Institutes for Advanced Systemic Family Therapy

Join us virtually and earn up to 10 hours of continuing education credit with the most advanced marriage and family therapy training available!   

The AAMFT Institutes for Advanced Systemic Family Therapy has gone virtual! Join colleagues from around the world on and attend sessions by top level speakers. Interact in our daily social hour and hear from a panel of presenters on the current state of systemic family therapy.

Registration - Coming Soon!

Fee Structure 

AAMFT Members:


Thursday, June 25 - Friday, June 26, 2020

Location: Virtual

Time Zone: Please be advised that the schedule below reflects the Eastern Time Zone of the United States. Be sure to mark your schedules according to your time zone.


Thursday, June 25

10:00am – 10:30am: Introduction
10:45am – 12:45pm: Intensive Courses
12:45pm – 1:45pm: Social Hour
2:00pm – 3:00pm: Series A Workshops
3:15pm – 4:15pm: Series F1 Forums
4:30pm – 5:30pm: Series B Workshops

Friday, June 26

10:00am – 11:00am: Series C Workshops
11:15am – 12:15pm: Series F2 Forums
12:30pm – 1:30pm: Series D Workshops
1:30pm – 2:30pm: Social Hour
2:45pm – 3:45pm: Keynote: The State of Systemic Family Therapy
4:00pm – 5:00pm: Series E Workshops
5:00pm – 5:15pm: Closing Remarks

Keynote: The State of Systemic Family Therapy

Scott Sells, PhD 
Manijeh Daneshpour, PhD 
David Treadway, PhD

Intensive Courses 

Intensive 1: Families in Crisis: A Systemic Approach in Treating Man-Made and Natural Disaster Trauma

War, violence, forced migration. Fire, flood, earthquake. The impact of man-made and natural disasters on the emotional functioning of individuals and families and how failure to receive adequate treatment could result in serious long-term effects. Recent global events have raised awareness of the need for effective treatment. Dr. Daneshpour will discuss why a systemic approach is important with these disasters because it goes beyond the individual by examining macro-systemic social and environmental functioning which embraces the extended system within which the family is embedded.

Dr. Manijeh Daneshpour is the system-wide couple and family therapy director and professor of marriage and family therapy at Alliant International University in California and a licensed marriage and family therapist with more than two decades of academic, research, and clinical experience. She is originally from Iran but has lived in the U.S. for the entirety of her adult life and has received all her academic higher education in the United States. However, she has been very closely and deeply connected to Eastern cultural dynamics and has grown to appreciate the very diverse richness of the Eastern backdrop, particularly as it is juxtaposed with her Western way of life on a daily basis. As an academician, she has taught courses in family therapy theories, couples therapy, family in multicultural contexts, and has supervised students’ internships both at the masters and doctoral levels. As a marriage and family therapist, she has provided numerous hours of couple and family therapy to Western and countless therapy sessions to Eastern families. She has trained Western family therapists to provide culturally sensitive couple and family therapy to Eastern families and Easterners to provide therapy relevant to the current Western cultural context. Dr. Daneshpour's main areas of research, publications, and presentations have been centered on issues of multicultural competencies, gender, war and its impact on immigrants and refugees, social justice, and premarital and marital relationships. She has been a keynote presenter for the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, National Council of Family Relations, Minnesota Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, as well as California Association of Marriage and Family Therapy and many other organizations bringing the issues of social justice, ethics of care, gender and power, and multicultural competencies to the forefront of the social science field discourses.

Intensive 2: Treating Couples Well: A Practical Guide to Collaborative Couple Therapy

Couples come into treatment presenting a wide array of issues: communication, conflict, sexuality, affairs, parenting, mental illness, substance abuse, multi-generational family problems, etc. Couples often struggle with too many of these issues all at the same time. Dr. Treadway’s innovative collaborative model of organizing couples therapy helps the patients design their own treatment plan. This intensive will demonstrate how to give couples choice whether to work on making changes in the here and now, focus on healing from the wounds of their past, or visit the dynamics of their family of origin. He will discuss how this model helps couples invest in their own treatment, learn how to collaborate respectfully, and tolerate living with unresolved issues while working on changing one aspect of their relationship at a time. In addition to demonstrating this collaborative model of organizing couples treatment, Dr. Treadway will also present a wide range of therapeutic strategies, protocols and interventions for the many typical problems that couples present. A special emphasis will be on how to make “homework” work.

David Treadway, PhD, is a nationally known couple therapist and author who has been teaching workshops and trainings around the USA for the past forty years. Dr Treadway is the author of four other books, as well as an award winning author of over thirty articles. He also has appeared on Good Morning America, 20/20 and numerous other television and radio shows, and did host his own radio program on family communications. Treadway considers his greatest accomplishment as being Kate’s husband of fifty-two years and Michael and Sam’s father and now grandfather to Jacob. His family is truly his life’s work.

Intensive 3: The Evolution of Clinical Simulation in Family Therapy Training Programs

Learning in family therapy programs far exceeds a simple acquisition of facts and knowledge but includes the development of student abilities to artfully and meaningfully apply theoretical constructs within legal, ethical, and professional standards. Efforts to prepare students for the multiplicity of clinical experiences have often included various methods to simulate a variety of clinical environments, context, and presenting issues. The rapid advancement of digital technology now offers family therapy training programs a unique opportunity for students to participate in a mixed-reality simulation engaging digital characters on a computer screen animated by a live facilitator. Such experiences are not unlike pilots training for various flight realities and challenges in a computer-simulated environment.

This session will introduce the evolutionary efforts made by their program to simulate clinical experience leading to the current mixed-reality simulation opportunties.  It will address the real and potential applications beyond student learning such as assessment of clinical learning for accreditation objectives, development of a student portfolio of clinical efforts, use of training for skill remediation, program research and even the readiness of potential students for entry into a training program.

Dr. Christopher M. Habben
is a tenured Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy at Friends University and is the Program Director of the MS in Family Therapy Program at Friends University in Kansas City. Licensed to practice Marriage and Family Therapy in both Kansas and Missouri, Dr. Habben has had a small clinical practice for nearly 20 years including service as a post graduate supervisor. Dr. Habben is a Clinical Member of AAMFT, is an AAMFT Approved Supervisor and has held a variety of leadership roles in the association.

Dr. Sarah E. Lyon
is an Assistant Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy at Friends University and is the Clinical Director of the MS in Family Therapy Program at Friends University in Kansas City. Dr. Lyon has worked as a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist and as a Community-Based Services Team Leader in an agency setting, primarily serving children, teens, and their families. Dr. Lyon has been a member of AAMFT since 2005 and a Clinical Fellow since 2015, is an AAMFT Approved Supervisor, and has served as Treasurer for the Kansas Division of AAMFT.

Intensive 4: Treating the Traumatized Family: A Family Systems Approach

Too often, traumatized children are treated apart from their broader support system of parents, family, friends, or community. The family systems trauma model (FST) integrates structural-strategic theory with step-by-step tools involving trauma playbooks or strategic directives to restructure traumatized child and their families using enactments and new techniques such as undercurrents, stress charts, and an apple tree metaphor. In this workshop, participants will receive concrete tools from the Treating the Traumatized Child book and research studies necessary to quickly engage the parent and child through what are called “motivational phone calls”, diagnoses and assessments through “stress charts”, the use of “trauma playbooks” to heal both childhood and family trauma in the here and now from high level structural-strategic underpinnings. Strategic role plays and video examples from real cases will be illustrated to master the timing and application of these family system trauma techniques along with handouts that can be used the next day at work. Clear touchpoints between structural-strategic theory, trauma, and practical application with handouts and manualization bridge eclectic techniques to advanced integrative practice.

Scott Sells holds a PhD in both Marriage and Family Therapy and Social Work from Florida State University. He has over 20 publications and has authored three books entitled: Treating the Traumatized Child: A Step-by-Step Family Systems Approach (Springer Publishing, 2017), Treating the Tough Adolescent: A Family-Based, Step-by-Step Guide (Guilford Press, 1998) and Parenting Your Out-of-Control Teenager: 7 Steps to Reestablish Authority and Reclaim Love (St. Martin’s Press, 2001). Scott specializes in working with impossible or stuck cases whose families have not been successful with other counselors. Scott was a former Professor of Social Work at Savannah State University in Savannah, GA and Associate Professor at UNLV in Las Vegas, NV. He founded the Parenting with Love and Limits (PLL) model that is being used across the US and Europe. Scott enjoys hiking in Montana, writing, spending quality time with God, and being a husband to his wife, and parent to his twin boys: David and Jonathan.

Workshop Series A-E

A-1: An Integrative Model of Affair Recovery

Tina Timm, PhD
Adrian Blow, PhD

Infidelity is one of the most difficult presenting issues in couple therapy because of the emotional intensity, the complicated systemic issues, and the lack of evidence-based treatments on which to rely. There is evidence that infidelity has a significant attachment basis, and certainly can be conceptualized as an attachment injury in relationships. The presenters will describe a relational approach to treatment based in post-traumatic growth theory and attachment theory, showing how couples can grow stronger after the experience. The emphasis will be upon providing clinicians with key principles that are necessary for working with these couples and will integrate the latest research on mindfulness and self-compassion to help rebuild trust, foster secure attachment, and restore a connecting sexual relationship.

A-2: Treating Suicidal Ideation from an Attachment-based Approach

Joyce Baptist, PhD 
An attachment-based treatment approach for suicidal ideation will be presented. The theory of suicide including recent research and risk factors will be reviewed followed by a demonstration of the assessment and treatment of suicidal drivers. Findings from clinical research utilizing the approach will be presented.

A-3: Global Mental Health: Shared Values and Initiatives with Family Therapists

Paul Springer, PhD
Richard Bischoff, PhD

A-4: In the Absence of Family: Lives Shaped by Loss

Alice Lynn, MA
In "Living Through Loss", Hooyman and Kramer wrote, "Some losses are so profound and life changing that the grief never completely ends, with its intensity, acuteness, and form ebbing and flowing over time. I n such instances, 'getting over it' may not be possible. once we have lost, we always live to varying degrees in the presence of grief." This workshop will provide an in-depth exploration of the lasting effects of the incalculable loss of family on the individual. Research on the changing American family, where increasingly more individuals will be without family sometime in their lives, will be interwoven with life-affirming stories and inquiry into how one survives and overcomes the presence of absence. Participants will be able to identify ways of working with their clients, bringing a newfound depth of understanding, exposing emotions that have been kept hidden and never addressed.

B-1: Third Order Ethics: Sociocultural Attunement in Everyday Practice

Teresa McDowell, EdD 
This workshop is designed for advanced family therapists to explore issues of equity and ethics in everyday practice. Participants will be invited to consider how third-order thinking challenges what we consider ethical by exploring the nuances of power inherent in meaning making from a socioculturally attuned perspective. It can be challenging to facilitate meaningful conversations that promote cultural equity across diverse social locations related to race, gender, sexual orientation, social class, and abilities. Third-order thinking brings the ethics of everyday clinical decisions to the forefront by identifying the impact of societal systems, culture, and power on our ethical positioning, which inherently guides our clinical practice. This presentation will center sociocultural attunement as foundational to ethical practice and offer ANVIET (i.e., attune, name, value, interrupt, envision, transform) guidelines for equity-based ethical practice.

B-4: Writing Stories as a Means of Introducing Change in Systemic Therapy

Marilena Karamatsouki, MA
The use of storytelling and writing stories in regards to the therapeutic relationship opens up different possibilities in the therapy room. In this workshop participants will be asked to experiment with story writing through experiential exercises and will have the opportunity to discuss and share their story.

C-1: Training the Skilled International Family Therapist

Laurie Charles, PhD
Global mental health initiatives are quite declarative in their assertion that systemic, family‐based mental health and psychosocial support contributes to a population’s well‐being. As a movement and contemporary practice, global mental health is particularly focused on bridging gaps in the field of mental health, whether across high‐income countries (HICs) or low‐ and middle‐income countries (LMICs). The expansive reach of global mental health continues with the inclusion of mental health in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2016—the UN goals by which global agreements gear their metrics for development. However, in this entirety of literature, critical thinking, implementation, and analysis, systemic family therapy (SFT) as a profession has been noticeably quiet. Yet, the history of systemic family therapy, its robust reflexivity and adaptive methods, and the ecological mindset so consistent with many other concepts in global mental health, makes it a perfect complement. This workshop will illustrate methods to advance seasoned and emerging practitioners' skills in working effectively on the international plane, specifically in global mental health. Training family therapists to meet the demands of this fascinating, challenging, and complex area of work requires proactive teaching, training and development that goes beyond culture and nation, with a multidimensional understanding of social justice. It requires collaboration, knowledge transfer, and humility--and it is in that spirit with which the presenter will approach this workshop. 

C-3: An Evolving Model of Knowledge Transfer: Social Workers Learning Multiple Family Therapy through Clinical Research

Cindy Yiu, MS
Alan Tam, MA 
New Life Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association and The Chinese University of Hong Kong collaborated to apply multiple family therapy in helping families of parents with major depression, developing a clinically unique and socially relevant model with treatment efficacy.Agency social workers were also transformed with paradigm shift on mental health issues.

D-2: Tele-Mental Health

Richard Bischoff, PhD
Paul Springer, PhD
Tele-mental health has become a popular medium for providing mental health care with research showing it is effective and beneficial to reach underserved populations. This workshop will present a collaborative-care, tele-mental health model, developed and applied in an MFT program with great success in reaching rural underserved communities.

D-4: The Butterfly Effect: Systemic Ethical Decision Making

Heather Katafiasz, PhD
Rikki Patton, PhD 
Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) constantly engage in ethical decision-making while working with complicated client systems. Prior scholarship has indicated that MFTs are clearly attuned to the ethical imperative of maintaining ethics at the forefront of their professional practice. However, while there are several ethical decision-making models in the mental health and other health professions, they do not fully address the ethical nuances of MFTs engaging in relational-systemic practice with individual and relational clients. The extant models provide a solid foundation from which MFTs can glean strategies for engaging in ethical decision-making. However, there is a need for an MFT-specific ethical decision-making model that accounts for the complexities associated with relational-systemic practice. Thus, the this presentation will provide a critical review of the literature on ethical decision-making with respect to the MFT field and propose a MFT-specific ethical decision-making model. More specifically, this presentation will provide a definition and overview of ethical decision-making, differentiating practical from specialty ethical decision-making models. Further, this presentation will discuss the unique aspects to the relational-systemic work of MFTs and will propose an ethical decision-making model that more clearly infuses strategies for managing ethical challenges in relational-systemic therapy.

E-1: India's Family-Focused Substance Addiction Treatment: Clinical Strategies

Sebastian Perumbilly, PhD
This presentation, based on an original study with a qualitative-research design involving substance addiction treatment-professionals (n=20) in India, explores benefits, challenges and clinical strategies related to involving families/relational systems in substance addiction treatment programs.

E-2: Family Matters: A Systems View of Substance Use Disorders Treatment

Melody Bacon, PhD
Ronald Bacon, MDiv
The devastation of addiction cuts a wide swath through the lives of those struggling with substance use disorders (SUDs) and those who love them. The dreaded midnight phone call bearing bad news is the ultimate source of countless sleepless nights. And yet, for the most part, families struggling with a loved one with an SUD have been either criticized as the cause, ignored as inconsequential or told that their actions or in actions are making matters worse. While most treatment programs include a family program, this is viewed as ancillary and, at times, non-essential to the treatment of the addict. As the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has advocated in the publication “Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy” (NIH, 2004), it is time to integrate the approach of family therapy with the treatment of SUDs. This workshop will present an integrative approach to treatment. Based on the ideas of Bowen Family Systems therapy and the principles of the 12-step movement, the Family Matters program offers a model that addresses the needs of families struggling with addiction while at the same time creating a relational environment that supports recovery.

Forums: Series 1-2

F1-1A: IPV Perpetration: A Meta-Analysis of Risk Markers Across the Globe

Chelsea Spencer, PhD
Sandra Stith, PhD
Bryan Cafferky, PhD
This study provides a comprehensive overview of risk markers for intimate partner violence (IPV) perpetration for men and women around the world. This information can provide clinicians with information on factors that may help with assessment and treatment when working with individuals who have perpetrated IPV in past or current relationships.

F1-1B: The Color of Violence: Black Women’s Experiences with IPV

Lorin Kelly, MA
Chelsea Spencer, PhD
This session will describe the significant differences related to risk markers for IPV between predominately Black and predominately White populations, which has yet to be examined through a meta-analysis. This research will then be translated into clinical implications for clinicians working with Black women who have experienced IPV.

F1-1C: Globalization & Intimate Partner Violence: A Meta-Regression

Brooke Keilholtz
Chelsea Spencer, PhD
Using Dutton’s (1995) nested ecological model for IPV, this session will discuss the results from a meta-regression examining how macrosystem-level factors (globalization and country fragility) impact risk markers for intimate partner violence perpetration at the ontogenetic, microsystem, and exosystem levels. This will allow therapists to conceptualize how these broader influences can impact the individual and relationship.

F1-2A: Comparing the Well-Being of Binary Transgender and Non-Binary People

Katelyn Coburn, MS
Chelsea Spencer, PhD
Lorin Kelly, MA
This submission takes an advanced look at factors associated with well-being for two marginalized groups (i.e. transgender and non-binary people. Therapeutic implications will be framed within an advanced understanding of Narrative Therapy informed by queer theory that clinicians can use when working with transgender and non-binary clients. Implications for working with families with trans and non-binary members will be discussed.

F1-2B: Becoming an LGBT-Affirming Christian: A Grounded Theory

Gena Minnix, MA
This presentation is geared toward MFT educators and supervisors, and provides an overview of the first known research-based theory to guide the training and supervision of non-affirming or conflicted Christian trainees struggling to reconcile LGBTQ+ affirmation with their religious beliefs and develop competency to work with LGBTQ+ couples and families in accordance with MFT ethical standards of practice.

F1-3A: A Whole New World: Future Paths for Internship Programs in Distance-based Education

Yulia Watters, PhD
Bettina Shapiro, PhD
New and exciting possibilities in technology have allowed online programs to develop competitive internship programs around the world. In an interactive workshop, presenters will share lessons learned in developing, managing, and enhancing applied internship programs for diverse populations.

F1-3B: Being Present Online: Teaching, Practicing, and Supervising in a Virtual Setting

Yulia Watters, PhD
Bettina Shapiro, PhD
This session will discuss the concept of being present in an online environment Presenters will address how do you bridge the physical distance in a virtual setting. Using their research on this topic and current literature review, presenters will engage participants in an interactive discussion.

F1-4A: Psycho-Legal Work in Matters Pertaining to Relocation of Minor Children

Gertie Pretorius, PhD
In this presentation, the process followed by Psychologists in Psycho-Legal matters pertaining to relocation of minor children in divorce will be addressed. The evaluation and psychometric assessment of families, collateral information, triangulation well as the compilation of Psycho-Legal Reports in these matters will be investigated and presented.

F2-6A: Top Ten Things Family Therapists Could Do to Curb Burnout

Elisabeth Bennett, PhD
Take the challenge!This presentation will include current information on the rates and causes of therapist burnout followed by 10 simple techniques the therapist can do on the fly and throughout one's career to prevent and curb burnout.We double-dog dare you to participate in this hands-on can-do activity-based presentation.

F2-7A: Feminism and Systemic Theory as Tools to Question Hegemonic Femininity Beliefs: Case Study

Paulina Medina Mora Maurer, BA
Case study that illustrates how hegemonic femininity beliefs are connected with the normalization of violence against women. In the therapeutic process, both feminism and systemic theory were applied to question the underlying beliefs associated to the woman stereotype in the client's culture.

F2-8A: Coparenting in India: Common Concerns

Sarayu Chandrashekar, MS
Gayatri Swaminathan, MA
The presenters will describe some of the common concerns that single parents in India face during co-parenting, some of which are culture-specific. The presenters have conducted preliminary interviews with separated/divorced co-parents, mental health professionals and lawyers working with such clients to identify common concerns that co-parents report in India.

F2-8B: Treatment and Conceptualization of Mixed-Orientation Couples

Joshua Gebhardt, MS
Kirstee Williams, PhD
Treatment and conceptualization regarding systemic approaches to relational therapy with mixed-orientation in couples is an essential and advanced practice. The content in this presentation is directed towards professionals who are looking to deepen their understanding of the expression of sexuality within the relationship context. Strengthening clinical approaches, cultivating systemic exploration, and improving expert skills are to be gained by participants.