Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Faculty News: Jean Malpas & Andrea Blumenthal Receive Family Process Institute Grant

Join us in congratulating Jean Malpas and Andrea Blumenthal, who recently received the Family Process Institute Early Career/Training Grant. They are the first to be awarded this grant which will support the development of innovative clinical activities in regards to the Gender and Family Project (GCP). Family Process, the granting institution, is an organization dedicated to developing and sharing new theory, research, practice, and policy related to families and systems.

Jean Malpas describes what the grant will be funding in the following:  

"We are honored that the Family Process Institute has chosen to recognize and support the work of the Gender and Family Project (GFP). The grant will be used to implement acutely needed services for families with a gender nonconforming youth. Groups for parents and gender nonconforming children will be provided.  It will help us reach out to more families and provide training to clinicians and agencies aiming to improve their competencies with these families. As an academic institute, we also seek a better understanding and documentation of the needs of families with a gender nonconforming member. Finally, the GFP looks forward to identifying and developing a network of providers who can support families in a similar situation."
Jean Malpas, LMFT, LMHC graduated from Brussels University's department of psychology with a master's degree in clinical psychology and a post-master's degree in psychotherapy. He completed his family therapy training at the Ackerman Institute for the Family. Mr. Malpas was initially trained in the Belgian school of social constructionism and since then, along with his relational training at the Ackerman Institute, has cultivated an integrative practice inspired by narrative and experiential relational frameworks. He believes in the impact of larger systems on the emotional, cognitive and relational resources of each family. Mr. Malpas is an "Early Career Member" of the American Family Therapy Academy and has presented nationally on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples and families and social justice. His work on transgender couples in therapy has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Family Studies. His relational work on crystal methamphetamine addiction and community-based approach has also been published.

Andrea Blumenthal, LCSW, is a member of the teaching faculty at the Ackerman Institute for the Family and a clinical member of Ackerman’s Center for Families and Health and the newly launched Gender and Family Project (GFP). She has extensive practice experience working with children of all ages and diverse families in a variety of mental health and child welfare agency contexts. As a clinician working in community-based settings, she has focused on working with individuals and families affected by physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence, and other forms of trauma. She has completed a post-graduate training program in the Treatment of Interpersonal Trauma at Fordham University and is a graduate of the clinical Externship training program at Ackerman. Ms. Blumenthal maintains a private practice specializing in attachment traumas and relationship issues with couples and families.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Tribute to the Families" Gala 2011

It was an evening of generosity, laughter, elegance and pride.

On Tuesday night, October 25th, the Ackerman Institute for the Family reached out to its friends and supporters at its fundraising event of the year, the "Tribute to Families" gala. Guastavino’s, the beautiful hall tucked beneath the 59th St. Bridge, was sparkling.

During the cocktail hour, guests were treated to a fascinating silent auction, which included artwork, dinners, jewelry, professional consultations and fashions. And while people mingled, ran into old friends and got their picture taken, they were able to wander by the Ackerman book table and watch clips from Ackerman's exciting new video series "Short Conversations." And then it was upstairs to dinner.

The celebrity emcee for the evening was the fabulous Natalie Morales, one of the co-hosts of the Today Show. With grace and sparkle, she guided the audience through a series of videos and then set the stage for the new Board President, Alec Haverstick. After a thoughtful, challenging set of remarks on families and the American economy, Alec led into the first big emotional moment of the evening: the Ackerman Service Award to John O'Neill, long time board member and Treasurer. His response was both heartfelt and humble.

Then came the live auction hosted by comedienne Jane Condon. Jane pulled out every trick in her comic arsenal: jokes, insults, self-mockery, and while the audience was howling with laughter, they managed to bid up two fantastic beach house weekends, dinner at the legendary Rao's, and a backstage tour and taping of the Today Show. All of this before dinner!

After dinner, Lois Braverman, President and CEO of Ackerman Institute, took the audience on an intellectual tour de force. Using powerful scenes from two contemporary films, Lois deconstructed the emotional underpinnings of the characters and situations. Her analysis laid bare what the scenes revealed about families, about our culture, and how they relate to the work of the Institute. She tied it together with perfection . . . because both of the clips Lois showed were from the work of the renowned film producer Christine Vachon. Lois then introduced Ms. Vachon as the first ever recipient of the Ackerman Media Award. Ms. Vachon, producer of many films including Boys Don't Cry, Far From Heaven and Mildred Pierce, shared with the audience how honored she was, and how deeply connected she felt to Ackerman and its mission.

As the evening came to a close, the guests lingered on, somehow unwilling to let such an important event end.

More Gala: Honoring John O'Neill

For 10 years, John O'Neill has been a member of Ackerman's board, generously giving his time, expertise and money to further the work of the Institute. For the past 6 years, he has also served as its Treasurer. During the challenging economy of the last decade, John has called upon his brilliant background as a senior partner at the accounting firm of Ernst + Young to ensure that Ackerman stays on firm footing. For all of that work and more, the Institute used this year’s Gala as an opportunity to say thank you by honoring him with the Ackerman Distinguished Service Award.

To a standing ovation, he ascended to the dais to receive the award from Board Chairman Alec Haverstick. A heartfelt video from his friends and family played on a large screen, congratulating him, teasing him, and saluting him. With his signature humility, John O'Neill used the opportunity to once again, point the spotlight where he has always believed it belongs: on Ackerman and its work.

Remarks from John O'Neill at Gala

Thank you, Alec and thanks to everyone here tonight for helping make this a successful Gala. I'd also like to give a special thanks to my wife, Kathy, and my daughter, Shannon, for their help on the Gala Committee. Also, I know there are a number of my friends who have made contributions, some of whom have traveled far to be here tonight. I thank you all.

I am deeply honored and humbled to receive this award, especially knowing all the deserving honorees who have come before me. I would also like to congratulate Christine Vachon, tonight's other honoree.

I've always believed in the importance of giving back to the community and to organizations like Ackerman that have helped me and my family. We each have an obligation to lend our expertise where needed and to give back financially within our means. The chance to help strengthen Ackerman, to share my expertise and my time, is something I consider a privilege, and a welcome responsibility.

As I have said at many Ackerman board meetings, Ackerman Institute for the Family is still a well kept secret outside the family therapy community, where we are well known and revered around the world.

This Gala lets the world know that we are Moving Families Forward.

One of the many areas Ackerman excels in relates to family and business. Strong family relationships help employees build strong work related relationships and perform better at their jobs. I want each of you to think about how Ackerman's Center for Work and Family, led by Dr. Peter Fraenkel, could be helpful to your business.

That you are honoring me tonight is very generous; it's a great moment for me. But the fact that we are all here, doing whatever we can to ensure that the Ackerman Institute for the Family continues to move families forward...well, that's what makes this evening truly special for me. Thank you.

More Gala: Honoring Christine Vachon

One of the most mesmerizing segments of every Ackerman Gala is what President Lois Braverman refers to as "teachable moments." It is during this moment in the evening when the audience gets an insider’s view on the work, the thinking, and the intellectual capital of the Institute. This year was no exception, and perhaps it raised the bar for "teachable moments" for Galas to come.

Lois Braverman took the podium and showed the audience scenes from some contemporary films. She proceeded to breakdown the hidden meanings inside the scenes, and what they revealed about families and human relationships. It was fascinating, and it led directly to a brand new moment in the Gala agenda: the first ever Ackerman Institute Media Award. The award goes to someone in the media who has pioneered and advanced our thinking about families and family relationships.

The first honoree was Christine Vachon, the celebrated, independent film producer of such esteemed movies as Boys Don’t Cry, Far From Heaven, and Mildred Pierce. By design, it was from two of Ms. Vachon's films that Lois drew her scenes for the teachable moments. The Ackerman Institute Media Award is a powerful new step for the Institute, as it draws the connection between family issues and American culture. Ms. Vachon is the distinguished first recipient, and her work is consistent with the teaching and research that is done at the Institute.

The Remarks of Lois Braverman and Christine Vachon

Lois Braverman:

This evening you've heard the phrase, "Moving Families Forward." This is Ackerman: we move families forward...towards better communication, deeper understanding of one another, and stronger, healthier relationships.

Families are central to who we are. In the media, our best writers, artists and filmmakers help elucidate our understanding of relationships, secrets, rituals, connections and history. At its very best, the media provides us with "teachable moments," inspiring us to look more deeply, and more openly, at our lives and our families. For example, this clip from the film "Gigantic," the scene we've just watched resonates in so many ways, and it provokes one of the fundamental questions that we work with at Ackerman: "What is NORMAL?"

For so many people, "normal" is a goal and a value...and something that feels unattainable. What this scene does, so poignantly, is puncture the myth of "normal."

Here we have an elegant, poised older woman and an alienated, vulnerable younger woman who is on the verge of joining the family. The young woman's own mother doesn't even recognize her on the phone, doesn't even remember her birthday. So it's easy for her to idealize, and envy, the Jane Alexander character, the matriarch.

When we're struggling, it's easy to look at other families, other marriages, other people, and feel: "I wish I could be like them. They look...normal." And if you're about to join that family, as the young woman is, it's easy to wonder, “Do I fit? Because I don't feel normal."

But what things look like on the outside, and what is true, are always two different things.

Across the many centers and projects at the Ackerman Institute for the Family, we are helping people connect to something inside themselves more meaningful than "normal."

Being emotionally healthy will never be the same for any two people, or marriages, or families.

From the Children and Relational Trauma Center to The Gender and Family Project, at Ackerman, we recognize and cherish the fact that every family has its own contradictions, its own rituals, its own hurdles. This is the very first step in Moving Families Forward.

Because as Jane Alexander so succinctly observes, "Nothing's normal."

And there's nothing like a good movie to make you laugh, cry, squirm, and above all...THINK. Or RE-THINK...your position.

Which is something we know about: At Ackerman, we are charting the sea changes in the definition of family, every day. We are navigating waters that the generations before ours didn't even know existed. Science, the Law, and Cultural Mores, are changing how we think about "who is family."

We understand ourselves by understanding our family—our biological family as well as our emotional family. At Ackerman we help family members put those disparate pieces together into a coherent picture.

So, as we expand our notion of who our family is, we expand our understanding of ourselves: Where did I come from? From a sperm donor? An egg donor? A surrogate? Am I the product of those who raised me, and how I was brought up? Or am I the product of the genes I've inherited? Or a bit of both?

And on the adoption front, with the opening of the records, people are increasingly making the connection to their biological family members, and that goes in both directions: children seeking biological parents, biological parents seeking children who they gave up.

WHO IS FAMILY?...is an ongoing conversation at Ackerman; a challenging, nuanced conversation that is one of the reasons why our clients come to us.

But we are not alone in this conversation. Among other things, media is expanding the conversation along with us, as demonstrated in this next clip from the movie "And Then She Found Me."

Both of the clips you've just seen are from films produced by Christine Vachon, a VERY independent producer who has created some of the most meaningful films of our time, including "Boys Don't Cry," "Far From Heaven," and most recently "Mildred Pierce."

What is clearly evident in her films is Christine's vision of the infinite shades of gray that color our understanding of family. Her films are often brutally honest about the struggles that individuals face when their family connections are broken.

In her career, she has pioneered films that have given us a window into the lives of people who have been marginalized by a "dimension of difference": be it race, class, gender, sexual preference, or disability. At the same time, her films celebrate the potential for understanding and for change.

For her fierce compassion for our differences, and her daring sensitivity in stretching how families are portrayed in our culture, I am very pleased and proud to present the Ackerman Institute’s first-ever "Families in Media Award" to Christine Vachon.

Christine Vachon:

Thank you, Lois. I began my career making films for marginalized communities. Stories by, for, and of people who were misunderstood and outside the mainstream.

So much of that has changed. WE have changed, as an industry of artists, and as a society. And change is hard. The world resists change, so it takes the brave and the enlightened to lead the charge toward change.

The animated video that showed earlier tonight ends with the words "When people feel understood, they soar." And that is something that I have looked for in all the movies I've produced a sense of understanding. When we can understand, we can change. And change is the way of all things.

So the things I hear tonight make me proud to be your first media honoree. When you talk about expanding our ideas about what makes a family, and healing broken spirits without regard for some prehistoric notion of "normal," well, I know I am in the company of kindred spirits.

When I hear that Ackerman is deeply focused on serving the very people who might never have access to these world- class services, I know I am in the right place.

And to learn that all of you are here tonight, giving generously to continue Ackerman's mission of "moving families forward," this award takes on added meaning.

So thank you, for this honor, and much more, for all that you are doing to expansively embrace the complexity of the human experience. Thank you.

Academy of Counselors in Japan Visit Ackerman Institute

Japanese Counselors Visit Ackerman InstituteThe Ackerman Institute for the Family recently hosted visiting students from the Academy of Counselors in Japan. The visit occurred during the week of November 14, 2011, and is part of an on-going relationship between the Ackerman Institute and the Academy of Counselors, developed 10 years ago to provide training in the Ackerman Relational Approach. Thirteen trainees and three administrators took part in a four-day intensive training on family therapy. Faculty member David Kezur works extensively with the Academy, leading intensive training in Japan and at the Ackerman Institute.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A radio interview with faculty member Evan Imber-Black

Family therapist and author Evan Imber-Black was recently interviewed by Safe Space Radio on how to share secrets in the family. In contrast to televised and sensationalist secret telling in front of mass audiences, Dr. Imber-Black works with families to prepare carefully before revealing important secrets. She tells stories from her work about the impact of secrets on family members, creating ever widening circles of silence and distance in relationships. She describes the impact on children who may not know a secret, but whose behavior is nonetheless deeply effected by the silence. She advises an individual analysis of each family member who may be effected by revealing a secret and how to respect those who may not want it revealed.

Go to their website to listen to Evan Imber-Black's insights: http://safespaceradio.com/2011/10/telling-secrets-in-the-family/