Marriage & Family Therapy

Trans Support Day benefits transgender community

Students at the 2018 Trans Support Day
Students at Trans Support Day April 12, 2018

More than 50 attended Trans Support Day on April 12, 2018, including individuals, couples, parents, and kids. Hosted by the Syracuse University Trans Team, the event included clothing and makeup giveaways, makeup tutorials, legal advice for ID changes. The clothing and makeup giveaways were made possible by generous donations to the Trans Team’s clothing and makeup drive.

The event also included a visit from a speech-language pathologist, Josie Zanfordino, a lecturer and clinical supervisor in the Speech Pathology Department at Ithaca College and the co-founder of the Transgender Voice and Communication Clinic.

The Syracuse University Trans Team is part of the Syracuse University Couple and Family Therapy Center, housed within the Falk College Department of Marriage and Family Therapy, located in Peck Hall, just north of main campus on E. Genesee Street. 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.

More information is available online for those who wish to learn more about the Couple and Family Therapy Center and the Trans Team.

SU Trans Team to host Trans Support Day April 12

Flier design for Trans Support DayThe Syracuse University Trans Team will host Trans Support Day to benefit the Syracuse-area transgender community on April 12, 2018 from 2 to 7:30 p.m. in Peck Hall, located at 601 E. Genesee Street just north of main campus.

The Trans Team is part of the Syracuse University Couple and Family Therapy Center, housed within the Falk College Department of Marriage and Family Therapy. 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.

The April 12 event will incorporate a clothing drive and makeup giveaways from 2 – 6:30 p.m., legal advice for ID changes and makeup instruction tutorials from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m., and a visit from voice expert Josie Zanfordino from 5 – 6 p.m. The event will conclude with networking and refreshments from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

The Trans Team will be collecting clothing and makeup donations for the drive from March 26 – April 5 at two drop off sites: Room 300 MacNaughton Hall in the Falk Complex, and Floor 3 of Peck Hall. To support the clothing drive, please donate lightly used clothing. such as shirts, sweaters, pants, leggings, shorts, rompers, and dresses; accessories like scarves, belts, shoes, bags, undergarments, hair accessories, jewelry, and sunglasses. Any size, age, and gender items are welcome. Larger sizes are in high demand.  For the makeup drive, please donate new and unopened makeup items, such as eyeliner, eye shadow, mascara, lipstick, foundation, and blush.

For more information, please contact Anne Metzger-Wormuth at (315) 443-3023 or

Shipman’s article provides insight on the experiences of transgender therapists

Peck Hall exterior
Peck Hall is home to the Department of Marriage and Family Therapy.

Daran Shipman, MA, LMFT, Clinic Supervisor in the Department of Marriage and Family Therapy at Falk College, recently published an article in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy entitled, “Clinical and Supervisory Considerations for Transgender Therapists: Implications for Working with Clients.” The article provides insight on the experiences of transgender therapists and seeks to encourage more conversation around the need for acknowledging and understanding these perspectives.

Read the full article.

January 2018 courses to focus on therapy with military families, LGBTQ relationships

Several January 8-12, 2018 course offerings for graduate students in marriage and family therapy and other mental health professions, among other programs, will be offered. MFT 788-Systemic Family Therapy with Military Families will emphasize evidence-based trauma-informed clinical practice and provide systemic approaches to working with Veterans and military families. Professors Thom deLara, department chair, and Dyane Watson, will teach the course offered at Peck Hall. MFT 642-Couple and Family Therapy with LGBTQ Relationships, also offered at Peck Hall, will provide an overview of the specific issues LGBTQ couples and families face and ways in which these issues impact relationships and other social systems. The course will be taught by Professor Deborah Coolhart.

MFT 788: Systemic Family Therapy with Military Families
For graduate students in Marriage and Family Therapy and other mental health professions, and mental health practitioners

This course will emphasize evidence-based and trauma-informed clinical practice, will provide systemic approaches to working with veterans and military families, and will provide a framework for the course. Students will examine the primary and secondary impact of deployment, conflict and military lifestyle on the social and emotional functioning of the family and its individual members. They will come to understand military culture and language as a context for approaching clinical practice with military families. Students will learn trauma-informed approaches to practice, and evidence-based models for clinical practice. The family life cycle will be explored, as will issues of spirituality and community support systems. Students successfully completing this course will have an understanding of, and an ability to work with, veterans and military families.

MFT 642-Couple and Family Therapy with LGBTQ Relationships
For graduate students in MFT, Social Work, Child & Family Studies, Women’s & Gender Studies, Counseling and related programs

This course provides an overview of the specific issues LGBTQ couples and families face and ways in which these issues impact relationships and other social systems. The self-of-therapist will be examined in relation to sexual and gender identity development and the ways in which therapists’ identities may impact clinical work with LGBTQ couples and families. Students will gain LGBTQ-affirmative clinical skills and explore topics including couple dynamics, heterosexual/cisgender privilege, coming out, internalized oppression, intersection of other cultural identities, the formation of families and parenting, gender transition, polyamory, and intersexuality.

Marriage and family therapy alumna sees rising need for trauma-informed practice

Carrie Land-Steves Portrait
Carrie Land-Steves G’09

For alumna Carrie Land-Steves G’09, marriage and family therapy was an obvious career choice. After completing her undergraduate studies in social science, she looked into graduate school and found Syracuse University to be an “immediate fit,” from the program and courses, to the professors and students.

As a Clinical Supervisor at Vera House, a Syracuse agency offering comprehensive domestic and sexual violence programs, Land-Steves provides support and guidance to the therapist and carries her own client cases, as well. “The most rewarding part for me is being able to witness people heal, grow, and become the versions of themselves that they want to be. I am honored every day to be able to bear witness to survivor’s pain, suffering, resilience, and healing.”

There are ways anyone and everyone can help end domestic and sexual violence, says Land-Steves. To start, “Have conversations. Honest conversations,” she says. “Domestic and sexual violence often happen in isolation, and if we can continue to have some of these challenging conversations, we can continue to change ourselves, culture, and norms.” Or, she says, consider donating your time or resources to an agency like Vera House.

“I see an increase in therapists becoming trauma-informed and this is very hopeful. I would argue that every client who goes into a therapeutic space has experienced a trauma at some point in their life,” says Land-Steves. “Being able to assess and identify what the client is needing to heal from that trauma is something that every clinician needs to be able to address, support, and treat.” Falk College offers a Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS) in Trauma-Informed Practice, which can equip mental health professionals with additional skills in trauma response and intervention.

“It is our role [as therapists] to create a space where all individuals, couples, and families can process their history or current events and gain more clarity and find healing,” she explains. “I cannot imagine myself doing anything else.”

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

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.

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.

The full article was printed in the Syracuse University Magazine, Spring 2017 edition.

Congratulations Falk faculty!

Ellen deLara and Mary Ann Middlemiss posed
Professors Ellen deLara and Mary Ann Middlemiss at Falk Convocation.
Portrait of Sarah Short and Diane Murphy
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 posed
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.