Substance Abuse And Family


Director: Peter Steinglass, MD

Ackerman’s Center for Substance Abuse and the Family (CSAF) is dedicated to the development of treatment models for addressing problems arising in families secondary to substance use and abuse in one or more family members.

In particular, the Center’s work focuses on those situations in which substance abuse is a complicating factor compromising the family’s ability to address crises and/or manage on-going issues in family life, including:

  • problems at work
  • raising children
  • social relationships
  • relationships between family members

Our approach focuses on:

  • identifying existing resources within families;
  • exploring how these resources have been compromised by the demands of substance abuse, and;
  • strategizing with families how to reverse this process.

It is our belief that by mobilizing the inherent strengths within families and by working with families to understand how substance use has compromised family relationships, families and clinicians can collaborate in designing strategies for reversing the downward spiral of alcoholism and drug abuse.

By bringing families together to address the previously unrecognized consequences of substance abuse, we offer families the unique opportunity to share perspectives about the impact of alcohol and drugs on their relationships, and to generate new strategies for tackling the unwanted consequences of substance abuse on family life.

In addition to the development of treatment models, the Center’s parallel missions include:

Training mental health and medical professionals how to use family-focused approaches to substance abuse treatment;
Researching the effectiveness of our treatment approaches;
Educating the public about the effects of substance abuse on family life.


Through Ackerman’s Treatment Center, the CFSA staff provides evaluation and consultation services in cases where substance abuse is one of the issues with which a family is struggling.

We also maintain a series of collaborative arrangements with substance abuse specialty clinics and programs in the New York metropolitan area, in which we provide on-going consultation to these programs around family therapy issues. These collaborations also allow us to refer substance abuse clients for specialty individual and group therapy where warranted.

Center for Substance Abuse and the Family
212 879-4900, ext 119


The Center supports a wide range of educational activities, including:

  • presentations and workshops at conferences;
  • lectures for medical and mental health professionals in the NYC area;
  • all-day workshops at Ackerman and at other locations nationally and internationally and as part of Ackerman’s workshop series; and
  • supervision of Ackerman family therapy trainees.

Also in the planning stage is an advanced training track at Ackerman for mental health professionals interested in receiving in-depth instruction and supervision in family-based approaches to substance abuse treatment.

Examples of recent presentations by CSAF staff include:

  • Grand Rounds lecture to the faculty, staff and trainees of the Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse at NYU/Bellevue’s Department of Psychiatry
  • Workshop session at the New York State Psychological Association Division on Addiction’s 2006 Annual Conference
  • Lectures and workshops on the CSAF Systemic-Motivational Model of substance abuse treatment at the Institute of Psychiatry, Maudsley Hospital, London

Center for Substance Abuse and the Family
212 879-4900, ext 119


The Center is committed to both systematic evaluation of our treatment models and to collaboration with researchers investigating problems where a family—focused approach to substance abuse may help improve treatment outcome. Two examples of such projects in the exploratory stage are:

  • a collaboration with the Department of Psychiatry at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute examining the usefulness of a multiple-family discussion group intervention with head and neck cancer patients and their families. The goal is to prevent re-exacerbation of cancer by interrupting the cycle of cancer patients’ continuing use of alcohol (a major carcinogen) and thus decreasing the chance of recurrence cancers after otherwise successful initial treatment; and
  • a collaboration with the Institute of Psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital in London to carry out an effectiveness trial of our systemic-motivational model of family-focused substance abuse treatment.

Center for Substance Abuse and the Family
212 879-4900, ext 119


Peter Steinglass, MD, is President Emeritus of the Ackerman Institute for the Family and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Weill/Cornell University Medical College, as well as Director of Ackerman’s Center for Substance Abuse and the Family. His work has included significant programmatic research into medical and psychiatric illness as it affects families, and he has written extensively on these subjects, including the book, The Alcoholic Family, which is considered a benchmark in the field.

Sari Kutch, LCSW, is a couples and family therapist who has been recognized by the Ackerman Institute and OASAS for her contributions to the development and implementation of innovative treatment models for both residential and outpatient addiction treatment settings. An Ackerman graduate, she is also the recipient of the 2005 Carl Kempner Award, given to her in recognition of her contributions to the work of the Substance Abuse and Family Center.

Upon graduating Ackerman’s externship program in 1999, Sari was invited to join the staff of the Center for Substance Abuse and Family, an opportunity that allowed her to combine her now extensive family therapy training with her years of clinical experience in the substance-abuse field.

In her role as associate director she has been has been instrumental in the development of the Center’s systemic motivational model for working with families in which substances are a problem. She has collaborated with Dr. Steinglass, the Center’s Director, in the adaptation of this model for use in medical, mental health and social service settings. Ms. Kutch has been responsible for the design and implementation of substance abuse component of Ackerman’s community program.

Center for Substance Abuse and the Family
212 879-4900, ext 119

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