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The American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA) urges the Department of Homeland Security to immediately withdraw the proposed "public charge" rule. This harmful policy will harm millions of immigrants and their families by undermining their access to essential health, nutrition, and shelter.

By moving forward with this ruling we will affect millions of families in the following ways:

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AFTA Stands with Terrorized Families: An Invitation to Nurture Hope

Immigrants and immigrant communities all over the country are in hiding and people are living in these terrified, terrorized ways, because that is the point of this whole action, whether enforcement actions take place or not.

Mary Bauer, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s deputy legal director

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Eric Goepfert, MD

Eric Goepfert MD, an AFTA member since 2012, died at a young age on March 13, 2018.  He asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to AFTA.  He became interested in AFTA in conversations with Corky Becker, Liz Brenner and John Sargent, and joined in 2012 as a student member, attending his first AFTA conference in San Francisco in 2012. Eric felt a special connection to AFTA due to the organization’s mission to promote clinical excellence in systems therapy coupled with a strong commitment to social justice, human rights, diversity and inclusion. He found AFTA to be a home for his ideas, his dedication to family therapy and his singular dedication to all marginalized communities. In his short life he epitomized the best of AFTA and loved the organization. His life and work made a tremendous mark on those he knew and treated. The tragedy of his too early death is that he was not able to make the mark on the field that he could have made had he lived.

Corky Becker, Ph.D. &  John Sargent, MD

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AFTA’s Position on Gun Violence

In December, 2012, a young man armed with an assault rifle walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and fatally shot 20 young children, six adults, and himself.

In June of 2015, 9 African Americans were shot to death by a white supremacist during a prayer service at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, North Carolina.

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AFTA Opposes Ending Temporary Protected Status

AFTA is opposed to the Trump Administration’s decision to end the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) previously granted to more than 300,000 Central Americans who have made the United States their home over several decades. This decision will surely result in the trauma of forced separation for countless families and the needless destruction of thriving communities across the country.

The United States Congress established TPS in 1990, offering protection to those foreign nationals that had fled dangerous conditions resulting from armed conflict and/or “natural” disaster.  With the rescinding of TPS, individuals who, upon immigrating to the United States have become homeowners, opened businesses, actively participated in their communities and nurtured their American-born children will be subject to arrest and deportation.  Those deported will likely face dangers equal to if not worse than those they initially escaped, leaving their relatives (an estimated 273,000 children, and more than 30,000 married partners according to the Center for Migration Studies) with citizenship or legal residency to endure a relentless fear for the survival of their loved ones.

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AFTA’s Support for Transgender Persons

The American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA) stands with transgender individuals and their families and in opposition to Texas Senate Bill 3.

Texas Senate Bill 3 denies transgender individuals access to bathrooms that match their gender identity in public and charter schools and state and city owned buildings. This bill also prohibits cities from developing their own anti-discrimination policies regarding multiple occupancy restrooms or participation in athletics programs.

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Welcome Letter from AFTA President Victoria Dickerson

Welcome Everyone,

I am pleased to begin my Presidency.  I hope to be of service to everyone in this organization.   It is my fondest wish to realize the vision I articulated shortly after I was elected:

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Salvador Minuchin

Following Salvador Minuchin’s death on October 30. 2017, there have been many richly deserved obituaries hailing his life’s work as extraordinarily influential in the mental health field and particularly in his pioneering of family therapy. In many of these tributes  family therapy is described as a modality of work with its special technical characteristics of interviewing the whole family, or structural family therapy as creating a crisis as a prerequisite for change. However, on the conceptual side, Sal Minuchin’s work is much more than a type of intervention or modality. It actually gave an entirely new field many of its foundational principles.

At the forefront of these principles is a relational view of individual identity and personal behavior. We cannot understand the individual without observing how it is influenced and influences the behavior of intimate others. In his sessions, Sal only appeared to be talking to one person. In fact, he always talked to all present with a talent for illustrating complementarities (“On whose shoulders has this child become a giant?”, “You are a widow, your husband does not pay attention to you”).  The concept of boundaries divided in proximity and hierarchies was perhaps one of the first attempts to come up with problematic interactional patterns or relational assessments.

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Five BASIC Guidelines of Gender Affirming Care for Children, Youth, and Families.

For therapists working with children, youth and families, Transgender, Nonbinary or Gender Expansive children and youth are presenting at increased rates in agencies and independent practice. There are not necessarily “more” young people, but rather, increased safety, visibility and “permission” to come out has led to increased awareness. The more equipped family therapists are to support these young people the better their overall prognosis is regarding family acceptance and positive mental health outcomes.

1.      Listen and accept the wisdom that young people have about their gender

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AFTA Joins the People of New Zealand in Mourning

AFTA joins the people of New Zealand in mourning the senseless loss of life and heinous injuries suffered by the Muslim community in Christchurch, New Zealand.  We acknowledge that this terrible slaughter was committed and justified in the name of racist, xenophobic and Islamaphobic ideology. We condemn the actions of the man who murdered these people and call upon all governments across the globe, including our own, likewise to condemn white supremacist ideas and acts.

White supremacist terrorism killed 50 people and injured 50 more at the two mosques in Christchurch, on Friday, March 15th.  As systems thinkers and people who work with and for families, AFTA recognizes that systems of power and oppression determine the liberties we are afforded and denied, as well as the abuses we are protected from and subjected to.  We fervently implore the global community to insist on safety and freedom from harm for families of all faiths.

Sarah Berland, LCSW                                    Victoria C. Dickerson, Ph.D.
Family Policy/ Human Rights Chair            President

Cultural Competent Therapists for Black Women

I work in a homeless shelter that serves 21 families and currently 90% of those families identify as African American, single family homes with the mother as the primary support. With each day they are living in our shelter, a new challenge is presented to these women, more specifically these Black women. Each day, society tells a Black woman to play the hand she’s dealt and to make it happen. But at what cost? Trauma surrounding Black women occurs at higher rates than any other racial group and the homeless women at the shelter have it tougher than others.

Judy suffered tremendous trauma as a result of her unlawful termination a few years ago. During our time together, Judy shared that her termination began to rehash some other occurrences she encountered years ago at the hands of a man who sexually assaulted her. For years, Judy has walked around not working through these traumatic experiences because society had taught her that as a Black woman her feelings are invalid and that crying over spilled milk will do nothing. These teachings are common for Black women and yet, so many of us fail to understand the trauma that is occurring within us.

Mirco-aggressive behaviors are encountered by African American women on a daily basis through systemic racial inequalities, lack of employment and sustainable resources for one’s family, body language and even facial expressions. Judy’s termination was a result of her standing up for herself because of an inequality in pay between her and a white woman colleague. Society has again told a Black woman that she lacks value and that her place in this world is expendable. What’s important to note is that racial trauma in Black women is a rarely spoken of  phenomenon that deserves our attention. Trauma in Black women has physical, emotional, social and economic consequences. So, why is this so important for our work?

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The Migrant Caravan

“no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark”

Over this last year, AFTA as an organization attempting to honor its mission and vision, has been required to post an unprecedented number of statements opposing, denouncing, insisting, decrying, grieving, resisting…

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The deepest sympathies of the AFTA community go out to all those affected by the shooting that resulted in the deaths of 13 people on Wednesday in Thousand Oaks, CA.

We recognize that our thoughts and prayers are not enough.

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AFTA meets Hate with Hope

AFTA mourns with the families of the victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, October 27, 2018: Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax, and Irving Younger

We share the heartbreak of our Jewish AFTA members and the larger Jewish Community.  We must join together to fight hate and injustice. We must remember and honor the victims of such hate and let them know their lives made a difference in this world.

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AFTA Joins #WontBeErased

A memo was leaked earlier this week revealing the intention of the current administration to erase the existence of transgender and non-binary Americans by legally defining gender as a “biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth.”  

AFTA unequivocally endorses the rights of all transgender, non-binary, intersex and gender non-conforming people and their families. We summarily reject the assaultive notion that gender is determined by genitalia and lived exclusively within a binary. We stand with the intersex community in refuting the lie that genetic sex consists only of two categories: male and female.

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Position Statement: AFTA Grieves AFTA Persists

Gregory Bateson (1979) relates a quasi-scientific fable: If you take a frog and drop it into boiling water, it will jump out.  However, if you put a frog in room-temperature water and slowly heat the water, the frog will accommodate the temperature increases, not jump out, and eventually boil to death without really noticing it.


As a community of people who care deeply for the well-being of families, we are all of us raging and resisting and surviving and refusing to accommodate these warming waters.  We are also grieving.

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Avoiding The Hopelessness Trap In A Time Of Widespread Despair

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Tribute to Douglas H. Sprenkle

Doug Sprenkle, a cherished friend, colleague, and mentor to many in family therapy passed away on August 16th, 2018 after fighting pancreatic cancer. His remarkable kindness and warmth is celebrated by many in our community whose lives he touched. His contributions to our field were honored by NCFR, AAMFT and AFTA. In 2010, AFTA awarded him the Distinguished Contribution to Family Therapy Theory and Practice.

Susan Regas, Ph.D., President APA Division 43 Society for Couple and Family Psychology, shared “With great sadness, I learned today of Dr. Doug Sprenkle’s death. He was my mentor and great friend for the past 35 years.  Doug built one of the most influential AAMFT doctoral programs in the country and many of his graduates have gone on to be leaders in the field. He received numerous well-deserved honors, including the Osborne Award from the National Council on Family Relations for his outstanding teaching in family therapy, as well as the Distinguished Contribution to Marriage and Family Therapy Award from the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. He was a prolific writer, the author of five books, and more than 100 scholarly articles. In fact, students weren’t allowed to leave his courses without a publishable paper!

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The post below is a reflection from Deliana Garcia who visited a Federal Court where people charged with illegal entry were processed. Ms. Garcia was one of our AFTA Conference 2018 Sunday Workshop presenters in Austin, TX. She is the Director of International Projects and Emerging Issues for Migrant Clinicians Network (MCN). MCN is a non-profit global organization, with more than 10,000 constituents, that fights for health justice for the mobile poor. MCN is partnering with AFTA, under Kaethe Weingarten's leadership to develop a Witness to Witness (W2W) pilot program to offer, as the name suggests, a witnessing process to the self-selected MCN staff who are witnessing dehumanizing socio-political practices faced by migrants.

To see images visit:

Saliha Bava, AFTA Blog Editor

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Caging Children: US Policy Traumatizes the Most Vulnerable

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

This inscription on the Statue of Liberty has been a beacon to the world. Lately, it has become conditional, with an addendum like, “Offer may vary” or “Huddled masses from Norway preferred.”

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