Expired Family Therapy with Young Adults Suffering with Serious Mental Illness

This lecture is part of the Ackerman Distinguished Family Therapy Lecture Series, designed to contribute to conversations on advancements and opportunities in family therapy training. Lectures are free and open to the public.

Program Description:

The onset of a severe psychiatric illness such as major depression or bi-polar illness is a powerfully complex experience for young adults and their families. The young adult is faced with the daunting challenge of dealing with symptoms. For parents, managing their own emotional reactions to their young adult’s troubling behaviors can be overwhelming. Additionally, there is the confusing apparent reversal in relational dynamics – a relationship that was recently defined by normative adolescent tasks of separation and individuation may now defined by an overwhelming dependence on the part of the young adult. Basic family psychoeducation may be insufficient for many families. Using a case example from Ackerman’s Young Adults with Serious Mental Illness and their Families Project, this presentation will describe how we help families create “climates of calm.”

More specifically we will describe how we:

  • Re-choreograph cycle of interaction around the symptoms
  • Lower criticism, blaming and rejecting comments and behaviors
  • Help parents recalibrate their over-protective or under-protective behaviors


Lois Braverman, MSW is President Emeritus of the Ackerman Institute for the Family. Appointed in 2006, she is the Institute’s fourth president. Braverman is a highly regarded educator and clinician with over 40 years of experience in the field. Her many publications and international presentations challenge the assumptions implicit in major schools of family therapy about women’s role in the family, in the workplace, and in the psychotherapeutic setting. Her special areas of interest have been women’s friendships and marital relationships, depression and marital dynamics, motherhood and mothering, family therapy with adolescents, and issues of power in family therapy. Currently, her clinical research project is seeing families with a young adult who suffers with serious mental illness. She is founding editor of the Journal of Feminist Family Therapy and author of Women, Feminism and Family Therapy, (The Haworth Press). She was the recipient of the 1994 American Family Therapy Academy’s “Innovative Contribution to Family Therapy Award,” the 2012 University of Iowa, College of Arts and Sciences “Distinguished Alumni Award. and the 2019 American Family Therapy Academy’s “Lifetime Achievement Award.” She maintains a private practice specializing in couple and family therapy.

Mary Kim Brewster, PhD is the Director of the Serious Mental Illness and the Family Project at the Ackerman Institute for the Family. Her publications and national and international presentations address the impact of a serious mental illness on family well-being, clinical processes in systemic-relational therapy, and the effects of racial and gender marginalization, discrimination, and violence on couple and family relationships. Brewster recently co-chaired the 2023 Spring Meeting for the Society for Psychoanalysis and Psychoanalytic Psychology, Division 39 of the American Psychological Association in New York City. Her current clinical research and writing focuses on the subjective experiences of Asian Americans in psychotherapy. Brewster supervises in the Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology at the City University of New York and has a private practice specializing in individuals, couples, and families.

Return to Ackerman Distinguished Family Therapy Lecture Series

  • January 31, 2024
    6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Lois Braverman, MSW and Mary Kim Brewster, PhD

CE contact hours are not offered for this series.

Location:   Online Event


A link will be emailed to you one day before the event. Online events are held in Eastern Standard Time (ET).

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