Deepening Clinical Practice: Race in Couple and Family Therapy

Ackerman’s Annual Spring Conference
Friday, May 13, 2016
9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Please join us for this groundbreaking conference. Now in our sixth decade, the Ackerman Institute for the Family invites you to this innovative day.
In the morning, we will reach outside the boundaries of family therapy to hear the sociopolitical commentary of Charles Blow in conversation with family therapy theorist and practitioner, thandiwe Dee Watts-Jones.
We will then witness the work of the Multi-Racial Family Project, and hear responses to their work by Charles Blow.
In the afternoon, participants will choose from original workshops by the renowned Ackerman faculty, who have been working to bring invisible issues of race in to the consulting room in ways to enhance our practice.
In keeping with the Ackerman Institute’s commitment to training the next generation of family therapists, we welcome students for $75.

We look forward to seeing you.

Morning Plenary

A Conversation with Charles Blow, and thandiwe Dee Watts-Jones, Ph.D

Charles Blow, is a profound voice for social justice. Writing as a Visual Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, where his column appears weekly, and called upon as a sagacious commentator for CNN and MSNBC, Charles Blow tackles the most difficult issues of our time: race relations, police conduct towards people of color, single parenting, the presidential campaign, gender, social class, and gay rights He speaks and writes with audacity and courage.
Mr. Blow’s stunning memoir, Fire Shut Up in My Bones, mines the rich poetry of his small out-of-time Louisiana hometown where echoes of slavery’s legacy were close. He draws us in to the complex family relations, deeply etched with racial, spiritual and sexual complexity.

thandiwe Dee Watts-Jones, Ph.D, is a licensed clinical psychologist, and the Advising Director of Race and Social Justice of the Ackerman Institute for the Family. Dr. Watts-Jones received her PhD from Duke University, and her family therapy training at the Family Institute of Westchester, where she was a teaching fellow.
In addition to her Ackerman affiliation, Dr. Watts-Jones is employed as a Health and Hospitals Corporation Psychologist II in the Bronx Family Court, maintains a private practice in New Rochelle, NY, and is affiliated with the Women of Color Family Therapists’ Group, focused on difficult conversations about various forms of oppression.

Embracing Difference: Creating Openings for Racial Dialogue in Couples Therapy with commentary by Charles Blow and thandiwe Dee Watts-Jones
Presented by the Multiracial Family Project: Dorimar Morales, LCSW; Mary Kim Brewster, Ph. D; and Keren Ludwig, LCSW
Race, as a socially constructed idea, influences how individuals feel about themselves and others and how they make meaning of their experience in their relationship.  Sometimes these experiences are visible to the couple, yet often times these experiences are invisible and remain unaddressed in couple therapy. Experiences of race-based oppression can create strain in the relationship and leave each member of the couple feeling misunderstood, unheard, and unseen by the other. In this workshop we will help the couple therapist learn how to conceptualize and facilitate difficult conversations across race in couple therapy.  A therapy case will be presented.

Concurrent Afternoon Workshops

Examining Whiteness: The Role of White Racial Identity in Families
Presented by: Marybeth Jordan, LCSW and Laurie Kaplan, LCSW, and Hinda Winawer, LCSW
Dialogue, as it relates to race, is often stilted and uncomfortable when white clinicians struggle to confront power and privilege, both in their own lives, and in the lives of their white clients. Because of the socialized invisibility of whiteness, it can be difficult for white people to identify the role of racial privilege in shaping the values and beliefs that impact family life.
As family therapists we value the importance of context, and its significance in pushing our field to explore how forms of oppression take shape in relationships. However, an important part of the conversation has been missing due to our failure to examine how racial privilege socializes white people and influences how family members relate to one another.
The aim of this workshop is to challenge the invisibility of whiteness in the therapy room. We will explore how to invite dialogue that helps identify white values and beliefs, and the role of racial privilege in shaping those beliefs. We will also examine how these beliefs come to inform relational dilemmas with our clients.

Accountability and the Foster Care System
Presented by: Catherine Lewis, LCSW, MS; Andrea Blumenthal, LCSW
As legal scholar Dorothy Roberts points out in her 2002 book, Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare, the child welfare system sees parental failings, rather than societal failings as the cause of abuse and neglect. Interventions to protect children are therefore punitive in nature. Once a child is placed in foster care, biological parents are de-elevated and de-valued, frequently resulting in vicious cycles of interactions with agency workers where expressions of rage and frustration are used as further proof of the parents’ inability to keep their children safe. In this workshop, participants will develop their understanding of a therapeutic stance where historical and contextual factors are kept front and center, so as not to collude with the parent-blaming endemic in the system. By holding societal structures, systemic players and contextual factors accountable for their part in the placement, a working alliance can more easily be forged with the biological parents where responsibility for their actions can be acknowledged and relational repair with their children can occur.

Talking Race/Racism – Moving the Conversation Forward
Presented by: Aquilla Frederick, MBA, LCSW and Frank Wells LCSW
Over the last year-and-a-half in our work starting the Talk Race Project and expanding the scope of training services, we sought to create a forum for promoting interest and greater skill in participating in cross-racial discussions about race in the Ackerman Institute for the Family training program and in the broader therapeutic community. Throughout this process, group members in a number of contexts have demonstrated increased interest, investment and effort in identifying racial dynamics in personal relationships, the Ackerman training program and in their clinical work.
We will present our reflections about dilemmas and challenges during the group process and the negative and positive impact on moving the conversation forward. We will offer attendees some ideas and suggestions on how to engage in working on expanding one’s own racial identity and competency in discussing race in their personal and professional lives.

Therapeutic Dialogue with Families Impacted by Racism in the Criminal Justice System
Presented by: Courtney Zazzali, LCSW and Sarah Berland, LCSW
The American criminal-justice system, teeming with racial disparity, causes the concrete disfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of families of color and perpetuates insidious, dehumanizing messages that some lives matter more than others.  Structural racism such as this impacts families of all races, physically and psychically threatening the lives of people of color and impeding the development of empathy among white people.  This presentation will explore possibilities for therapeutic dialogue that acknowledges the role racism has played in families’ experiences of the criminal justice system.  We will share ways of being, thinking and doing that are informed by our work in The JUSTICE Project, where we aim to strengthen relationships, support family members’ sense of voice and choice, and provide those who have had the experience of being surveilled to have instead, the experience of being witnessed.  This presentation will include detailed clinical examples that illustrate our stance and practice principles, questions that invite reflection, and exercises that inspire dialogue.

If you would like to apply online, click below:

If you would like to mail or fax in your application form, download a printable application here.

Contact Hours (CEU’s) for NYS: 4.5
CE Credits for NASW:
Tuition/ Student Tuition:
$135 /$75
UJA Federation
130 East 59th Street
7th Floor Conference Center
New York, NY 10022

The Ackerman Institute for the Family SW CPE is recognized by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers #0052.

If you are an Ackerman alumni or current Ackerman student, please contact the Training Department directly to register.