What We Do

Founded in 1960, the Ackerman Institute for the Family is one of the premier institutions for family therapy and one of the best-known and most highly regarded training facilities for family therapists in the United States. The Institute serves families from all walks of life at all stages of family life.

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About Us

2015 Gala Recap Video

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Upcoming Workshops & Short Courses

  • Working with The Vulnerability Cycle: Consultation Group for Couples Therapists

    In this consultation group participants will learn how to use the vulnerability cycle as an anchor in their clinical work with couples. Based on conceptual discussions and case presentations we will focus on how to use the VC to: diagram the couples’ impasses and relational dynamics, collect critical interactional, intra-personal and multigenerational information, and define short and long term goals for the therapy. Utilizing the Multi-level Approach as a road map we will focus on: how to track and interrupt couples reactive patterns, how to transform frustration and anger into narratives of vulnerabilities and yearnings, how to facilitate negotiations of a better intimate fit between the partners. 

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  • Empowering Therapist Growth: A Conversation Between Aponte’s Person of the Therapist Training Model and Emotionally Focused Therapy’s Self of the Therapist

    A major challenge to identifying what makes therapy work is to understand what makes the therapeutic relationship work. This workshop takes up this challenge by describing an approach to training and a therapeutic model that focus primarily on helping therapists use their authenticity, transparency and vulnerability to enhance the therapeutic relationship. The presenters will speak to distinct uses of the self that foster deeper, therapeutically effective connections with clients that can also calm the fears and insecurities that are so often part of the therapeutic interaction. Videotapes, role plays and case presentations will demonstrate using the self of the therapist to foster healing, growth and transformation.

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  • Supporting Trans* and Gender Expansive Clients and their Families

    This one-day workshop, facilitated by the Gender and Family Project’s Director Jean Malpas, LMFC, LMHC, and the Coordinator of Training & Education Benjamin Davis, ATR-BC, LCAT, will offer participants a framework beyond the binary of gender and, in particular, best practice guidelines for working with transgender and gender expansive adults, youth and their families. Participants will review the continua of sex, gender identity, and gender role, as well as updated research on gender development and family acceptance. The workshop will examine developmentally appropriate systemic interventions and engagement techniques and emphasize the stance of the gender affirming psychotherapist.

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  • Healing Intergenerational Wounds: A Relational-Neurobiological Approach to Transform Family Relationships

    In this workshop, Dr. Fishbane will explore ways to facilitate healing & dialogue in distressed relationships between adults and their families of origin, especially parents. Utilizing a resilience-based view & a relational intergenerational approach, topics to be addressed include family legacies & loyalties, resentment and blame, cutoffs, differentiation, boundaries, power, guilt, repair, and forgiveness. Gender-based and cultural beliefs that affect intergenerational relationships will inform the discussion. The neurobiology underlying reactivity between adult children and their parents will be explored, along with brain-based interventions to facilitate relational empowerment between the generations. The challenges of caring for frail parents as they age will be considered. Theory and techniques, with case illustrations, will be offered to facilitate intergenerational repair, focusing on ways to honor and care for parents while honoring and caring for one’s self.

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  • Talking Race/Racism – Moving the Conversation Forward

    This course introduces clinicians to the language and foundations for the conversation about race and racism with a cross racial faculty team who will share experiences and strategies for engaging in difficult cross racial dialogue. The course developed out of an on-going Talk Race Group Project with trainees at the Ackerman Institute. Through a combination of lecture, reflective discussions, videotapes, experiential exercises, and assigned readings, clinicians will have the opportunity to: (1) explore racial identity development, (2) examine the historical perspective of racism in the U.S., (3) analyze the meaning of White privilege and its impact on racism, (4) develop a greater understanding about everyday micro-aggressions and the negative impact on people of color, (5) integrate an understanding of racial micro-aggressions into case conceptualization and treatment with clients of color, (6) enhance awareness of self of the therapist and its impact on the therapeutic process.

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  • Working with Emotions in Clinical Practice

    This workshop will present ways clinicians can identify and work with intense emotional responses that occur in sessions with individuals, couples and families. The emphasis is the clinician’s use of self, and ways to expand comfort and techniques to use the information that is available through emotional communication. Emotional memory networks and countertransference will be explored to demonstrate how clinicians can develop resonance and emotional attunement. Examples from parent coaching and couples therapy with explosive couples will help clinicians consider new ways to apply this information to build resilience and repair in their practice.

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  • Implementing Parent Discussion Groups with Families Who Have Children with Special Needs

    Ackerman Institute’s Resilient Families: Children with Special Needs Project team has designed an 8 session Parent Discussion Group based on our understanding of the persistent challenges parents face raising a child with developmental disabilities. Typically, support groups and parent workshops are child-focused, whereas Ackerman’s approach addresses family relationships, family life and the social-emotional needs of parents. The group experience honors the family’s voice and helps parents enhance their knowledge, skills and self-awareness. The presenter will first describe a model of family resilience and recurring themes that have emerged from the team’s clinical work. These themes are the foundation of the group protocol. The participants will then discuss these themes as they work in small groups to practice group observation and group facilitation skills. This workshop is appropriate for professionals who work with children with autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, sensory processing disorder, or other developmental disabilities

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  • Family-Centered Treatment: A Clinical Model for Working with Parents and Children with Special Needs

    Parents who have children with developmental, learning and behavioral challenges experience cumulative stress and an urgency to help their child function optimally at home and in school. They often feel depleted or inadequate as they attempt to sustain healthy family relationships and family routines. This course will explore the bi-directional impact of a child’s disability on parent and family well-being. The Resilient Families: Children with Special Needs Project team will use case presentations to illustrate the structure, process and therapeutic goals of family work. This course is appropriate for clinicians who work with children with autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, learning disabilities, sensory processing disorder and other developmental disabilities.

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  • Therapeutic Choice Points in Complex Couple Therapy: How and When to Intervene

    In this workshop, I will demonstrate interviewing for expanded openings; redefining and amplifying a presenting problem; selecting a path and correcting it when it proves ineffective; marking a critical subject, leaving it and returning to it at a more optimal time; selecting from among multiple requirements that a couple may present; reflecting on your work while you are doing it in session; avoiding triangulation with the couple; creating effective metaphors that capture a couple’s imagination; reviewing your work between sessions; reading immediate non-verbal feedback and making use of it in the session; understanding and making use of responses to prior sessions, homework, and crucial changes that may occur between sessions; and challenging a one-size fits all model of therapy.

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  • Supporting Trans* and Gender Expansive Students from K-12

    This one-day workshop, facilitated by the Gender and Family Project’s Coordinator of Training and Education Benjamin Davis, ATR-BC, LCAT, and Clinical Associate Nicole Davis, LCSW, will offer participants advanced understanding and best practice guidelines for working with transgender and gender expansive students from Kindergarten to 12th grade. Participants will increase understanding and awareness with regards to the continua of sex, gender identity, and gender role, examining best practice guidelines for gender inclusivity in public and independent schools as well as other educational settings. Updated research on gender development, family acceptance and optimal environmental adjustments needed to maximize educational potential will be presented. Additional topics the workshop will cover include gender diversity (including gender expansive and gender nonconforming children), how to speak with children and families about gender, gender socialization and how to address gender-related bullying.

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  • An Intensive in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy: Harnessing Attachment and Emotion to Effect Change

    Often therapists experience a divide between EFT and meaning based treatments, including Ackerman’s Relational Therapy. While each approach has different conceptual underpinnings, this course will explore and suggest ways to include EFT practices in your familiar ways of working. Making extensive use of videotapes and experiential exercises, participants will both see and practice the skills of EFT. Therapists will learn to regulate the reactive emotions that can hijack sessions and access the primary emotions that can repattern relationships in the here and now. In addition to the foundational work of Sue Johnson, we will also touch on work from Bruce Ecker, Mona Fishbane and Rick Hanson to better understand and access the emotional brain.

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  • An Introduction to Theraplay: Treating Trauma and Attachment Issues with Children and Parents

    Children who have lived in unsafe environments, with inconsistent/ impaired caregivers or who have endured multiple losses may not be able to overcome these traumatic experiences without some type of intervention. Theraplay is a psychotherapy that focuses on the parent-child relationship as a vehicle to heal problems of trust, hyperarousal and connection in both children and parents.

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  • Writing for Publication in Couple and Family Therapy

    This course will teach participants how to write for publication in Couple and Family Therapy. The aim over 7 months will be to have a fully realized manuscript for either a scholarly journal or the popular press. We will meet once a month for two hours , 9:30-11:30 in the Ackerman Institute conference room. Participants are expected to write in between class meetings and to share their work with class colleagues. The course methods will include lecture; experiential writing exercises; sharing writing samples with class colleagues; working in pairs on one another’s writing; being accountable with your writing and deadlines; class and instructor feedback. Participants are expected to write in between classes, even if this is a small amount, and to send writing to the instructor and to one another. We will not just talk about writing – we will write!

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  • Integrating Family Systems & Sex Therapy For Assessment & Interventions in Couples Therapy

    Many couples and family therapists feel unprepared and untrained when addressing sexual issues in a couple. In this workshop Sari Cooper will cover the most common sexual issues with which couples struggle and how to assess them using a bio-psychosocial lens. She will review the Diagnoses in the recent DSM5 and the clinical reasons why some Diagnoses are no longer included, and those that are still being considered for future DSMs (such as compulsive, addictive or out of control sexual behaviors). She’ll concentrate on three parts of clinical practice: Assessment, Diagnosis/Hypothesis/Treatment Planning, Clinical Intervention.

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  • The Heart of Couple Therapy: Knowing What to Do and How to Do It

    This workshop will focus on the various methods therapists can use to help couples reconnect and break out of patterns that have lead to frustration and despair. Topics covered will include how to motivate couples not only to make the changes that will get them “unstuck” but which will also lead to truly gratifying relationships; how to use “choice points” to keep sessions focused and productive; how to build on whatever positives in their relationship might still exist; and how to address the individual “legacy” issues that each person brings to the relationship. The workshop will address in detail the most common and difficult challenges that therapists face in their day to day work with couples.

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  • Family Therapy with Troubled Adolescents: Moving past crisis, re-building relationships

    often preoccupy families. We will demonstrate how it is possible to keep the focus on issues of safety, while at the same time resolving conflicts, strengthening relationships, exploring family history and finding a more permanent solution to the problems that families struggle with. Special attention will be given to issues arising in work with immigrant families, families with substance abusing adolescents, self-harming adolescents and families with adopted adolescents. Attention will also be given to the challenges in engaging detached, reluctant and highly reactive parents.

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