Alumni, Community and Student Engagement Initiatives

MFT at Fairfield U.

2010 Fairfield University MFT Trip to London

In January 2010 a group of 5 students, 1 alum and one professor traveled to London, England for a study visit to the Marlborough Family Services, mental health agency.  The  thrust of the trip was to learn about the Marlborough’s theoretical approach and the logistical workings of their outreach programs in local schools. In particular, their work with families who have a child who had been identified as at risk for academic and/or behavioral issues. Instead of outsourcing mental health services that may be resisted by families and children alike, the idea is to intervene in a non-stigmatizing manner by holding family group meetings in the school.  The group format lends itself to forming a community of  students and parents who may be struggling with similar issues thereby creating a supportive community of peers.  Goals for the groups are to utilize a systemic, group orientation to provide parenting education, psycho-education, problem solving skills, prevent escalation of behavioral and education problems, minimize suspensions; essentially to seize the opportunity of “nipping issues in the bud”.

The school based meeting are run by systemically trained therapists who work in collaboration with a school partner, usually a teacher, who champions the program to school administrators and teaching colleagues. The school partner works as a point person between the school and the agency.  Once teachers understand the goal of the family groups they are encouraged to refer students and their families to the program.  The in-school meetings are run similarly to the way the Marlborough’s on-site school for children aged 5 – 17 runs.  Parents spend some time working with their child on some academic work and in the process obtain an understanding of the type of work being asked of their student and challenges the child faces in doing the work.  Then the whole group gets together to discuss challenges they face as well as goals and strategies for obtaining these goals.  The role of the therapist and the school partner is to model, guide and enhance communication, set clear expectations and parent/child collaboration.The Marlborough Model emphasizes the need to view childrens’ needs in the context of the environments at home and at school, not simply in relation to the children themselves.

The Marlborough Family Services agency is funded by the British government and is often cited for their successes in working with difficult populations.  Their model is deeply systemic and collaborative.  They utilize family groups in working with families entrenched in the social services system who struggle with multiple problems such a poverty, dual diagnosis, incarceration, custody disputes, domestic violence, to name a few.  We were all struck by the skills and dedication of the Marlborough staff that we met, Eia Asen, Brenda McHugh, Neil Dawson, Serena Potter and Anthony Scrafton.  Clinicians are supported in utilizing creative techniques to heighten awareness of and interrupt unproductive patterns of interaction and ways to manage cultural gaps in understanding.   Clinicians interventions include video taping, home visits, ice breaking/team building exercises, group play, group meetings in which goal setting and strategies for success are collaboratively formulated and written on easels. Reflection is a part of all exercises. Goals are called ‘targets’ and target attainment is rated by teachers on a daily basis as a measure of progress and a means by which teachers communicate their assessment of  the students work and effort each day. Target reports are sent home to parents each day and are reviewed at family meetings which take place once a week,  every two weeks or once a month, depending on the school group.

Back Row: Marie Fennell, Eia Asen (Director of Marlborough Family Services), Ingeborg Haug (Professor, Fairfield University MFT Program), Carol Passmore. Front Row: Laura Fishman, Susan Valentino-Hersey, Kerry Bordak, Sarah Arsenault

Back Row: Marie Fennell, Eia Asen (Director of Marlborough Family Services), Ingeborg Haug (Professor, Fairfield University MFT Program), Carol Passmore. Front Row: Laura Fishman, Susan Valentino-Hersey, Kerry Bordak, Sarah Arsenault

All in all, the learning at the Marlborough Family Services was exciting and inspiring.  I speak for myself, but I think the group would be unanimous in recommending this trip to anyone interested in working in schools. The Marlborough Model has been developed over the the course of 30 years and is based on the success of the multi-family group model that proceeded it.  There is hope of making the trip an annual event and in establishing a collaborative partnership between the Fairfield University MFT program and the Marlborough Institute. If you get the opportunity, go!!

A Great Opportunity

On November 21, 2009 the CTAMFT sponsored a Student Networking Breakfast at Naugatuck Youth and Family Servicesd in Naugutuck, CT and it was a huge success. There were over 40 MFT students at various stages in the program at the various schools in Connecticut. In addition to  breakfast, the event included information on the licensing exam, the post masters degree job market, when and how to get on insurance panels and how to complete the necessary paperwork, MFT in schools and many other topics by 5 different speakers. The speakers included many past and present CTAMFT board members as well as LMFT’s that have been working in the field for many years.

As one of the speakers, the thing that struck me most about being there was how much I wished there had been such an event when I was in school. So much important and beneficial information was presented, not to mention having the opportunity to meet MFT students from other programs and the opportunity to talk with seasoned clinicians (and potential employers) in our field.

I know that we’re all busy and have many things to do, but I would encourage all Fairfield MFT students and those who are recently licensed to make a point to attend the next Student Networking event, or any other events that provide opportunities to network with current and future members of our field. Ours is a small community and the more people you know the better. If you’re feeling bad about missing this one, not to worry…I hear there’s another one being planned for the spring!

Second International Study Tour for MFTs January 23-20, 2010

Innovative Approaches to Working with Couples and Families with an Emphasis on School Based Interventions


Ingeborg Haug, D.Min, LMFT

Fairfield University


In March 2009, fifteen MFT students and professionals traveled to London to learn more about innovative multi-family therapy models in Fairfield University’s first international study tour. The program was so exciting, that we have put together a second trip January 23-30, 2010. This event will be of particular interest to MFTs in Connecticut who work with multi-problem families and / or are interested in working in schools. The unique and successful Marlborough approach has been adopted by Denmark as their model of working with school issues from a systemic, multifamily model.


Last March’s participants were thrilled to gain an international outlook on the field of marriage and family therapy, to see that innovative models are being developed in other countries, and that we have much to learn from international colleagues.


The group will again spend the week at the Marlborough Family Institute, a London-based program that has developed a unique approach to helping multi-problem families. The institute uses both day and outpatient settings and a multi-family approach. It sets up structures and therapeutic tasks so that ultimately families are helping each other. The Institute is engaged in research to demonstrate its effectiveness, and early results are very positive.


The Fairfield contingent gave it high marks for broadening their perspectives. “The agency is unlike anything we have in the states,” said Maryann LaBella, a 2009 MFT graduate who now works at Mid-Fairfield Child Guidance. “I have definitely used things I learned there in my work.” – “Being a member of this trip is quite possibly one of the best experiences of my life,” said Tiffany Harris in her final reflection on the tour. “Not only did I learn about the work done at The Marlborough Family Service, but my eyes were opened to a new world of therapy.”


The January program will be open to family therapy professionals and school counselors throughout Connecticut. Participants may choose to receive 18 CEUs or have the option to take it as a 3 credit course. Interested? For more information on this great opportunity to expand your horizon, e-mail or or call 203-254-4250.

Homecoming & Family Weekend

 Come Celebrate

Homecoming & Family Weekend
Saturday and Sunday, October 24-25, 2009

This October, discover (or rediscover) your Fairfield ‘home.’ Whether you are a recent graduate, a not-so-recent graduate, or a future graduate, there’s something exciting planned for everyone at Homecoming & Family Weekend. If you have any questions, please call (203) 254-4000, ext. 3288 or visit


Schedule of Events – Please be Sure to Attend MFT Sponsored Events

(Schedule as of Wednesday, October 8)

12:00 pm -12:45 pm

Exploring Fairfield: Session 1
Various Locations

Explore and get re-acquainted with campus by attending one of the Exploring Fairfield sessions.


Domestic Violence: Warning signs, Understanding the Cycle of Violence, and Available Resources: A panel of Marriage and Family Therapists working in local community agencies will discuss the impact of domestic violence on families and children as well as provide information on local resources. Students and professionals will also have an opportunity to ask questions on best practices for working with this population.


1:00 pm – 1:45 pm


What’s New in the Marriage and Family Therapy Department?: Marriage and Family Therapy faculty members and graduate assistants will discuss the newest additions to the program, including new faculty members, new courses, upcoming workshops in our workshop series, our Urban Grant Initiative, and the new MFT blog. Participants will have an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback.


2:00 pm – 2:45 pm

Professional Development in MFT: “10 Things You Can Do to Prepare Yourself for Life After Graduation”: The transition from MFT student to “Jane Smith M.A.” working at an agency is often a difficult one. Listen to former students discuss how they navigated through the transition so that you can set realistic expectations around pre-licensure employment, working in agencies, taking the licensing exam, and other important information for new graduates.



Go the the Homecoming Family weekend page to get a full schedule of events

New Workshop!


The Urban Marriage and Family Therapy and

Alumni Engagement Initiatives



The Dynamics of Diversity in Clinical Practice                      

October 17, 2009 Location: Canisius Hall, Room # 15              


3 CEU’s                                                                                     


This workshop will explore the ways in which dimensions of culture impact clinical work with clients.  Dynamics of oppression and privilege and how they shape our daily lives will be examined with regard to race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.  This workshop is intended to increase sensitivity to multicultural perspectives and increase clinicians’ competence in having difficult conversations about culture with clients.  The presenter will utilize visual and media illustrations as well as participant interaction to facilitate practical application of these concepts.  Participants will be encouraged to examine their own cultural contexts and how they impact work with diverse clients. 


Clinical Practice with LGBT Clients Within a Multicultural Context    

November 14, 2009

9:30am-12:30 Location: TBA 

3 CEU’s


This workshop will explore issues of sexual orientation and gender identity and how they manifest in clinical work with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender clients.  Some topics that will be explored are heterosexism and homophobia, coming out to family members, how religion interacts with sexual and gender identity, working with gay/lesbian couples and parents, adolescent sexuality and gender, and issues unique to transgender clients and gender transition. The presenter will utilize visual and media illustrations as well as participant interaction to facilitate practical application of these concepts.  Participants will be encouraged to examine their own beliefs around these issues of sexuality and gender and to consider how their clinical work may be impacted by their values.


Clinical Consultation Within a Multicultural Context                               December 12, 20092 Sessions (6 participants per consultation)     

9:30 – 11:00   1.5 CEU’s

11:00 – 12:30 1.5 CEU’s

Location: Canisius Hall, Room#8                                                             


This workshop will provide hands-on applications of multicultural perspectives in clinical work with clients.  The format of the workshop will mimic that of supervision and participants will be expected to present one or two client cases they wish to explore from a multicultural perspective.  Group discussion will examine how the cases are shaped by the dynamics of privilege and oppression, cross-cultural dynamics, and dimensions of diversity such as race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. Self-of-the-therapist issues will also be explored.  This workshop will practically apply concepts from “The Dynamics of Diversity in Clinical Practice” and “Clinical Practice with LGBT Clients within a Multicultural Context” therefore attending these prior workshops may be helpful, though not required.

Cost:    Fairfield University Students and Alumna – Free ($20 with CEU credit)

Non – Fairfield University Students and Professionals – $30 ($40 with CEU credit)  

203-254-4000 (ext. 2306)






To register or receive further information, please contact: Laura Fishman or Betsey Lebow, MFT Graduate Assistants



“Families that Flourish: Facilitating Resilience in Clinical Practice” Workshop

Fairfield University’s Marriage and Family Therapy  department
announces the next workshop in  our Cutting Edge Clinical Approaches
series:  ”Families that Flourish: Facilitating Resilience in Clinical
Practice”   This workshop will be Presented by Dorothy Becvar, internationally renowned author, teacher, and clinician.

Friday, October 9, 2009
8:30am – 4:00pm
Dolan School of Business dining room

This workshop will focus on the clinical application of research
regarding the traits and patterns that characterize resilient
families, including those with diverse structures, different ethnic
backgrounds, and non-traditional forms.
CEUs: 6 Continuing Education Units
Cost: $100 (Professional), $ 65 (student)

Mail your check, payable to Fairfield University by
October 5, 2009 to:

Kim Baer, GSEAP Dean’s Office
Fairfield University
1073 North Benson Road
Fairfield, CT 06824
(203) 254-4000, ext. 2140

In Their own Words…

Tiffany Harris

I’ve always known that I wanted a career that not only allowed me to interact with other people, but at the end of the day, left me with the feeling that I’ve made a small difference. As a graduate student of this program, I have to be honest and admit that I was very nervous my first semester. Looking around each classroom made me very aware of the qualities that made up my minority status: I was fresh out of undergrad, young, and bi-racial. I was concerned about my own capabilities and began to wonder whether I put both feet in the water too early. My peers and professors noticed the same qualities that I saw myself, and they probably don’t know this, but they helped me see that these same traits can be both benefits and liabilities. Through courses such as ethics and pre-practicum, I feel very prepared for instances in which my experience or age may be questioned.

Working at the Stamford Counseling Center has been a great experience for me. I couldn’t ask for a better way to attain diversity and variety amongst my cases. Working in their probation program has taught me an enormous amount of patience. While many of the clients are mandated by their probation officers to attend therapy, I quickly learned that this doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be present. Thus I make sure that I always have phone calls to make or paperwork to do in case a client does not show up. I’ve also developed relationships with the probation officers, and have been educated on some of the actions that are taken once a person is arrested and on probation. The biggest challenge that I have had at my site, is encouraging probation clients to bring other family members into the therapy room. However, I continue to persevere and use some of the techniques that have been given to me by my professors and my colleagues.

Psycho-Education as an MFT


Sara graduated from Fairfield’s MFT program in May 2009. She is a former graduate assistant and currently works as a Clinician at St. Vincent’s Behavioral Health in Westport, CT. 


When starting out, I thought I had to do “family therapy” with every client and family I had. I realized however, that that is not always possible. Working in an inpatient psychiatric hospital, I see a lot of different levels of acuity. Some people and family’s I can engage in therapy, while others I simply can not for various reasons (most of the time it is due to severe psychosis or delusional thinking). The question in my mind soon became, how do I best serve these families in a therapeutic way? I realized, through talking to some of my more seasoned colleagues in the field that psycho-education is the best way; and it still is therapeutic for the families as well as the client/patient. I was also happy to learn/realize that it still can be systemic. Through psycho-education a therapist can bring a new level of understanding of/or about the “illness” to a family system. In doing so, we as therapists can change the dynamic of how the family communicates with each other, and with the IP (identified patient); thus (hopefully) changing the dynamic of the system for the better. With the use of psycho-education, I have seen the levels of anxiety drop in families, and literature states that it can also lead to less readmissions of the client/patient.  So although it may not be the “classic” form of family therapy, I find it to be an invaluable one, and one that may too often be over-looked. This experience has definitely reinforced the adage that therapy is not a “one size fits all” profession; and although it may not be the most cutting-edge form of therapy families can still benefit from psycho-educaiton in a therapeutically systemic way.

The First Step in your MFT Career: Finding the Right Internship Site By Susan Valentino-Hersey

Susan Valentino-Hersey

Susan Valentino-Hersey is a second year student in the MFT program at Fairfield University. Susan will be beginning her Practicum in August, and has found placement at two sites… Catholic Family Services in Bridgeport and Stamford Counseling Center, where she will be working in their Probation Program.

The majority of graduate students look forward to the beginning of their clinical work with an equal mix of anticipation and dread; the latter being minimized by the support of a caring supervisor, a comprehensive education, and, of course, the right internship site. The right internship site can provide all the necessary supports to ease an intern’s nerves when approaching that ever stomach-wrenching, very first client session. However, the task of finding the right Practicum and Internship site can be a daunting procedure for some.

Having just finished this process myself, I have compiled some thoughts and tips that I found helpful during this period. At first, when handed the list of 50 or so sites in or around Fairfield County, the advice I received was to call the sites in your area. Well, being brought up in a bedroom community where many commute an hour into Manhattan every day for the “right job” my first thought was “Well, these sites are ALL in my area.” So the first task I set upon myself was to narrow down that list of 50 possibilities to a more manageable number: my goal was 10.

Here are my tips to figuring out which sites to contact:

Ask Around: Your fellow students are always good resources for information. For the most part they will tell you that they love their site. Try to get more information and make sure to ask specific questions on why they love it. Be on the lookout for that 1 in 10 student who says she doesn’t like her site; ask where and why.

Do your Research: The list the school will give you will have some specific details about the sites, if at all. Maybe one fifth of the sites have a brief description. If you think a site may interest you, see if they have a web site. If that fails, never be shy to call them to gather more information. The director in charge of placing interns will be more than happy to answer your questions which may reflect well on you in a future face to face interview.

KISS Principle: If you really want to have as many possibilities as possible go down the list and contact the sites with one simple question: Do you have an internship opening at the time I am looking for? Keep It Simple Stupid: If a site doesn’t have an opening, that is a fair reason to cross them out as an option and narrow down your list. This is also a good way to make a broad spectrum of professional contacts at the same time.


Once you have made your initial contacts with all of the sites you are interested in, the interviews will likely be set up quickly. These practicum/internship interviews should be handled just like any other job interview. However, being MFT specific, there are a few things you can do to prepare and although every site is different, I found the following tips important to keep in mind:

Know thy site: Some interviewers start with a lengthy description of their site, they may even go into vast detail about themselves. Be cautious: at the end, they will ask you why you contacted them and why you are interested in their site. Make sure you go into the interview with a working knowledge of the site, a.k.a. their population, their mission statement, type of agency etc. You should basically try to get as much information on the center and your interviewer as you can.

Know thy Self: As in any interview, you will be asked questions about yourself. As most people go into interviews thinking these will be the easiest questions to answer, they can end up being the hardest. It is important to spend time prepping for the interview by thinking about yourself and the answers you will give. Make sure to review your resume. Also, make sure to review your class notes- these supervisors and directors will want to know about your studies, what classes you have taken and what you have learned. The hardest question for me is “Tell me about yourself.” It may feel a bit salesman-ish but it makes the question a bit easier to answer if you have a slightly rehearsed 30-second pitch in your back pocket.

See into the Future: One of the last questions an interviewer may ask is “Where do you see yourself down the road?” This is a good opportunity to discuss your future goals. However, pay attention to their reaction; this is also a good opportunity to flesh out if that particular site’s goals are compatible with yours.

Before the interview ends you will have the opportunity to ask the interviewer a few questions; don’t miss this chance. Interviewers want you to ask questions; asking intelligent questions will make you look more competent, organized, and prepared.

Here are a few of my Internship Site questions:

What is the transition period for beginning interns? As “Prac” students most of us will be entering our internshipsite without ever having met with a client; different sites handle this differently. At some you will meet with clients right away, at others you will shadow your supervisor for a period and at some; you will go through a short training program. Picking something that is comfortable for you is important.

What is the referral process for clients? The answer to this question will give you a lot of information on the number of clients that flow through the site on a daily/weekly basis, the agencies position within the community, and the type of clients you are going to see.

What have people gone on to do after finishing their internship here? Some interviewers will name a select few lucky interns that were placed at their sites after graduation. Dig further, the answer to this question will give you a good idea as to where past interns ended up after their internship.

Relational Hours? Ahhhh, relational hours… Magic words… Do they have them? Make sure to ask if interns of years past have done alright getting them.

Practicum and internship sites are there for you and if you do the proper research and networking, you will get placed in the one that is the best fit for you. Keep in mind that you will likely not get offered a place at every site that you interview, and given the competitive and tightly-knit community that is MFT you may know the person who gets offered the position instead! Things happen, but that is fodder for another article.

In Their Own Words…

Betsey Lebow

Betsey is a second year student and is doing her internship at Trumbull Counseling Center in Trumbull, CT. She will graduate from the program in May 2010.

Fairfield University’s MFT program has opened up a whole new world for me.  The faculty, staff and students have been a tremendous source of support and inspiration.  When I discovered the program I had been searching for a graduate curriculum that would fit my educational needs but hadn’t found one yet that was exactly what I was looking for.  I researched  social work  at NYU and Columbia.  They were outstanding programs but something wasn’t quite right for me.  A friend suggested the MFT program at Fairfield.  Right away I began my due diligence and realized quickly that I had found my new home. The application process itself was the beginning of my new journey; writing a resume, getting recommendations, dusting off my 23 year old undergrad transcript, etc.  I matriculated in May 2007 and have never looked back.  My internship has been more than I could have hoped for with interesting cases and supportive supervision.  In addition to my coursework (excellent classes!) and clinical training I have had the opportunity to work as a graduate assistant.  It’s a fast paced environment in which I thrive.  My co-grad assistant Laura Fishman and I share responsibilities in our little office as we help support our in-house clinic (the Family Counseling Center at Fairfield University), our professors and fellow students.  I graduate next spring and am looking forward to a stimulating and rewarding future as I continue to learn in ways that will help me help others.

In Their Own Words…

Kristen Orakwue, LMFT

Kristen is a clinician at FSW, Inc. in Bridgeport, CT, she coordinates the Fairfield U. Urban Grant Initiative and is co-owner of Collaborative Counseling Group in Trumbull, CT. She graduated from Fairfield U’s MFT program in 2007.

It’s true what they say…”do what you love and everything else will fall in to place”. As soon as I read the description of the program on Fairfield’s website I knew that the MFT program was for me. With each class I was more invested and excitied about doing the work. A unique set of circumstances sent me to Europe for part of my internship, and I was very fortunate to get a job at a great agency after graduation where I have continued to get an excellent clinical education. A year or so after graduation I was asked to speak on a panel about life after graduation in Dr. Haug’s class. Some months later one of the panelists who I had previously only met once before asked me if I would be interested in becoming a member of the CTAMFT board of directors. Prior to being asked it had occurred to me that I should get more involved with the CTAMFT, to have a better idea of what was going on in the MFT community and maybe for networking purposes… talk about going from zero to sixty.

Maintaining relationships with some of the faculty from the program has also resulted in other enriching opportunities that otherwise would not have come my way. From time to time I have referred to myself as having great professional “luck” however after further reflection it seems to me it’s more of a combination of great training, a thirst for knowledge and the recognition that the more I know, the more I’m interested in learning.

In Their Own Words…

 Priscilla – second year MFT student…


Priscilla is doing her practicum at FSW Inc., a community mental health agency in Bridgeport CT in the Behavioral Health and Domestic Violence departments. As a bi-lingual clinical intern she will be working with both English and Spanish speaking clients.

My experience as an MFT student at Fairfield University has been exceptional. The professors and the training environment throughout my course of study have helped me acquire the tools to continue this progressive journey of learning how to be a skillful therapist. I appreciate the diversity among the professors, and the knowledge and experience they bring to the classroom. It is also a joy is to see classmates and colleagues grow in their learning through the University’s clinic, supervisors, and professors; who have all been supportive guides. They are consistently looking for ways to improve the program: providing students with workshops, giving and receiving feedback, and helping in any way they can. My advisor helped me find an internship based on the population that I most wanted to work with. The university staff allows you to be who you are as a clinician, which helped me to recognize that everyone is different and has a unique style to his or her practice. As I move into the clinical piece of this program, I sense a feeling of nervousness that professors and textbooks warned us was normal, but also a sense of exhilaration. This is because I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be, dedicating my time to what I find worth living for.

Mindfulness in Family Therapy Workshop

Fairfield University is pleased to offer the latest in a series of workshops for Human Service Professionals:”Cutting Edge Approaches: Mindfulness in Family Therapy” on May 29, 2009 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00p.m. Dr. Eric McCollum of Virginia Tech will conduct the workshop which will introduce therapists and educators to the concept and history of mindfulness, aspects of its Buddhist roots that are being integrated inclinical and educational models, its research base, and specific implications for utilization. Particular attention will be paid to the benefits of therapists’ and educators’ own practice of  mindfulness to ground their professional work. Participants will have ample opportunities to learn and practice a variety of mindfulness techniques. Friday, May 29, 2009 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Kelley Center Presentation Room Cost: $100 (professional) $65 (student) 6 CEU’s – MFT

Hope you can join us!

 MFT Mindfulness flyer 09_2.pdf?(146KB)?