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FMSC Couple and Family Therapy Program Faculty and Students Participate in Beijing Family Therapy Conference

July 16, 2014
Professor Norman Epstein and eight graduate students from the Couple and Family Therapy (CFT) program are traveling to China July 19-29 to participate in the Second International Forum on Marriage and Family Therapy at Beijing Normal University (BNU). The conference is a gathering of family scholars and clinicians from several universities in the U.S. and across China. Its goal is to enhance the young but rapidly growing field of Marriage and Family Therapy in China.

Students Jennifer Young, Lindsey Foss, and Elizabeth Brown will present a paper "Experiences of Intercultural and Immigrant Families: Suggestions for Working with Couples and Parent-Child Dyads in the US and China." The presentation reviews research on sources of stress in immigrant and intercultural families in the United States, including language barriers, differences in values and customs, discrimination, acculturation differences among family members, and limited social support from family of origin. The presenters describe a study conducted in our Center for Healthy Families indicating higher conflict in intercultural couples than in couples from the same racial background, which accounted for intercultural couples having a higher risk of separation. A strengths-based approach to couple therapy for immigrant families is described that can help them learn constructive ways of communicating about their cultural experiences and reduce sources of stress.

Students Sam Allen and Michelle Collins will present a paper "I Don't Want the Neighbors to Know: An Analysis of Untraditional Gender Roles in Traditional Families." In spite of increased tolerance toward changing gender roles and diverse sexualities in many countries, traditional assumptions regarding what is normal and abnormal lead many families to experience stress and hardship when adolescents exhibit such diversity. The presenters describe findings from a qualitative study involving in-depth interviews and content analyses investigating how adolescents with untraditional gender roles have navigated the historical and traditional assumptions and stigma in their families and communities. Implications for clinical practice are discussed.

Students Andrea Lystrup and Jocylynn Stephenson will present a paper "Culture-Infused Solution-Focused Family Therapy" addressing concerns that the empirically supported solution-focused family therapy model lacks cultural sensitivity for addressing problems of diverse clients. The presenters will focus on gaps between principles and procedures of solution-focused therapy and concepts of cultural competence. A culturally sensitive version of solution-focused therapy will be described.

Dr. Epstein will present a half-day training workshop "Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Couples" for the conference attendees, as well as lead a discussion group "Transitioning from Child-Focused Family Sessions to Couple Therapy." Dr. Epstein and the CFT students also will have discussions with the Chinese faculty and students about family therapy research and practice in China, and will plan further research projects to continue the ongoing collaboration between our CFT program and the Institute for Developmental Psychology at BNU.