Marriage & Family Therapy

Department of Marriage and Family Therapy Statement of Support

Welcome to the new semester. Last spring the SU community was involved in an incident that shocked us. At the time, some in the MFT Department met and issued a statement that we attempted to deliver to the wider community. Because we have not seen it in print, we wanted to make sure it was on our website. The statement is below.

In light of the recent horrific videos that showed members of the SU community making statements and performing acts that dehumanize others, we state that we strongly condemn this and other similar behaviors, and the culture that encourages it. These incidents so close to home have harmful impacts on our community. We support efforts to examine and dismantle systems that perpetuate these behaviors, including those within our own campus. In addition to institutional efforts, sometimes being able to talk about how these experiences impact us to someone who will listen and hear your experience, can help the healing process. The Department of Marriage and Family Therapy wants to remind students that we offer culturally sensitive and trauma informed services to the SU community. Our services through the Couple and Family Therapy Center are free, and are at Peck Hall, 601, E. Genesee Street, Syracuse, NY. To contact our services, please call 315 443 3023.

Congratulations Falk Faculty

Deborah Coolhart and Rashmi GangammaMarriage and Family Therapy faculty members Deborah Coolhart and Rashmi Gangamma were recently tenured and promoted to the rank of associate professor.

In the Fall of 2012, Coolhart was appointed assistant professor after serving as an adjunct instructor in the department since 2008. She has designed and taught graduate courses and supervised the clinical work of master’s students in the Couple and Family Therapy Center. Under her leadership, a Transgender Treatment Team was created and continues to provide services in the Central New York community. Gangamma also joined Falk College as assistant professor in 2012. her areas of research inquiry include family relationships and mental health of refugees resettled in the U.S., application of contextual therapy theory in clinical practice and research, and therapeutic processes in family systems 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.