Counseling, therapy services available at Couple and Family Therapy Center

Therapy session with therapist and three clients.The Couple and Family Therapy Center, conveniently located on the Centro bus line in the heart of downtown Syracuse, offers confidential services with therapists trained to work with adults, children and families. Our therapists are graduate students in the nationally accredited Marriage and Family Therapy program at Syracuse University. They work with faculty supervisors who are experts in the marriage and family therapy field. All supervisors are licensed clinicians and approved supervisors with The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

Marriage and family therapists are effective in treating many issues, such as:

  • Resolving marital and couple difficulties
  • Easing relationship or communication struggles
  • Coping with separation and divorce
  • Managing stress and parent/child difficulties
  • Moving beyond family violence or substance abuse
  • Dealing with emotional distress, anxiety or depression
  • Coping with grief and loss
  • Assessing for gender transition treatments
  • Offering LGBTQ affirmative therapy

For more information, download the brochure.

Donations sought for annual transgender clothing drive

MFT Clothing Drive DonationsFalk College’s Department of Marriage and Family Therapy is coordinating clothing donations to benefit the Syracuse-area transgender community as well as the Utica QCenter. As part of this annual project, gently worn clothes for any season, occasion, age and gender are being accepted now through July 21. From shirts, pants, shorts, dresses and skirts to belts, swimwear, purses, shoes, hair accessories and jewelry, donations are greatly appreciated.

Student organizers working with the transgender population recognize how expensive the transition process is. Many insurance plans don’t cover the costly expense of hormones and there are fees associated with blood work, binders, doctor visits, name changes and other legal documentation. At times, money for a new wardrobe is not possible. For clients with families, or teens who may not have parental support or any financial abilities, shopping for clothing is not only costly, but can be a fearful experience during the transitioning process.

For more information, please contact Anne Metzger-Wormuth at 315.443.3023 or acmetzge@syr.edu. Drop off locations for donations include Peck Hall at 601 East Genesee Street and Falk College, Office of Student Services, 300 MacNaughton Hall.

MFT programs prepare clinicians, scholars, researchers at Peck Hall

Kids with Mom at tableFalk College’s Department of Marriage and Family Therapy seeks to promote change and healing in people’s lives, addressing mental health issues through research, teaching, and providing therapy in the community. Offering the first accredited MFT master’s degree in the United States, Falk College’s program also includes the only MFT-MSW dual degree program in the country. Read more about the life-changing work done at Peck Hall, a five-story, 30,000-square-foot facility that houses classrooms, a children’s clinic and a Couple and Family Therapy Center that serves clients referred from mental health and human service agencies and school districts throughout the area.

Congratulations Falk faculty!

Professors Ellen deLara and Mary Ann Middlemiss at Falk Convocation.
Professors Ellen deLara and Mary Ann Middlemiss at Falk Convocation.
Professor Sarah Short and Dean Diane Lyden Murphy at retirement celebration.
Professor Sarah Short and Dean Diane Lyden Murphy at retirement celebration. Photos courtesy of Prof. Alejandro Garcia.

Dean Murphy, along with Falk College faculty and staff, congratulate faculty who retired at the end of the 2016-17 academic year, including:

  • Ellen deLara, associate professor emerita, social work;
  • Mary Ann Middlemiss, associate professor emerita, public health, and;
  • Sarah Short, professor emerita, nutrition.

In May, the following faculty promotions were announced:

  • Lynn Brann, associate professor, Nutrition
  • Ambika Krishnakumar, professor, Human Development and Family Science
  • Katherine McDonald, professor, Public Health
  • Patrick Walsh, tenured and associate professor, Sport Management

How one alumna discovered her calling to marriage and family therapy

Blessed Unami Sikhosana ’11, G’12, G’17 stands in front of Falk College Complex.
Blessed Unami Sikhosana ’11, G’12, G’17 stands in front of Falk College Complex.

Growing up in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Blessed Unami Sikhosana ’11, G’12, G’17 lived with her grandmother and 6 younger siblings. “My mother was not there,” Sikhosana explains. Her grandmother was the caregiver. Sikhosana recalls the small garden her grandmother made at the back of their yard, teaching her grandchildren how to plant different vegetables she would then sell to buy food, and send Sikhosana—and her siblings—to school.

Sikhosana’s life changed drastically when her grandmother passed away in 1974. “I had my two older sisters, but they were in a boarding school, which meant all the responsibilities fell on my shoulders. I was 12 raising 6 younger siblings.” It strengthened Sikhosana’s character and grit, which would play a big role in her journey to Syracuse University’s Falk College, where in 2017 she earned a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy.

In 1998, Sikhosana came to the United States. “I came to visit my aunt Joyce, but quickly realized that the U.S. is a land of opportunities, provided you apply yourself with determination. So, I decided to stay and further my education.” Although she had never used a computer before, she enrolled at Bryant and Stratton College and studied information technology and programming. “Guess what? I became valedictorian.”

But her academic journey had just begun. Sikhosana’s desire to challenge herself brought her to Syracuse University. Through SU’s University College, she earned her undergraduate degree in paralegal studies in 2011 and took a job as a paralegal working for a child and family attorney. While working there, she completed her executive master’s in international relations and human rights studies through the Maxwell School in 2012.

At the attorney’s office, she recalls, “we dealt with families and children who were hurting.” Sikhosana realized that she was a humanitarian, an advocate for the voiceless. “That’s what drew me in—the love for those who can’t speak for themselves. The refugee communities that have experienced war in their home countries and now suffer from PTSD. Bringing hope to adults who are in nursing homes and providing them with therapy coping skills, especially those who are faced with mental health challenges.”

So, Sikhosana began her studies in marriage and family therapy at Falk College, home of the first accredited master’s degree of its kind in the country. Students in the program complete rigorous coursework in addition to 500 supervised clinical hours, during which students work directly with clients at both the Couple and Family Therapy Center located at Peck Hall, and at an approved community site. For Sikhosana’s internship, she worked at Catholic Charities in Syracuse.

Seeing 27 clients each week was certainly challenging, but Sikhosana treasures the joy and fulfillment she gets from her work. “To be a marriage and family therapist is a rewarding career. You touch lives,” she says. “The bottom line of being a marriage and family therapist is helping individuals with mental health challenges reframe their thinking. Most clients walk into my therapy room defeated. My job is to help them to walk out into the world feeling like a champion.”

Today, Sikhosana is a proud citizen of the U.S., working in and with her community to make a global impact. Through her own initiative, the Blessed Sikhosana Foundation, Inc., she raises funds to send young girls in her home village in the Sigola homestead in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, to school. Currently, the foundation is paying the school fees for 20 girls through its 2 U.S. chapters, Syracuse University and Little Falls, NY.

An active member of the Syracuse Sunrise Rotary Club for nearly 10 years, Sikhosana will be the first African woman president of her club and in this district when she takes office in July. District 7150 is comprised of roughly 43 clubs covering Central New York. “We raise funds through different fundraising activities and use these funds to support our service projects and other charitable activities making a difference in our community and internationally.”

Looking back on the past year, she says it’s been wonderful. “I completed my studies, my son got married, I have two lovely grandchildren, I’m getting married in June 2018.” Her fiancé surprised her with a ring and a proposal on her birthday. “Life begins at 55!” she laughs. “I really want to thank Syracuse University for empowering me to be the marriage and family therapist that I am today,” she says.

Congratulations Class of 2017!

Dean Diane Lyden Murphy, along with the faculty and staff of Falk College, congratulates the Class of 2017! We are excited to see where your careers take you. Remember that you are “forever orange” and will always be a part of Falk College and Syracuse University.

We invite you to stay in touch and connect through social media, on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

As alumni, you will now receive FalkTalk, Falk College’s email newsletter for alumni, parents and friends. FalkTalk keeps you up-to-date with news headlines, student highlights, and upcoming events delivered to your inbox at the end of each semester.

Click here to learn how to stay connected to the ‘Cuse Community in regions all around the world. And please answer these quick questions on how to reach you after graduation.

We have many photos to share that recap some of the celebration events of this past week:

Check out more photos of commencement weekend on collage.syr.edu or on socialmedia.syr.edu/sugrad17.

Falk College students host makeup drive for transgender community March 2

campus-winterFalk College’s Department of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) is hosting a makeup drive to benefit the Syracuse-area transgender community March 2, 2017 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Schine Student Center.

The drive was organized by Meghan Harris and Nikki Binnie, MFT graduate students on the Trans Team at the Syracuse University Couple and Family Therapy Center, part of the MFT program. Students on the Trans Team receive specialized training to provide gender-affirmative therapy for transgender people and their families and assist in the readiness process for medical gender transition. “As students on the Trans Team, we recognized that there was a need in our community that was not being met,” says Harris. “For many transwomen it is difficult to navigate the complicated world of makeup and many face discrimination and judgment if they seek out information on their own. However, makeup is a necessity for many women that helps build confidence and is an outlet to express themselves.”

The students from the Trans Team will not only collect these resources, but will also host a workshop in the future to offer a safe environment in which to teach women how to use makeup. “We want to build connections and an extending network of support within the transgender community but we cannot do that without the help of Allies in the greater Syracuse University community,” Harris adds.

Acceptable items include mascara, eyeliner, eye shadow, foundation, blush, lip gloss, lipstick and other makeup products. For hygienic reasons, products must be new and unopened. For more information, contact Harris mharr104@syr.edu or Binnie nlbinnie@syr.edu.

Falk College announces new Certificate of Advanced Studies in Child Therapy

Falk College Announces New Certificate of Advanced  Studies in Child Therapy. Program focuses on children’s mental and behavioral health needs  across broad scope of origins, symptoms, systems.
Falk College announces new Certificate of Advanced Studies in Child Therapy. Program focuses on children’s mental and behavioral health needs across broad scope of origins, symptoms, systems.

Falk College today announced a Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) in Child Therapy, addressing a growing national shortage of mental health professionals trained to work with children and adolescents and their families. The CAS in Child Therapy is designed for master’s-prepared licensed/certified professionals, and students currently enrolled in master’s-level licensure qualifying programs.

The core courses and elective options in the 12-credit program include the theoretical foundations of therapy with children and their families/caregivers, as well as evidenced-based practice approaches and techniques. Completion of the certificate prepares students for clinical practice with children in mental health, school and residential settings and community agencies.
According to the most recent Surgeon General’s Report on Children’s Mental Health, almost 21 percent of children and adolescents ages 9 to 17 have evidence of distress associated with a specific diagnosis. Approximately half of this group had some treatment in one or more sectors of the de facto mental health service system. However, the remaining 11 percent received no treatment, translating to a majority of children and adolescents with mental disorders not receiving any care.

“Employers are seeking trained professionals who can work with children around a range of presenting concerns. In an era of evidence-based practice, our certificate program in child therapy affords master’s-level clinicians an additional credential as they approach a highly competitive job market,” notes Professor Thom deLara, chair, Department of Marriage and Family Therapy. “The certificate will also help address the significant shortage of child-centered practitioners in the mental health work force by creating a consistent cadre of appropriately educated and trained professionals.”

Many of the courses in the CAS will be taught at Peck Hall, a 30,000 square foot facility in the Syracuse community with three smart classrooms, a 24-station computer lab and an on-site Center for Couple and Family Therapy where students gain valuable hands-on experience. Students will also take courses in the newly renovated Falk Complex. Students can enroll in the program full or part time in the fall or spring semesters, as well as during the summer.

The Department of Marriage and Family Therapy is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education. Now in its 45th year, Falk College’s Department of Marriage and Family Therapy offers one of the oldest programs of its kind in the country, with clinical course offerings that address society’s needs, from couples therapy and military family trauma to LGBTQ therapies, among others. For more information about the new CAS in Child Therapy as well as other programs in Falk College’s graduate program portfolio, including its M.A. and Ph.D. in Marriage and Family, CAS in Trauma-Informed Practice, and our dual degree program in Social Work (M.S.W.) and Marriage and Family Therapy (M.A.), please contact the Falk College Office of Admissions at (315) 443-5555, falk@syr.edu, or visit falk.syr.edu.

American Foundation of Suicide Prevention hosts clinician training October 21

The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, Central New York Chapter, will host an attachment-based family therapy (ABFT) suicide prevention training for clinicians on October 21, 2016 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Maplewood Suites in Liverpool, New York.

The ABFT model is an empirically supported, trust-based, emotion-focused psychotherapy model designed to improve family and individual processes associated with adolescent suicide and depression. Its goal is to repair interpersonal ruptures, and rebuild an emotionally protective parent-child relationship.

The workshop will be instructed by Guy Diamond, Ph.D., the primary developer of Attachment-Based Family Therapy which has received funding and support from several state and national foundations. Dr. Diamond is currently a visiting professor and interim director of the doctor of philosophy program in the Couple and Family Therapy department at Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions.

The workshop offers 6.5 hours of continuing education credit through the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).

Seats are limited. The registration deadline is Friday, October 14, 2016. The cost of registration is $100 general admission, including CE credits when applicable, and $25 for students. To register, visit afsp.org/event/attachment-based-family-therapy-workshop.

The Attachment-Based Family Therapy Clinician Training was made possible by AFSP Central New York Chapter’s Out of the Darkness Walks and by in-kind sponsorships from New York State Senator Patty Ritchie and Falk College. For more information, contact Deb Graham by phone (315) 664-0346 or email dgraham@afsp.org.

Refugees and Their Changing Family Experience

A story by Kathleen Haley with SU News.

Refugee families risk their lives to escape war and violence. Their first priority is their safety.

RefugeeFamiliesThumbnailBut what happens when they settle in new homes in different countries free from conflict? Everything has changed—they’re separated from family, they’ve lost their homes and livelihoods—and their past struggles still live in them.

Assistant Professor Rashmi Gangamma wanted to understand the family experience for refugees in the midst of loss, upheaval and resettlement, and has undertaken research to explore how they make meaning of their relationships. The work could ultimately inform therapy interventions.

“I was interested in knowing more about their lived experience, what happens to family relationships when they are abruptly—and very violently sometimes—displaced from their home country and then moved to different places and ultimately resettle in a host country,” says Gangamma, who is in the Department of Marriage and Family Therapy in the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics.

After joining Syracuse University in 2012, Gangamma was introduced to the work by one of her colleagues, Daran Shipman, who had worked with the refugee population.

“As I did more research, I realized there’s so much more research to be done—especially when it comes to wellbeing and mental health,” says Gangamma, a family therapist. “It’s a fairly new area of research for me but something that I very quickly became passionate about.”

Gangamma received a $5,000 seed grant through Falk College to study the family experiences of Iraqi refugees resettled in Syracuse. Last year, she conducted interviews with 11 individuals who were displaced following the 2003 U.S.-led war and now live in Syracuse.

“My interviews were focused around the context of displacement, whether they experienced a change in their relationships, how the relationships evolved, how were they maintained and any changes in family interactions with each other,” Gangamma says. “Since I’m also a clinician, most of my work has been with an eye toward what we can do to plan better interventions.”

Witness to violence

Some individuals had arrived in America with a partner and children, but there were also individuals who had arrived by themselves, separated from family. Most of them had moved to the United States between 2008 and 2013 and had been witness to ethnic tensions and violence.

“Some participants talked about being targeted to the extent that they had to leave almost overnight,” she says. “Those who were not directly targeted were exposed to other forms of violence. They were witnessing violence in their neighborhood or witnessing health consequences of being exposed to depleted uranium-tipped ammunition used during the war.”

The refugees all talked about not feeling safe, not being able to trust others, a lack of opportunities and a deterioration in the quality of life in their home country—very different as compared to their life before the war, Gangamma says. When they moved to neighboring countries, there were difficulties in finding work and their struggles continued.

“The sense of loss didn’t end when they left Iraq. They have left behind their family, property and the life that they knew,” Gangamma says. “That doesn’t go away. It’s all interwoven in their narratives.”

Despite their past experiences, language barriers or discrimination, “participants were very much invested in making a better life for themselves,” which may not be the case for all refugees. “One of the things that stood out was how forward-focused and future-oriented they were,” Gangamma says.

Effects on the family

With all of these challenges, there were, of course, effects on their family relationships.

“Almost all of them said there was a change—and how could there not be a change? Most of them said they moved closer to each other, because they are the only ones they can rely on,” Gangamma says.

Without forming outside networks, including other members of the local Iraqi community, the family becomes the only social support and eventually there may be a strain on the family. “I would be interested to see how that plays out in the parent-child relationships. For instance, as children get older, what kind of consequences will that have,” Gangamma says.

Gender roles

Another aspect in the changing relationships was that of gender roles. Women experienced their male family members being more engaged in child care and household responsibilities, Gangamma says.

She wants to look further at those changing gender roles and whether they conflict with traditional beliefs, how family members resolve those issues. Questions such as these would be important while providing culturally sensitive treatment services, Gangamma says.

Gangamma, who presented her work at last fall’s National Council on Family Relations conference, hopes to expand the number of research participants, including Syrians; explore more in-depth understanding of issues, such as cultural loyalty, and whether that has an impact on health and wellbeing; and possibly do an international multi-site study.

“In one sense, I’m really excited about the possibilities because there is so much that needs to be done,” Gangamma says. “But it’s also unfortunate that we still have so much to do.”