The Department of Marriage and Family Therapy was conceptualized by the College of Home Economics’ then-Dean, Bernice Wright, professor Robert Pickett, Chair of the Department of Family Relations and Child Development, and Harvey Noordsy, Executive Director of the Onondaga County Pastoral Counseling Center. At the time, the program was intended for persons making mid-life career changes and ministers wishing to augment their pastoral counseling skills. As Falk College continues its excellence in training future marriage and family therapists with the longest-standing accredited master and doctoral programs in the country, it is preparing students to meet a critical need for trained mental health professionals. Marriage and family therapists are licensed or certified in 50 states, and recognized by the Federal government as members of a distinct mental health discipline. Syracuse University alumni work all around the world in private practice, inpatient facilities, mental health centers, schools, and social service agencies, among other areas.


The first students enter the program. The following year, the New York State Department of Education grants permission for Syracuse University to award a master of arts in marriage and family counseling. The M.A. was initially a program within the Department of Family Relations and Child Development. 1 Pictured is a 1963 class discussing family relations.


Professor Sol Gordon joins Syracuse University to establish the Family Planning and Population Education Center and the marriage and family therapy program. Gordon serviced as Program Director from 1970 to 1976, and started the popular undergraduate course in human sexuality that attracted up to 400 students each semester. 2 Gordon would retire in 1985, but the course continued successfully, taught by his former graduate assistant, professor Joseph Fanelli, pictured, for 34 years.


The College of Home Economics is renamed the College for Human Development. 3 A student is pictured reading to a child in the early 1970’s.


The marriage and family therapy program receives provisional accreditation by the American Association for Marriage and Family Counseling. 4 Dean Bernice Wright, whose leadership envisioned the department of Marriage and Family Therapy, is pictured in 1972 with professor Victoria Thiel seated to her right. 5 Also pictured is a child therapy session in the 1970s.


The College of Human Development becomes the first unit at Syracuse University to stage its own convocation for students and parents on graduation weekend. Most Colleges at the University have since followed suit. 6 Professor Robert Pickett’s class is pictured in 1973, in which a student examines an article about parenthood.


Syracuse University’s program in marriage and family therapy is the first in the U.S. to receive full accreditation by the American Association for Marriage and Family Counseling, which later becomes the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education. Soon after accreditation, it becomes a 45-credit program. Professor Charlotte Kahn serves as Program Director from 1976 to 1984.


The marriage and family therapy program moves to new facilities in Slocum Hall consisting of two faculty offices and four small clinic rooms equipped for live supervision. In 1986, the clinic was expanded by adding another therapy room, enlarging two existing rooms, and increasing opportunities for live and videotape supervision. Professor Eleanor Macklin services as Program Director from 1984 to 1992 and later from 1993 to 1998. 7 Pictured is a 1984 marriage therapy session and observation. 8 Also pictured is a 1984 child therapy session.


The Human Sexuality Program, a treatment and training program in sex therapy, is instituted with joint sponsorship by the College of Human Development and the Department of Family Medicine, SUNY Health Science Center. A second joint program, the Family Medicine/Family Therapy Program, was instituted in 1989.


Syracuse University is granted permission by the New York State Department of Education to award doctoral degrees in marriage and family therapy, and the doctoral program receives full accreditation in 1996. It is the first doctoral program in New York State and one of the two doctoral programs in the northeast. Professor Linda Stone Fish serves as Program Director from 1992 to 1993 and from 1998 to 2001.


The marriage and family therapy program is ranked number one nationally. The program graduates its first doctoral student.


At Syracuse University, the College for Human Development, School of Social Work and College of Nursing become part of the new College of Human Services and Health Professions. Within the new College, marriage and family therapy programs move from the Department of Child and Family Studies to establish the stand-alone Department of Marriage and Family Therapy. Professor Linda Stone Fish becomes the first Chair of the Department of Marriage and Family Therapy, followed by Jonathan Sandberg in 2003. The College is renamed the College of Human Ecology in 2007 under Dean Diane Lyden Murphy, who took office in 2005.


To better meet the needs of transgender people, the Transgender Treatment Team is formed under the leadership of professor Deborah Coolhart. Students on the Trans Team, renamed the Gender Expansive Support Team in 2019, receive specialized training to provide gender-affirmative therapy for transgender people and their families, and assist in the readiness process for medical gender transition.


The Department of Marriage and Family Therapy relocates to the former College of Nursing at 426 Ostrom Avenue in a newly remodeled area. The facilities include five therapy rooms (all with observation capabilities), an assessment room, video room, student room, reception area, and administrative and faculty offices.


The College of Human Services and Health Professions is renamed the College of Human Ecology. Professor Thom deLara becomes Chair of the department. 9 Pictured are therapy scenes, one in 2008 and two others in 2009, respectively.


The department moves from the 2,400-square foot site on campus to a newly renovated 5,500-square foot facility on James Street with expanded office space, clinic space, student areas, and a large classroom.

That same year, the State Education Department of New York approves degree program changes to make it a 60-credit degree to meet the national licensure requirement trends.


The College of Human Ecology is renamed the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics with support from Syracuse University Alumni David Falk ’72 and Rhonda Falk ’74. The Falk Complex, former home of the College of Law, is dedicated in 2015.


10 The Department of Marriage and Family Therapy moves to Peck Hall, pictured, a building that opened originally in 1896 as the Syracuse University College of Medicine and later served as a home for University College. The 30,000-square foot facility includes the Couple and Family Therapy Center, a no-cost mental health clinic that accommodates nearly 10,000 client visits annually in support of the Central New York community and beyond. the new facility has a greatly expanded clinic area with 14 counseling offices, three classrooms, a large computer lab, an entire floor for student lounges, kitchen and locker room, and one floor for a community agency to occupy as a partner in clinical training for second-year students. 11 The exterior of the former College of Medicine, now Peck Hall, is pictured. 12 Pictured are student engaging in classroom activities in Peck Hall in 2013.

The same year, the social work and marriage and family therapy dual degree master program is introduced, the first of its kind in the nation.


The New York State Department of Education approves the certificate of advanced studies in trauma-informed practice, structured for clinicians, mental health professionals, and practitioners from allied disciplines to expand their knowledge and skills in trauma response and intervention.


Grant awards from the Community Foundation of Central New York and the John Ben Snow Foundation support a new collaborative project, led by principle investigator, professor Linda Stone Fish. The project, entitled, In This Together, provides workshops to help social services professionals, educators, health care practitioners juvenile justice workers, clergy, and mental health counselors learn how to identify and address signs of trauma. The program also provides grief counseling, healing circles, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and therapy to community members impacted by violence.

The same year, students organize the first clothing collection drive for the transgender community. Held at Peck Hall, transgender individuals attend to try on quality clothing and take home wardrobe items at no cost.

Couple Enrichment is a structured, educational experience focused on helping couples with relationships and communication. Graduate students enrolled in a marriage and family therapy practicum course co-lead the psycho-educational program with an undergraduate student enrolled in the course Human Sexuality. 13 Pictured are students Karaleen Lukash G’15 and Jacob Warner G’15 at Couple Enrichment in 2015.


Falk College announces a certificate of advanced studies in child therapy, addressing a growing national shortage of mental health professionals trained to work with children and adolescents and their families. 14 Doctoral student Jennifer Coppola ’15 M.A., ’19 Ph.D. is pictured in 2017 providing family therapy in Peck Hall. 15 Master student Oumou Sylla ’16, G’18 is also pictured in 2017 providing family therapy for her internship at Vera House, a local agency that supports survivors of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and elder abuse.


The Department of Marriage and Family Therapy hosts the inaugural Trans Support Day to benefit The Syracuse-area transgender community. Under the leadership of Clinic Supervisor Daran Shipman, the event incorporates a clothing drive, makeup instruction tutorials and giveaways, legal advice for ID changes, a speech language pathologist, and networking. 16 Students are pictured at the clothing collection.

Each year, the department hosts Capstone Day during which students present on their capstone experience. 17 Pictured is master student Victoria Altamura G’18 sharing her experience at 2018 Capstone Day. 18 Also pictured is the 2018 graduating class gathered at Falk College Convocation in Manley Field House.


Beginning in 2014, the department continues to accelerate community engagement to deliver family therapy services to vulnerable and marginalized populations in Syracuse, NY. The Adolescent Diversion Program initiated by Director of Clinical Services Tracey Reichert-Schimpff provides master and doctoral students a unique opportunity to work with the juvenile justice system. Following this model, in 2018 and 2019 professors Linda Stone Fish, Dyane Watson, and Rashmi Gangamma along with doctoral students Brandon Hollie and Shaelise Tor develop satellite sites in community agencies serving inner city families of color and resettled refugees in Syracuse. This university-community collaboration brings opportunities for clinical practice, research, and training that reduces barriers to seeking family therapy services. 19 Pictured is Syracuse Community Connections, one of the established community agency satellite sites.

Also in 2019, the online master program is approved.