, but to also understand their specific health needs and that includes mental health.

The number of Americans who experience mental illness in a given year is staggering. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that that number is around 43.8 million adults, nearly 60 percent of whom, for a variety of reasons, didn’t receive any mental health services. When compared to the general population, LGBT individuals are at a much higher risk—three times more likely—to experience mental health conditions. NAMI also cites that suicide is one of the leading causes of death of LGBTQ+ people aged ten to 24; LGBT youth (compared to straight) are four times more likely to attempt suicide, experience suicidal thoughts, and engage in self-harm; 38 to 65 percent of transgender individuals experience suicidal ideation; and an estimated 20 to 30 percent of LGBT individuals abuse substances (9% of the general population) and 25 percent of LGBT individuals abuse alcohol (5 to 10 percent of the general population). Mental and behavioral health services for those who identify with the LGBTQ+ community are in great demand, but treatment may not be sought. When it comes to mental and behavioral health issues, they are still largely misunderstood and stigmatized making it less likely to be accessed. And for those individuals who identify as LGBTQ+, they face societal and governmental hostility, prejudice and discrimination on top of the intolerance anyone living with depression, anxiety and other conditions feels in this country.

Christian Jordal, PhD, director of the Master of Family Therapy program and assistant clinical professorChristian Jordal, PhD, director of the Master of Family Therapy program and assistant clinical professor and Anthony Pennant, LMFT, adjunct professor, are doing work within the College of Nursing and Health Professions (CNHP), Drexel Clinical Practices, including the Parkway Health and Wellness clinic, and Drexel University Individual, Couple, and Family Therapy Services clinic and in their own private practices that hopefully will move the needle on these statistics. Both Jordal and Pennant working at specialize in working with LGBT individuals, couples and families. Through their roles at CNHP, they are training the next generation of clinicians in a way that aligns with the historic mission of the department of Behavioral Health Counseling and Couple and Family Therapy, which includes cultural competency, and social justice service. Despite the statistically low number of people currently seeking support, CNHP students recognize and want to address the growing need for mental health services for a myriad of conditions. CNHP’s bachelor’s degree in behavioral health counseling prepares students to start their careers much faster. They’ve had advanced hands-on training and real-world learning experiences letting them walk out of the door as competent addictions treatment and mental health professionals. The master’s degree program in couple and family therapy (MFT) prepares students to build a solid foundation for fulfilling careers within highly diverse communities especially those that are systemically disparaged and unjustly treated.

Jordal and Pennant, both clinical supervisors, are helping their students become practitioners who have the skills and understanding to work with clients regardless of their race, ethnicity, identity, beliefs or values, because they are integrating Person of the Therapist (POTT), cultural competency and social justice, a cornerstone of the MFT program. “We are helping students develop a knowledge of the communities, the people that they are working with and serving those communities,” Jordal stated. “The majority of programs out there, the way in which they think about training their students, is how to be culturally aware and sensitive. We are trying to move beyond awareness to competency,” he added. Pennant thinks that cultural competency dictates that one must have a certain level of curiosity about differences. “When you look at someone, you say ‘Their experience is not my experience.’ Let me figure out how it feels to have a particular experience when it is dissimilar,” reasoned Pennant. When a student is able to think in this way, Pennant contended that his or her mindset is open to change. In Jordal’s words, he believes that students need to develop immersive knowledge about the people with whom one works. He gave an example: “If I’m a grad student who lived in central PA or rural West Virginia or Wyoming, what’s my experience working with or knowing LGBTQ persons and people of color.” The less of a foundation a student has, the more knowledge they must cultivate. “The therapist should be aware of the burden they place on clients to educate them in their identity,” Jordal commented. 

Pennant sees a variety of people for a range of reasons, specifically couples. Anthony Pennant, LMFT, adjunct professor and clinical supervisor Issues around their relationship and what it means to be a couple, how to set up their families and what roles each will play find their way into discussion. It also could be a heterosexual couple navigating their partnership when one feels safe enough and begins to self-express as gender fluid. And if a partner comes out as transgender, Pennant will provide time and space to negotiate the changing relationship.  “There’s such a richness in regards to what’s out there and sometimes it can be confusing,” Pennant suggested. “When people don’t fit in this bilateral world, it’s important to get people to have conversations as to understand that just because normal seems normal to you doesn’t mean that that normal is normal for everyone,” he furthered. He espoused that it is most vital to let people, especially LGBTQ+ individuals, know that they should not be ashamed to talk about what is important to them.
 
Jordal, who works with clients in monogamous, open and polyamorous relationships including those in the LGBT and mixed-orientation communities, looks beyond the presenting issues when people come to see him. “There are therapists out there who are working with LGBT persons of color who may not be having conversations about the intersections of race, culture, gender, and sexual identity because they presume a sameness in the LGBT persons experience, or their training says it’s not relevant to depression, anxiety or issues in their families,” he pointed out. “But I would argue that as a family therapist, as a person who is trained to think about systems, it’s not just about being depressed, it’s about ‘this is a person of color, who may also be transgender, or same-sex attracted, who is navigating the society that marginalized and oppresses him and how do those larger contexts manifest in his feelings of depression?’,” Jordal continued. He concluded that it’s not just due to an organic cause, but also to the fact that he’s living in a society that’s potentially life threatening. “The way our program works is that we train our students to get into those conversations.” Yes, exchanges about differences are crucial in helping one connect with his or her client. But therapists should also look within themselves.
 
POTT—a model created by CNHP clinical professor Harry Aponte*—is part of the MFT mission. “It’s about recognizing that all of us, as clinicians, are wounded healers with our own issues, what Dr. Harry Aponte calls ‘signature themes,’” Jordal remarked. “Harry’s model is about understanding that woundedness and using that as a way to connect with your client. It’s a deepening the understanding of oneself to more deeply understand the client,” he continued. Jordal gave an illustration. “If I am, for example, a gay male working with a lesbian female, how are my experiences of marginalization and oppression something I can use to better understand those of my client.”
 
Jordal made a point in saying that both the undergraduate program in behavioral health counseling and the MFT program are cutting edge due to the fact that students have the skill set to go out and be on the front lines working with clients immediately. The MFT program takes the education further in that these students are being trained to be leaders in the field. “Most programs in my discipline do not train students around issues of social justice,” Jordal shared. “They don’t think about the Person of the Therapist so our students have a level of preparation that really serves them well and sets them apart.”
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How far have we come in healthcare equality for LGBTQ persons? In the 1950s and 1960s, homosexuality and bisexuality were considered mental illnesses and gay men and women were forced into terrible treatments. Attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community have changed over the last 35 years following the removal of homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. However, there are still many instances of unequal access and quality of care. Disparate treatment will dissipate as the helping professions increase their knowledge through better training, higher levels of cultural competency and commitment to social justice. Both Jordal and Pennant see access to treatment growing as well. “Increased funding for research supporting mental health treatments leads to an increase in insurance coverage. And when people can afford treatment, they will seek it out,” Jordal says. And CNHP educated individuals will be ready to work with anyone, especially those in the LGBTQ+ communities because of their knowledge about the specific issues faced by LGBTQ individuals with mental health conditions.

*CNHP is hosting the International Conference onthe Person of the Therapist on April 26, 2018. Harry Aponte is one of the the renown speakers who will be presenting that day. Information and registration for the event is available on the CNHP website.  

07/05/17

 
Producing a commencement ceremony honoring all our graduates is a huge undertaking, months in the making and includes many, many volunteers, but it pales in comparison to the work the College of Nursing and Health Professions graduates did to earn their seat at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts on June 12, 2017. Drexel University Provost Brian Blake, PhD welcomed our graduates and all who taught, nurtured and supported them along the way including their family and friends who made up their greatest support network. He commented about CNHP graduates having a higher level of capacity for knowledge, innovation and most importantly, for service to others. That theme, so deeply embedded in the curriculum of all the programs in the College, was highlighted in the speeches given by student speaker Kimberly Allen and Sueann Navarez-Brown and David Baiada, who delivered the commencement address.
 
Allen stated how humbling it is to be part of a person’s most difficult and vulnerable moments and how important it is to empower patients or clients to make the choices that matter the most to them. “Drexel’s programs have educated us to promote social justice and healthcare equality as we serve our clients in the various wellness/health pathways,” she articulated. She acknowledged that it is necessary to be skilled to be able to perform, but that it is far more important to choose to be present in each and every moment while with clients, to choose to be in service of others. 
 
Navarez-Brown, in her speech, noted that both faculty and classmates assisted each other in becoming the best they each could be by providing outstanding support and encouragement. However, sometimes it did require a gentle and loving push. Benefitting from the confidence professors and fellow students had in each other, she concluded that they are skilled and determined, able to learn from failure and equipped with a sense of service and success.
 
Nowhere is service to others better explained than in the keynote speech delivered by David Baiada. Baiada is the incoming CEO of BAYADA Home HealthCare, a company that brings vital services into homes across 23 states, India, Germany, South Korea and Ireland. Their staff of 50,000 nurses, home health aides, therapists, medical social workers and other healthcare professionals live the mission, vision and beliefs — the BAYADA Way — while caring for their patients. They put their clients first. They value their employees and they believe in building relationships based on trust, compassion, honesty and service. Baiada told a story of a client he called Mr. Jones who he visited in his West Philadelphia apartment.
 
Mr. Jones is an elderly man who, because of cerebral palsy, relies on his electric wheelchair as his lifeline to the outside world. When Baiada arrived for a visit, Mr. Jones took a while to answer the door as his wheelchair was inoperable and he was forced to drag himself with the use of his walker. Baiada carried him back into his apartment and helped him get situated all the while Mr. Jones, clearly agitated, ranted about his frustration. In order for him to safely stay independent and in his home, he uses BAYADA for his Medicaid-funded home health services. When his aide Mary arrived, who is completely in tune with his needs and anxieties, Mr. Jones was finally able to calm down. Mr. Jones is someone who represents so many of the BAYADA clients who struggle day-to-day living because of disease or illness and Mary represents the thousands of people who bring their clients comfort and compassion and facilitate a better quality of life for them.
 
The collaboration and coordination of care people have come to expect from BAYADA is most successfully achieved through interprofessional work. And Baiada noted that that kind of practice is purposely taught and demonstrated at CNHP because it is what is needed when dedicated to serving others. He learned many lessons over his career at kitchen tables in apartments like Mr. Jones’, but Baiada chose three to share with graduates.
  1. Listen closely, show empathy and respond to the needs of others. Helping others starts with a willingness to listen, connect, and tune in.  Your perception of their goals and needs might be biased or distorted by your own preferences, Making the most meaningful impact is dependent on your willingness to take the time to sit at the proverbial kitchen table and listen. 
  2. Set specific goals and work hard and efficiently to achieve them.There is no more powerful force than a clear goal.  You all are here because you set a goal to get your degree, and now as you look ahead, what will your next goal be?  I challenge you to think big, write it down, think about it often.  You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish once you put it out there. 
  3. Be creative, flexible and determined. Reaching your goals will not come easy.  Like the patients and clients we care for, ups and downs are inevitable.  But I always find that those that are willing to think differently, adapt to change with an unrelenting determination will inevitably overcome almost any obstacle. 
Compassion, excellence and reliability are elements of The BAYADA Way and they are also what so many have learned as students in the College of Nursing and Health Professions.

Provost Blake, before introducing Susan Smith, PhD, interim dean, affirmed that the world needs those who received their diplomas that day citing that the long-term health and prosperity as a society depends on how graduates use their education.

Smith thanked graduates for the privilege of learning from them, mentoring them and working alongside them for as long as they had been at Drexel. She acknowledged University administrators and Stephen Sheller, a prominent Philadelphia attorney and Drexel University trustee. Smith thanked both Sheller and his wife Sandra, a creative arts therapies and couple and family therapy alumna, for their support of the College and the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services of Drexel University before presenting him with a gift for his service as a trustee.
 
Honoring accomplishment and excellence continued as exceptional academic achievement was recognized. Students designated Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude and Summa Cum Laude, as well as Pennoni Honors College students and the recipient of the Harold W. Pote “Behind Every Graduate” Award where acknowledged before the specific award winners were announced.
 
  • Harold W. Pote “Behind Every Graduate” Award – Donald Little of Pennsbury High School
  • College-level Outstanding Promise Award – Kendra Ray, PhD (Creative Arts Therapies) and Anniliese Marie Kummerle, MS in Human Nutrition
  • Teaching Assistant Excellence Award and Outstanding Civic Engagement – Leah Tsui, MS in Human Nutrition and Jessica Liu, MS in Human Nutrition
  • Outstanding Civic Engagement – Corinne L. Ellis, MS in Human Nutrition
  • Dean’s Award – Anne E. Woolley, BSN
  • Achievement Award – John Ghee, MHS
  • Community Service Award – Kevin Carrasquillo, BS in Nutrition and Foods
  • Clinical Service Award – Nahidah R. Rahman, BS in Health Sciences
  • Social Justice Research Award – Mariya Kesselman, MA in Art Therapy and Counseling
 
Graduates names were announced by Yasmine Awais, Beth Leonberg, Virginia Wilson, and Drs. Theresa Campo, Nancy Gerber, Stella Lucia Volpe and Linda Wilson with Dr. Michael Bruneau and Lauren Karch assisted with distribution of the scrolls.
 
Doctoral graduates earning degrees in Couple and Family Therapy, Creative Arts Therapies, Nursing, Health Science in Rehabilitation Sciences, Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences were hooded by their supervising professors first. Then graduates earning Master of Arts in Art Therapy and Counseling, Master of Arts in Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling, Master of Arts in Music Therapy and Counseling, Master of Family Therapy, Master of Health Administration, Master of Health Science (Physician Assistant), Master of Science in Human Nutrition and Master of Science in Nursing (Advance Practice and Nurse Practitioner) were escorted to the stage. They were followed by the graduates who earned Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Counseling, Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences, Bachelor of Science in Health Services Administration, Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Foods. Once all graduated has been announced, an alumna for the classes of `90, `92 and `99 greeted the newest alumni — a long-standing tradition – to the more than 25,000 CNHP alumni.
 
To conclude a week of celebrations, CNHP participated in the University-wide commencement ceremony at Citizens Bank Park in the evening of June 13. All schools and colleges had the opportunity to hear the inspiring words of John Maeda — the global head of Computational Design and Inclusion at Automattic, the parent company of Jetpack, WooCommerce, Longreads, WordPress.com and more. The night was capped off by a exciting display of fireworks sending Drexel’s newest alumni out in to the world to leave their marks for the betterment of society.
 
 

05/01/17

A team of health services administration students, all Drexel Society of Future Health Leaders members presented a case at the Health Care Leadership Network  of the Delaware Valley’s (HLNDV) 2nd Annual Student Case competition. Based on a report created by Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania abstracts were submitted on solution to the issue of  ‘primary care desserts.’  Competition was tough, as we competed with undergraduate students, as well graduate student from the Philadelphia area .This was a great experience that truly emphasized the importance of teamwork in the world of health care.
 
There were six students, in total, from CNHP. One group included Nick Mahoney, Karol Zhong and Julie Knerr and the other, finishing in second place, included Kelley Martin, Toni Ross and Maureen Dorce. 
 
A paper by health sciences student Taylor Collins and her professor, Krista L. Rompolski, PhD has been published. “Hypothalamic Amenorrhea: Causes, Complications & Controversies” appears in Journal of Student Research in Volume 6, Issue 1.
 
Stella Lucia Volpe, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Nutrition Sciences, was the recipient of the Distinguished Scholar Award at the Annual Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN) Symposium in Charlotte, North Carolina. The award recognizes Volpe’s outstanding contribution to research in the field of dietetics and her commitment to scholarship.
 
Margaret Finley, PT, PhD, associate professor, Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, is one of six faculty to receive a career development award from the Office of Faculty Affairs for 2017- 2018. The award is designed for tenure-track faculty members to increase their exposure to colleagues at other institutions who will be mentors and collaborators. Finley’s proposal is the "Biopsychosocial Approach to Musculoskeletal Pain with Applications to Spinal Cord Injury." As part of her award activities, Finley will visit the labs of Richard Shields, PT, PhD, FAPTA and Laura Frey Law, PT, PhD at the University of Iowa. Steven George, PT, PhD, Duke University, and Shields will give presentations at Drexel University. Collectively, the mentors will provide a foundation for application of genetic phenotype biomarkers and measurement of psychosocial behaviors in adults with spinal cord injuries. 
 
Ryan J. Clancy, MSHS, MA, PA-C, DFAAPA, clinical instructor in the physician assistant program, has been recognized as a Distinguished Fellow of AAPA. Clancy earned this national recognition due to his outstanding contributions to patient care and the profession during his years as a physician assistant. He also demonstrated significant dedication and involvement in the community of Philadelphia.
 
Health Administration Press (HAP) will be publishing a book co-edited by Stephen F. Gambescia, PhD, MEd, MBA, MHum, MCHES, professor in health services administration about “Managing the Nonprofit Health Organization in the New Economy.” HAP is a leading publisher of health administration and is affiliated with the Association of Health Care Executives (AHCE).
 
CNHP is hosting the 6th Annual Philadelphia Area Simulation Consortium: Assessment and Evaluation in Simulation on June 15, 2017. The consortium provides opportunity for specialty-specific breakout sessions, presentations featuring innovative uses of simulation for education, research, simulation technicians, and administrators; and to promote regional networking for hospital based and academic simulation centers. Key note speakers include Tony Errichetti, PhD, CHSE and Kathie Lasater, EdD, RN, ANEF, FANN.
 
Sherry Goodill, PhD, BC-DMT, NCC, LPC, Creative Arts Therapies department chair, moderated a panel discussion, "The Arts and Healing" on Thursday, April 6 as part of a performance by Jessica Lang Dance at the Prince Theater, presented by NextMove Dance. The panel also included veteran Mike Mulligan, who spoke about his use of the arts in his recovery and healing process. The performance that followed featured all new work by Jessica Lang Dance, including "Thousand Yard Stare," a physically riveting tribute to veterans set to Beethoven's String Quartet #15. The title refers to the blank and bewildered gaze of the shell-shocked soldier returning from war. 
 
The official establishment of The Center for Family Intervention Science (CFIS), the first research center in the College of Nursing and Health Professions was recently announced. The Center is directed by Guy Diamond, PhD, associate professor and faculty member in the Couple and Family Therapy department. The CFIS will foster interprofessional collaborations among faculty interested in research that promotes family strengths and reduces barriers to child and family health and wellbeing. The Center is committed to working with diverse populations throughout the life span and in both university and community settings. PhD students and post-doctoral fellows in the College interested in family-centered interventions will have opportunities to engage in Center activities. The Center will also support training, clinical, and policy-related activities related to family intervention science. 
 
 
Sponsored Research
 
Brandy-Joe Milliron, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Nutrition Sciences was awarded $22,300 for her project Heart Healthy Cooking Lab: Youth Exploring Wellness through Gardening. 
 
Clare Milner, PhD, associate professor, Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, was awarded $14,000 for her project Impact Shock and Risk of Stress Fracture in Walking, Marching and Running. 
 
Both projects involve interprofessional research teams. Funding is for one year. The findings will enable the investigators to apply for extra-mural funding.
 
Ming Yuan Low, student in PhD Program in Creative Arts Therapy was recently awarded a research grant by the Mid-Atlantic Region of the American Music Therapy Association for his study entitled ‘The Music Interaction Scale: Examining Inter-rater Reliability of a New Nordoff-Robbins Scale’. This study will be in collaboration with the AJ Autism Institute at Drexel and the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Center at New York University. Low’s research advisor is Joke Bradt, PhD, MT-BC, Associate Professor, Department of Creative Arts Therapies.
 
 
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