Observing Traditional Holidays in Updated Ways, New Expressions

For nontraditional families, including same-sex couples, single parents, and people raising their grandkids, the ways in which holidays like Father’s Day are celebrated continue to evolve. Jacqueline Hudak, PhD, clinical director of the Penn Center for Couples and Adult Families, explains how these family dynamics grow and change.

Communications placement

WHYY NewsWorks

The Changing Family and How it Influences Identity: Penn Spectrum Weekend, 9/23-25

CCAF Clinical director, Jacqueline Hudak, will present on a panel about “The Changing Family” during Penn Spectrum Weekend.

Held during alumni weekend, Penn Spectrum “brings together alumni for dialogue centered on issues of cultural identity. We welcome alumni and allies from all backgrounds as well as current Penn undergraduate and graduate students. The conference focuses on issues pertinent to the Black, Latinx, Native, Asian, and LGBTQ alumni and student communities.”

For a full schedule of events, check out the link here.

Engaging Family Supports: Free Online Videoconference


Join us for the next CPSP
“Community Psychiatry Forum*”
In Collaboration with
The American Association of Community Psychiatrists

Engaging Family Supports

Learning Objectives – Participants will be better able to:

  • Identify strategies and barriers to engage family members as supportive members of recovery team
  • Enable people in recovery to identify and connect with potential sources of support in the community
  • Describe issues commonly concerning family members and other natural supports and potential approaches for addressing them

CME: You can earn 1.25 CME credits

When: Thursday, April 21, 2016
11:45 am – 1:00 pm EDT

Course Directors: Wesley Sowers, MD
Robert Marin, MD

Guest Experts:

Ellen Berman, MD, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Perelman School of Medicine, and Founder and Director of Training, Center for Couples and Adult Families, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

John Sargent, MD, Director, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Tufts Medical Center and Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA

*Community Psychiatry Forum: Free online videoconference offered twice each month. Continuing Medical Education credits

Welcome to our new CCAF Clinical Faculty Member, Michelle Jackson, MSS, LCSW

Welcome to our new CCAF Clinical Faculty Member, Michelle Jackson, MSS, LCSW

The Center for Couples and Adult Families extends a warm welcome to Michelle Jackson, a seasoned Couple and Family therapist who joined our Clinical Faculty last month.

There are many reasons I’m thrilled to have Ms. Jackson aboard, not the least of which is our ability to serve more couples and families at CCAF. Her arrival is evidence of our growth; clearly the word is out that there is couple and family therapy available at Penn.

Ms. Jackson’s sensitivity to issues of diversity in clinical work is in concert with the CCAF mission, as well as our curriculum in Culture and the Family that takes place across all four years of residency training in psychiatry.

Ms. Jackson’s life trajectory informs her fluency with individuals who have chosen or invisible identities, or who are part of biracial/bicultural couples, and multi-racial families. Her work provides a context in which to normalize alternative developmental pathways and strengthen resilience in the absence of cultural validation.

Welcome to CCAF, Michelle!

I’m so happy to have you as part of our team, and know that couples and families will be enriched through their work with you.  I look forward to a long collaboration together at CCAF.

To schedule a meeting with Ms. Jackson, please call Bryn Farrelly, 215-746-5900.

Read Ms. Jackson’s full bio

Family therapy in the age of global mental health: Long live Shoufi-Mafi!

Family therapy in the age of global mental health: Long live Shoufi-Mafi!

An article by my friend and colleague Laurie Charles. We are board members of The American Family Therapy Academy; her work with families around the world informs and expands my thinking about health across the lifespan. Our psychiatry residents will also benefit from her experience as they move on to practice psychiatry in the US and around the world.


*This post is an updated and modified version of an article by the same name, published in the July/August 2015 issue of Family Therapy Magazine. Used here with permission.

Last night was the final meeting of our Shoufi-Mafi: Global Mental Health [1], a student driven task group at my university. The group originated from a confluence of events, one of which was the curiosity of my student Yajaira, who relentlessly quizzed me after our Introduction to Family Therapy course on Thursday nights. “Dr. Laurie, How do you get to travel so much? Who contacts you? What do you do?”

Yajaira’s persistence and genuine curiosity inspired my own: What could I do to support this interest in global mental health? Was there interest in such a group? Using Yajaira’s initial questions as a starting point, the Shoufi-Mafi met for seven sessions this past Spring, doing every thing from viewing…

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Research shows what Family Therapists Know: Memories can Pass between Generations

Research findings from a team at Emory University Medical School provide evidence of “transgenerational epigenetic inheritance” – that environment can affect an individual’s genetics and then be passed on.

As a family therapist I have intuited this often in my consulting room. There are times when a young adult with severe sadness sits with me, and I can sense that the sorrow is somehow lager that she is; it is too big a sorrow for someone that age.  When together we craft a genogram, we can find the relative, sometimes generations back, that bore the original wound.  History, culture, and family intersect to create a transgenerational  pattern – for dealing with fear, or loss,  and even what one dares to hope.  These patterns are born of the narratives that pass from one generation to the next.

For the full BBC article: http://www.bbc.com/news/health-25156510?SThisFB

The Family Life Cycle: Gear Shifts and Spirals, with Dr. Geri Fox

The Family Life Cycle: Gear Shifts and Spirals, with Dr. Geri Fox

Last month, CCAF faculty, residents and fellows were treated to a wonderful lecture by family psychiatrist Dr. Geri Fox.   “Gear Shifts and Spirals”  was an interactive discussion of video taken by Dr. Fox of her own family filmed over 25 years.  

Dr. Fox began her filming long before the now ubiquitous culture of self documentation.  She is a pioneer ethnographer, recording the turning points and challenges of everyday family life through the lens of her video camera.

She dedicated her talk to Dr. Lee Combrick-Graham, colleague and mentor who encouraged and nurtured this project.  

The images of gears and spirals were apt descriptions of the family life cycle.  Three dimensional, always in motion, the family is envisioned as  a system moving through time.  Dr. Fox described gear shifts as the ‘biobehavioral’ changes that are biologically driven – such as puberty.  These are times when the family’s world gets reordered, priorities shift, and boundaries diffuse.

As we know,  those changes, though anticipated,  can feel as sudden as accidentally shifting the car into reverse.

iStock_000023141413_MediumThe spiral conveys an image of coming together and then moving out again over time.   These forces are ever present in the family life cycle: the centripetal force that draws family together for the birth of a child, or a marriage; the centrifugal force that propels outward as children are launched into college and their young adult years.


It’s one thing to describe a case of normal sibling rivalry, but quite another to watch Dr. Fox’s daughter poke and prod her newborn baby brother as residents and faculty laughed in recognition of this utterly familiar family scene.  We follow her along with husband and children through the small daily life events that, taken together, tell the story of family development over time: bemoaning the adolescent who’s ‘never home anymore,’  a daughter uttering fears about those first days at college.  Perhaps it’s the combination of voice and image that combine to keep the audience rapt; the empty place at the table, the boxes stacked by the door, so powerful in their familiarity, and so expressive of the experience of family.

Dr. Fox’s Life-Span Development Video Curriculum is utilized by the majority of US medical schools as well as abroad. She has won multiple awards for film-making, including two INTERCOM Chicago International Film Festival Certificates of Merit: in 2010, for Normal Development Video Series: A Longitudinal Stimulus Video Curricular Resource for Educators; and in 2013, for Saying Goodbye: A Personal Documentary about Attachment and Loss at End-of-Life.

Geri Fox, MD, MHPE is Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine. She currently serves as the Assistant Dean for Graduate Medical Education, as well as the Director of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry.