Monday, July 23, 2012

Annual Kempner Memorial Lecture on Managing Diabetes in Adolescents, A Family Focused Approach

Ackerman Institute for the Family hosted its annual Carl Kempner Memorial Lecture on the evening of May 2, 2012. This year’s talk highlighted the work of the Family Focused High Risk Diabetes Intervention Project with an in-depth discussion of the project by Harold Starkman, MD, Gloria Lopez-Henriquez, LCSW, and Nicole Pilek, LCSW.

Gloria Lopez-Henriquez, LCSW, 
Nicole Pilek, LCSW, Harold Starkman, MD
Established at Goryeb Children’s Hospital in New Jersey in 2007 to better understand the challenges and strengths of high-risk diabetes adolescents, their families and health care providers, the project highlights the significant number of teens who have chronically elevated blood sugars, and are at significant risk for hospitalizations, complications and shortened life spans. The dilemmas of these adolescents and their families often elude and frustrate their health care teams, leading to escalating cycles of negative interactions.

This presentation described the project’s findings, including the need to create improved collaborative relationships among teens, their families and medical and mental health practitioners. Harold Starkman, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist at Goryeb Children’s Hospital, talked about the importance of the family structure in treating high-risk teens, while family therapists Gloria Lopez-Henriquez, LCSW, and Nicole Pilek, LCSW, discussed how this family structure influences teens’ response to treatment.

The Carl Kempner Memorial Lecture was named in honor of Carl Loeb Kempner, late husband of Doris Kempner, an Ackerman Board member. The Kempners’ life-long commitment to education and social services and the support of the Armand G. Erpf Fund, established the Carl Kempner Memorial Lecture to enhance knowledge in the developing of clinical intervention and in training therapists working with families coping with major health issues.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Spotlight on Externs: Courtney Zazzali

New Ackerman Graduate, Courtney Zazzali
Courtney Zazzali, an outstanding second-year extern here at Ackerman, is graduating this year from the program. Besides being a student, she also has spent the past several months working as the Intake Coordinator. In this interview she provides her unique perspective on what it is like being an extern, and how she balances this with her administrative responsibilities in the Intake Department.

Can you talk about your dual role at Ackerman?
Although I have been at Ackerman for the past four years as a student and extern, I recently joined the Institute as the Intake Coordinator, following in the footsteps of other Ackerman grads. I was already accustomed to juggling a full time job and the externship program, so moving into an employee role while being a student has been fairly seamless in how I have balanced my time.  It has been great because the position also has allowed me to get to know other faculty members, administrative staff, and students in the program beyond my supervision group and fellow 2nd/3rd year externs. The small challenge for me is to have boundaries during the day I am in supervision, so that I can stay focused on my time to learn.  But, all in all, it has been a wonderful transition, and the duality allows me insight to what fellow externs may be experiencing, so that I can better guide them as it relates to their caseloads.

What do you value most about your externship experience?
This is difficult because I have to choose one – that said, I value the clients’ vulnerability and willingness to be here, the way we train, and the friendships I formed during the four years with my peers. But what I appreciate the most is the faculty. Every teacher I have had here, even the guest speakers during our Didactic Seminars, has been crucial in helping my clinical development and expanding my critical thinking skills. They have a balanced way of challenging and expecting quality work while also being supportive and nurturing. There is a special dedication that comes from each of them imparting the Ackerman approach enabling professionals like me to do quality work with families and couples in the community. There is a feeling of “passing it forward” in the way that they educate. That is a gift.

What are your plans for after graduation?
My plan post-graduation is to continue on in the Intake Coordinator job, while also beginning my part-time private practice. I also anticipate shadowing the faculty teaching Foundations in Family Therapy course, so at some point I will also have the opportunity to teach and continue imparting the AIF approach to future clinicians. Additionally, I hope to participate in one of Ackerman’s Special Projects/Centers to continue to add to and fine-tune my clinical skills.

What advice would you give to new externs here at Ackerman?
My advice is to delve into the material presented to you and always ask questions. Be humble and open in your learning, but confident that your experience and skills are unique and will coalesce with that learning.  And breathe! It is unnerving doing therapy in front of the one-way mirror with your peers and faculty and wanting to do everything right and successfully. But if you are patient and attuned to the process, it will unfold naturally and what you learn will be invaluable wherever your career takes you.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Annual Four-Day Externship in Couples Therapy

Dr. Sue Johnson presents at the annual EFT Externship
Every summer, the Ackerman Institute holds a four-day intensive externship on a specialized type of therapy called “Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.” 125 people took part in this year’s externship, from June 25 through 28, at the UJA Federation of New York. Participants learned about Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, and also watched live therapy sessions happening on-site.

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy is a short-term (8-20 sessions) approach to couples therapy created in the 1980’s by Dr. Sue Johnson and Dr. Leslie Greenberg. Significant research has been done in this field of therapy, and overall, 70-75% of treated couples move from distress to recovery.

This dynamic externship is led by Dr. Sue Johnson, co-creator of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, and adjunct faculty member George Faller, LMFT. Using a mixture of lecture, videotape, and observation of live interviews, the instructors train therapists in emotionally focused therapy.  This approach helps couples recognize problematic cycles of interaction in their relationship, along with how to restore the emotional bond once the negative cycles have been understood.

One participant described their EFT experience saying, “Sue is an amazing story-teller. The live sessions are mind-blowing and eye-opening. Predictably excellent yet amazing every time.”

Monday, July 2, 2012

Marcia Stern Memorial Library Dedication

On Tuesday, May 8, 2012, friends, family, and colleagues of the late Marcia Stern, a former faculty member of the Ackerman Institute, recently gathered to celebrate her legacy and dedicate a section of the Ackerman library in her memory. Marcia Stern graduated from the Ackerman externship program in 1994, and then worked at the Institute for many years. She was deeply dedicated to helping children develop critically important social and emotional skills.

Family of Marcia Stern with Martha Edwards and Zina Rutkin
Dr. Stern’s family donated her extensive collection of psychology books to the Institute. These books were placed in the library for use by Ackerman students and faculty.

Martha Edwards Director of the Center for Developing Child and Family, began the ceremony by describing the wonderful qualities of Marcia, “Marcia’s creativity and humor were boundless.  And underneath all of that was an intelligence and a depth and breadth of knowledge that was breathtaking…Her books are a constant reminder of how she incorporated this body of knowledge into her insightful, creative, and playful interventions for children and in their families and for children in their schools.”

Zina Rutkin, Director of the Center's Competent Kids/Caring Classrooms, spoke about how Marcia’s insightful and enthusiastic nature lives on in the program today. Marcia’s son then spoke  the love and pride that Dr. Stern felt for Ackerman Institute.

Dr. Stern developed Competent Kids/Caring Classrooms (CKCC), a primary prevention program for grades K-5. It is a lively, interactive program using innovative tools, didactic instruction, puppets and original characters, music, movement, role playing, class discussion, and modeling by teachers and peers to promote children’s social-emotional competence and academic achievement. CKCC  teaches children social-emotional competencies while simultaneously building caring connections within the school, and between home and school.