Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Don Bloch, Director of the Ackerman Institute for the Family from 1972 – 1991, passed away Thursday, September 18th in New York City.  After making valiant efforts to overcome complications from a hip fracture, he died peacefully accompanied by his wife, Joan Rappaport and his children.  
            He began work with Nathan Ackerman in 1965, He was the co-editor, with Robert Simon, of The Strength of Family Therapy: The Selected Papers of Nathan W. Ackerman (Brunner/Mazel) and has numerous publications in the field. He was a charter member of AFTA, an early Editor of Family Process for 12 years and the founder of the Journal of Family Systems and Health. 
Don was a great man of vision, creativity and a true contributor to the family therapy field. We will carry with us his warmth, engaging spirit and generous nature.  Thank you Don, for all that you gave us.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

Ackerman Hosts Annual Open House

On Wednesday evening, April 23rd, Ackerman Institute for the Family hosted its annual Open House for prospective students. A crowd of over fifty participants joined Ackerman faculty and students as they described the “Ackerman Experience.” 

The Open House began with a few words from faculty member, Fiona True, who welcomed guests and spoke about the myriad learning opportunities available through Ackerman. She was followed by Dean of Students, Connie Scharf, who introduced the Foundation classes, a 30-week course which provides the foundation of family systems theory and technique through presentations, reading, and videotapes of sessions.  The Live Clinical Supervision and the Clinical Externship , a two to three year program course, where students treat families from behind a one-way mirror under the supervision of a faculty member, were also highlighted.  
Faculty members Julia Chan (Foundations), Aquilla Frederick (Live Clinical Supervision), and Michael Davidovits (Externship) all spoke to their unique experiences training, teaching, and collaborating at Ackerman.

Julia Chan gave an enthusiastic account of her years spent as a student and now as a faculty member at Ackerman and highlighted the life altering nature of training at the Institute.

Students Sarah Berland (2nd Year Day Externship) and Dynesha Henderson (DUAL PROGRAM-Foundations and Live Clinical Supervision) discussed their experiences and how they bring their learning to bear in their daily work.

"To reflect on what you are doing and having the time, living in the moment, and then taking that back in the room with you is powerful,"said Ms. Berland.

Fiona True closed the evening with a short excerpt of a taped therapy session exemplifying the type of work done at Ackerman Institute. “As family therapists, we are interested in families over time, beliefs and how they come to bear,” she concluded, “and our frame affords us entry into some of the most complex presenting problems.”

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Victoria Dickerson Presents Therapy with Couples: Working with Power and Privilege at the Ackerman Institute for the Family

On March 7th, 2014, renowned therapist Victoria Dickerson presented “Therapy with Couples: Working with Power and Privilege” at the Ackerman Institute for the Family. The workshop offered therapists an understanding of Dr. Dickerson’s work using the cultural narratives of power, privilege, and patriarchy as a lens for understanding how cultural discourse shapes couples’ experiences.

Dr. Dickerson discussed the framework in which some people are historically privileged and others oppressed. “When we’re born into this world, if we are born male, we are historically privileged. It just comes with the territory. There are entitlements. There is access in ways that women and other historically oppressed people don’t have access. That’s the context in which we are thinking today.”

She highlighted Michael White’s “absent but implicit” approach, which guides therapists to pay attention to what is not emphasized or what is “left out” and talk about experiences not named.

Participants learned how to create a map for attending to the operations of power privilege in the couple’s relationship. They also analyzed the specific ways that power works on couples to invite conflict, how to closely follow a couple in the interview to bring forth ways of relating that lie alongside the influence of patriarchy, and questioning skills to help the couple relate in preferred ways..

*For anyone interested in learning more about Dr.Victoria Dickerson, her website is Her work was recently highlighted in “Patriarchy, Power, and Privilege: A Narrative/Poststructural View of Work with Couples” in Family Process in a special edition publication on couples.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Renowned Psychotherapist,Suzanne Iasenza, Presents "Expanding Sexual Frames in Couples Therapy"

On Friday, January 31, 2014,  The Ackerman Institute for the Family welcomed renowned psychotherapist/sex therapist Suzanne Iasenza who presented her workshop titled  “Expanding Sexual Frames in Theory and Practice in Couples Therapy”.

Discussing sexuality issues in couples psychotherapy, Dr. Iasenza’s workshop was geared toward helping couples therapists feel better prepared to delve into sexual issues with their clients.

“Sex is a topic people don’t want to talk about and sometimes couples therapists don’t want to talk about it, either,” said Ruthie, a workshop attendee. The workshop helps therapists know “what kinds of questions to ask and what kind of questions not to ask.”

The workshop provided attendees with expansive models of sexual response, how to conduct a therapeutic sexual history, and how to co-create expansive therapeutic frames that include new approaches to standard sex therapy techniques.  All of the case material from the course illustrated the integration of systems, psychodynamic, and cognitive behavioral thinking as well as the nuances of working with same sex and gender variant couples. 

Suzanne Iasenza, PhD, is a psychologist/sex therapist currently practicing in Manhattan.  She is Faculty at the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis and the Postgraduate Program in Couples and Family Therapy of Adelphi University’s Derner Institute. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Senior Faculty Member, Elana Katz, LCSW, LMFT Joins Advisory Council at Family Kind

Senior Faculty Member, Elana Katz, LCSW, LMFT has been invited to join the Advisory Council at FamilyKind, an organization providing education, parent coordination, and mediation services to families experiencing separation and divorce in New York City. She is an integral part of a team that is developing a mentoring program for new mediators at FamilyKind. This program will be a resource for newly trained practitioners, including the graduates of the Family and Divorce Mediation Program at Ackerman, which Elana directs. The mentees will gain direct experience in the field and serve clients seeking mediation services regardless of their ability to pay.  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Spotlight on the Board: Mary Bijur

Mary Bijur joined the Ackerman Institute for the Family's Board of Directors in 2013.

Prior to joining the board, Mary Bijur headed a residential interior design firm for thirty five years, retiring in 2000.  She has always had a passionate interest in education and the life of the city neighborhoods in which she has lived.

During the 70’s and 80’s Mary served on the board of Goddard Riverside Community Center on Manhattan’s upper west side.  During that time she became chair of the board and worked with the newly formed community board on the de-designation of the urban-renewal area and the building of Phelps House, a section 8 senior residence and new home for the community center.

She became a trustee of St. Lawrence University in ’87.  She ended her 25 years of trusteeship as Vice Chair of the board.  She was appointed emerita trustee in 2012.  She has also served on the boards of Outward Bound and Expeditionary Learning (a national education reform organization) serving as Vice-Chair of the latter.

Mary and Jeff Bijur married in 1965 and have two children; Matthew an adolescent psychologist practicing in Burlington VT and Katherine Renard an English teacher and administrator in a private bi-lingual Parisian school.  They have four grandchildren.

Spotlight on the Board: Nina Taselaar

Nina Taselaar is lending her leadership to the Ackerman Institute for the Family's Board of Directors for a second term. Rejoining the board in 2013, Nina previously served on the Board of Directors in 2006. 

A certified career counselor and psychotherapist, Nina received her MSW from Columbia University in 1987. She also has completed postgraduate studies in career counseling techniques, cognitive behavioral therapy and family therapy.
Nina has developed and led numerous workshops on adjustment reaction disorders and culture shock. As a member of Access international, she has been a guest lecturer on structuring an international job search. Currently, she is in private practice and is affiliated with the Ackerman Institute for the Family. Nina also is assisting Strategic Workforce Solutions’ outplacement counseling program and conducting workshops on stress management in response to September 11th. Nina has had a faculty appointment, supervising fourth year psychiatry residents, at the Child Study Center at New York University for five years.

Dr. Kenneth Hardy Presented to Ackerman Institute for the Family's Alumni Association

The Ackerman Institute for the Family proudly hosted Dr. Kenneth Hardy in presenting “Children, Families, and Trauma: A Relational Approach.”

Dr. Hardy discussed the ways that trauma underpins the everyday life experiences of most children and families involved in therapy. He highlighted the ways ignoring the impact of the trauma on the client's family overlooks powerful dynamics that are crucial to treatment outcome. Alumni explored ways to involve the trauma sufferer's partner and other family members as resources in the healing process. 
Participants also learned how to better educate clients about the typical symptoms of trauma, the stages of trauma recovery, how to help family members both soothe and set limits with the traumatized person, and the typical pitfalls families encounter-including the depleting response of "enough already"-as a family member tries to heal from a trauma. The presentation devoted special attention to examining the critical intersection that often exists between trauma and the dynamics of socio-cultural oppression.
Dr. Kenneth Hardy is an internationally recognized clinician, author, and trainer. He is also the Director of the Eikenberg Institute for Relationships in New York City where he maintains a private practice specializing in working with traumatized and oppressed populations.

Dr. Evan Imber-Black Presents "Therapeutic Choice Points in Complex Couple Therapy: How and When to Intervene"

On January 24, 2014, The Ackerman Institute for the Family Alumni Association proudly hosted  Dr. Evan Imber-Black in presenting "Therapeutic Choice Points in Complex Couple Therapy: How and When to Intervene”.  First presented at Harvard’s “Treating Couples” conference in November, Dr. Imber-Black’s lecture was one of only two lectures ever to receive a standing ovation at the event. The Ackerman Alumni Association was pleased to host the presentation where Dr. Imber-Black discussed a broad swath of key decision making factors therapists face in couple therapy.

The presentation covered and highlighted the moment by moment decisions made by therapists in couple therapy requiring careful thought, cognitive and emotional attunement with each member of the conflicted pair, avoidance of triangulation, and the ability to read verbal and non-verbal feedback occurring in every aspect of the session.
Dr. Imber-Black demonstrated interviewing for expanded openings, redefining and amplifying a presenting problem, selecting a path and correcting it when it proves ineffective, marking a critical subject, leaving it and returning to it at a more optimal time, and challenging a one-size fits all model of therapy, among other key areas.

Dr. Imber-Black examined multiple sessions with a couple coping with life-shortening illness, cross-cultural issues, and years of marital discord.  Using these complex cases, Dr. Imber-Black examined therapeutic choice points, formulated direction for couples who present with multiple dilemmas, demonstrated methods to make effective therapeutic choices in a session and across sessions, and how to fashion meaningful questions that provide openings and to shift when these do not.

Evan Imber-Black, PhD, is the Director of the Center for Families and Health and a faculty member at the Ackerman Institute for the Family in New York City. Evan is currently the Acting Program Director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Masters Program at Mercy College.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Ackerman Launches Linkedin Networking Group!

The Ackerman Institute launched the first ever LinkedIn Networking Group this past winter. The group was created as a forum to allow all those in the Ackerman community to share opportunities and resources, to network and to strengthen ties to each other.  

Open to all alumni, faculty, trainees and workshop attendees, all those interested in joining the group may send an invitation request to the group administrator on LinkedIn or an email request to , including "LinkedIn Networking Group" in the subject line.

Walter Vega and Students Launch Supportive Space--a Forum for Ackerman Therapists of Color

The Ackerman Institute has initiated a brand new group called Supportive Space for all Ackerman therapists who identify as therapists of color. Supportive Space is an exciting collaboration amongst Ackerman trainees, faculty, and alumni of color who seek to have a forum to share their unique experiences at the Institute and in the field of family therapy.  Piloted by a group of student trainees and facilitated by Ackerman faculty member, Walter Vega, Supportive Space offers students and alumni the chance to build a supportive community within and outside of the Ackerman training and alumni programs.
"The group has been meeting monthly and offers students and alumni the opportunity to network with other therapists of color, receive mentoring, explore the significance of racial identity both within and outside the Ackerman  Institute for the Family's training program and build a supportive community," says Walter Vega, Supportive Space's faculty advisor.
All Supportive Space meetings take place on the third floor of the Ackerman Institute for the Family on Friday evenings from 6PM-8PM. Scheduled meetings dates in 2014 are:

February 21
March 7
April 4
May 2

For anyone who would like more information about Supportive Space at the Ackerman Institute for the Family, inquiries can be directed to

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ackerman's Parenting Best for Teens Selected as 1 of 15 Exemplary Programs Helping Youth Thrive by Center for the Study of Social Policy

This week, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) announced the winners of its national search to identify initiatives making a critical difference in the lives of youth who are in foster care or involved with child welfare systems.  Ackerman’s Personal Best for Teens Program, lead by faculty member Judy Grossman, has been selected as one of the 15 exemplary initiatives doing innovative work to help youth thrive.
Judy Grossman’s team - Martha Edwards, Sabina Fila, Chris Reynolds and Brenda Nikelsberg - have been active collaborators as they adapted the original Personal Best curriculum for pregnant and parenting youth in foster care.
The selection process included 130 nominees, involved proposal review, telephone interview, and site visits at Ackerman and community agencies to meet with key stakeholders and observe group sessions with youth. 
"These 15 programs represent organizations and agencies that are achieving outcomes that are improving the well-being of vulnerable youth by understanding their unique challenges, creating opportunities and sticking with them, no matter what," said Susan Notkin, associate director at CSSP. 
Without effective intervention, research shows that many young people in the child welfare system will face serious problems as they transition to adulthood - higher rates of school failure, unemployment, teen pregnancy, homelessness and delinquency - than more advantaged peers.   CSSP evaluated approaches that addressed developing five factors in young people (age 11-26) that help mitigate or eliminate risk and promote healthy development and well-being. 

Research about what makes these programs successful will be used to help influence program and public policy change across the country. The programs selected demonstrate a wide range of strategies that engage youth and support them to succeed in school and employment, develop social and emotional supports and have lasting, positive connections to family and community.