Join us for our 41st Annual
Meeting and Open Conference
in Oakland, CA
June 20-22, 2019

Hosted at the Oakland Marriott, City Center

Rupture and Repair:

Remaking Relationships in Families and Communities

June 20- June 22, 2019

Oakland Marriott

City Center

Oakland, CA

Hello AFTA Members,
This year’s conference builds on last year’s foundation for hope and action.  From relational activism—as a way to find spaces where we can learn more about how to show up for one another in relational ways that offer support and solidarity—to examining rupture and repair in relationship—to continue standing with and being led by the desire to make room for connection and doing what’s right by one another.  This year we will focus on “Rupture and repair: Remaking relationships in families and communities,” to examine how we use our knowledge to address ruptures and repair—in couples, families, communities and in our relationship with the environment and non-human beings, and to devise strategies for creating sustainable change and repair.

The recent past in this country has brought tremendous ruptures in relationships at micro and macro levels.  As systems thinkers we have important contributions to make relative to the many possibilities to address ruptures and repair—in training, consultation and research settings, as well as in organizations both here and abroad. We must prepare to continue addressing the impact of these ruptures while acknowledging that in the end repair is critical.  Ruptures can be opportunities to reconsider our views and behavior, and to strengthen relationships.  

We will unpack the meanings behind the conference theme in the upcoming weeks through messages from fellow AFTA planning members and committee chairs. We hope that this will work to give you insight into what guides our thinking as we plan for AFTA in Oakland—and the difference we hope it makes.

We also invite members to share with us the ways this year's theme might be important and meaningful to them. If you would like to do so, please send your messages to

Pilar Hernandez Wolfe
AFTA 2019 Conference Chair

Conference Navigation

Program at a Glance

Opening Keynote

Justice-Doing with each other: Doing Dignity and Respect amidst the darkness of our work

Speaker: Vikki Reynolds, PhD, RCC

Vikki’s work bridges the worlds of social justice activism and community work, bringing teachings from communities of struggle with histories of solidarity and 'shouldering each other up’ in dark times.  These communities are under attack from structural oppressions, mean spirited and cruel politics.

She will  consider these reflexive questions: How can we hold onto respect and dignity for each other when we're struggling? How can we hold on to our solidarity and our fabulous and painful histories of joint struggle against multiple oppressions including colonialism, white supremacy, legislated poverty, hetero-patriarchy, capitalism and the prison industrial complex? How do we stay in dialogue, with respect, across time, without getting caught up in using power-over practices or re-enacting the abuses of power we are fighting against? How do we enact the analysis and justice-doing we want to create more of? How can we nurture 'Cultures of Critique', embrace hopeful scepticism, build solidarity and enact our collective ethics as social justice movements? When resisting powers that work to divide us, how can we enact collective accountability, embrace groundless solidarity and infinite responsibility, and manifest an ethical stance of believed-in hope?

Vikki Reynolds, PhD, RCC is an activist/therapist from Vancouver, Canada, who works to bridge the worlds of social justice activism and therapy. Vikki is a white settler of Irish, Newfoundland and English folks, and a heterosexual woman with cisgender privilege. Her experience includes supervision and therapy with peers, activists, and other workers responding to the opioid epidemic/poisonings, torture and political violence, sexualized violence, mental health and substance misuse, homelessness and legislated poverty and working alongside gender and sexually diverse communities. Vikki is an Adjunct Professor and has written and presented internationally on the subjects of ‘Witnessing Resistance’ to oppression/trauma, ally work, resisting ‘burnout’ with justice-doing, a supervision of solidarity, ethics, and innovative group work. Vikki’s articles and keynotes are available free on her website: 


Keynote Discussant

Kyle D. Killian, Ph.D., LMFT is Senior Instructor at the Simmons University School of Social Work and Core Faculty in Marriage and Family Therapy at Capella University. An individual, couple and family therapist and a clinical supervisor, Dr. Killian has over 60 publications on trauma and loss, immigrant, refugee and multiracial families, vicarious resilience, and professional self-care. His books include Intercultural Couples: Exploring Diversity in Intimate Relationships (Routledge, 2008), Interracial Couples, Intimacy and Therapy: Crossing Racial Borders (Columbia University Press, 2013), and Time, Temporality and Violence in International Relations (Routledge, 2016). Dr. Killian has delivered over 80 presentations at national and international professional meetings on topics related to his publications.  Co-founder of an NGO in Cyprus providing advocacy and support to migrant workers, Dr. Killian has also authored measures of vicarious resilience, emotional intelligence, cultural assumptions and beliefs, and cultural inclusion in relationships.  

Pre-Conference Workshop

Indigenous Healing Practices: Plants as relatives and partners in healing

Participants in this workshop will have the opportunity to learn about a traditional indigenous healing practice from Mexico known as curanderismo.  Curanderismo is a complex set of integral practices that works toward equilibrium of mind, body, and spirit. Practices are hundreds of years old and include rituals that are predominantly indigenous in origin to rituals that are a mix of indigenous and catholic.  Although practices are similar across regions, there are variations reflecting local indigenous culture and cosmologies. For this workshop we will share practices that provide an opportunity for practitioners to tend to their mind, body, and spirit. We will discuss concepts of energetic “protection” before meeting with clients, and energetic “cleaning” after meeting with clients.  In addition, participants will develop an understanding of healing practices that are sometimes preferred by Latina/o/x clients. This workshop will be interactive.

Sandra M. Pacheco, Ph.D.  Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at the California Institute of Integral Studies.Dr. Pacheco’s teaching, research, and activist work focuses on Chicana, Latina, and Indigena feminisms and spirituality, and critical psychology with an emphasis on social justice.  Her most recent work focuses on curanderismo. She apprentices regularly in Oaxaca, Mexico with Doña Enriqueta Contreras and Pastora Gutierrez Reyes, curanderas within a Zapotec tradition.  Locally, she is co-founder of Curanderas sin Fronteras, a women’s healing collective that is dedicated to serving the health and well-being of underserved communities through traditional medicine.  


Plenary 1

Releasing the steam: How to re-set relationships in multiple professional contexts

Therapeutic, supervisory and mentoring relationships may be the most intimate, strong, and vulnerable relationships we develop in our work.  They are potentially the places where we can pay the most attention to the ways in which social location plays out in the relationship and where we can attend to ruptures and repairs over time. Melanie Domenech Rodríguez and Chris Hoff will discuss how they address the relational ruptures resulting from their own behavior as therapists, mentors and supervisors in their work with clients and supervisees. 

Rupture and Repair in Mentoring/Teaching/Supervision

Presenter: Melanie Domenech Rodriguez, PhD

Melanie Domenech Rodriguez will focus on ruptures and repairs in mentoring, teaching, and supervision.  Informed by multicultural, feminist, and liberation approaches to her work, Melanie, has navigated the treacherous waters of engaging in these relationships from a power- even stance.

Melanie M. Domenech Rodríguez, PhD, is a Professor of Psychology at Utah State University (USU). Her research focuses on cultural adaptations of evidence-based interventions, cultural competence, and parenting. She has culturally adapted GenerationPMTO parenting interventions for Latinxs in the US (Utah, Michigan) and México, and developed Padres Preparados a GenerationPMTO program for Latinx parents of preschoolers. Melanie is Past President of the National Latina/o Psychological Association and current President of Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology. Melanie was born and raised in Puerto Rico and currently lives in Logan, UT


Taking the Lead: Repair in the Therapeutic Relationship

Presenter: Chris Hoff, PhD, LMFT

The therapeutic relationship is the most important factor contributing to successful therapy outcomes. What shall we do when there is a rupture?  Contemporary strategies to repair therapeutic relationships suggest being open to hearing complaints from our clients, and not to be defensive in doing so. But these strategies do not take into account the power differential in the therapist client relationship. In this plenary Chris will propose that the discerning therapist quickly recognizes and amends any of their mistakes, in an effort to facilitate the repair of the alliance. Chris will demonstrate how he worked on repair with a client through a video demonstration.  He will spotlight Molly Andrews’ work on narrative and apology, and Jack Halberstam’s work on the queer art of failure and how failure sometimes offers more creative, cooperative, and surprising ways of being in the world.

Chris Hoff, PhD, LMFT is based in Orange County, CA and currently serves as an Assistant Professor in Counseling and Guidance at California State University San Bernardino, and is Founder and Executive Director of the California Family Institute (CFI) in southern California. CFI is a nonprofit organization that was established as a community counseling center that provides desperately needed low-cost counseling services for the community, and for the development of research and training for those interested in post-structuralist, post-oppositional, and compositionist therapy approaches.

Plenary 1 Discussants

marcela polanco, PhD of Muisca, African and European Colombian origins, is a narrative family therapist. She is  an Assistant Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy at San Diego State University. marcela’s supervision, teaching, research and therapy are informed by the work of Latin American academic and social activists on decolonial and anti-racist Andean feminisms. She is also inspired by an ethics of solidarity.



Navid Zamani, LMFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA. His works spans a variety of contexts addressing domestic violence (DV) issues with families and communities, ranging from advocacy work with the Domestic Violence Response Team to counseling services in emergency shelters.  He is the Head of Clinical Services at License to Freedom, a non-profit providing services to Middle Eastern refugees who are encountering DV.  His current work is committed to integrating a post-structural, anti-colonial feminist theory with Narrative therapy practices, and incorporating ‘affective-discursive’ understandings.

Plenary 2

Pathways to Repair in Social Justice Organizational and International Work  

Plenary sponsored In Memoriam of Dan Chernoble, Liz Brenner’s loving partner

Presenters: Jill Freedman, MSW with Tileah Drahm-Butler

Jill Freedman and Tileah Drahm-Butler are faculty of Dulwich Center in Adelaide, Australia where they work together as part of a team in the Masters of Narrative Therapy and Community Work program.  They will describe some of the challenges of power and privilege that present themselves in cross-cultural partnerships, the assumptions that can prove to be wrong, and the importance of adapting practices to particular cultures.  Always working with attention to the intersections of power and privilege, Tileah and Jill will feature de-colonising practices that seek to privilege the world view of Aboriginal people in Australia and that invite conversation and theory from the margins.

Jill Freedman, MSW, the Co-director of Evanston Family Therapy Center, has co-authored more than 30 papers and book chapters and 3 books--Symbol, Story and Ceremony: Using Metaphor in Individual and Family Therapy, Narrative Therapy: The Social Construction of Preferred Realities and Narrative Therapy with Couples. . . and a Whole Lot More! She is international faculty for the Dulwich Centre in Adelaide, Australia and teaches in the Masters Program in Narrative Therapy and Community Work offered by Dulwich Centre and the University of Melbourne and is on the faculty of the Chicago Center for Family Health. She received the Award for Teaching Excellence in the Field of Narrative Therapy from the Vancouver School of Narrative Therapy in 2014 and with Gene Combs, received the Award for Innovative Contribution to Family Therapy from AFTA in 2009. She teaches and consults to organizations internationally.                             


Tileah Drahm-Butler is an Aboriginal woman of the Darumbal nation who lives in Kuranda, North QLD. Tileah currentlyworks as a Social Worker in the Emergency Department and Intensive Care Unit of the Cairns Hospital where she uses Narrative Practice in brief encounters with patients and their families. Tileah is on the Dulwich Centre International Teaching Faculty and teaches Narrative Practice through an Aboriginal lens and works to co-research ways that Narrative Therapy can be used in a range of settings as decolonising practice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Tileah co-authored the book Aboriginal Narrative Practice: Honouring storylines of Pride, strength and creativity.

Presenters: Sarah Stearns, PhD

Systems thinkers have important contributions to make to organizations both here and abroad.  Sarah Stearns has been a large-scale change agent for decades.  In this presentation Sarah will describe a consultation she facilitated for a progressive national organization, which, like many other well-intentioned organizations, was unaware of how rooted its practices and definitions of “excellence” were within dominant culture.   She will consider similarities and differences between organizational work and family therapy in addressing rupture and repair.  

Sarah Stearns is a licensed clinical psychologist and Senior Consultant with VISIONS, Inc. After receiving her PhD from Duke University in 1984, she has worked as a practicing psychotherapist, faculty member, and consultant for the past 35 years. Throughout her career, Sarah has been grateful for the opportunities to use systemic thinking to work at the intersections of clinical practice and social justice and to support her clients’ capacity to address issues at the personal, relational, and societal levels.  Currently, Dr. Stearns is sought out for her expertise in race and gender, leadership development, and the integration of cultural analysis into strategies for changing human systems. She uses the social context of her life as a white, middle-class woman to compassionately challenge unexamined elements of power and privilege in her commitment to developing all our capacities to create healthy and sustainable relationships and organizations.

Plenary 2 Discussant

Kaethe Weingarten, Ph.D. is founder and director of The Witnessing Project, a nonprofit organization that consults to individuals, families, and communities locally, nationally, and internationally to transform passive witnessing of violence and violation into effective action.   She was an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology in the Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry from 1981-2017 and a faculty member of the Family Institute of Cambridge where she founded and directed the Program in Families, Trauma and Resilience.  She has published six books and over 100 articles and essays.  She serves on the editorial boards of five journals and was a board member of the American Family Therapy Academy from 1995-2001. She was Co-Chair of the AFTA Human Rights Committee from 2003-2009. In 2002 she received AFTA’s award for Distinguished Contribution to Family Theory and Practice. She directs AFTA’s Witness to Witness Project, a project pairing AFTA members with front-line workers helping migrants with legal, social and medical issues.   Since moving to Berkeley in 2013, she and her collaborator have been awarded three grants for their choreography with elder dancers applying a witnessing model in public spaces.  In 2018 they performed at the Oakland Museum of California.


Special Event—Oakland Museum of Art

This year’s Special Event will indeed be special: a peek into the unique, culturally diverse Oakland community.  And what better way to do it?  The Oakland Museum of Art’s fantabulous Friday Nights @ OMCA.  AFTA members will have access to all the galleries (including Queer California: Untold Stories that will deepen and expand our understanding of this history through a multifaceted exhibition); food from Off The Grid food trucks (a beloved Bay Area tradition); perusing the OMCA Marketplace, where local makers sell handcrafted works and art; hands-on-art workshops; and music!  There is a DJ, featured artists and dancing galore.   Dancers from toddlers to elders hit the floor.  Even dance lessons!   AFTA has reserved a lovely, indoor room from 5:30 to 9:00 PM to mingle, talk, and take a break from the excitement of the evening.  Volunteers will be available to take food orders for those who cannot stand in line at the food trucks.  You can eat any time during the evening and if you stand in line, you will likely chat with a friendly Oaklander.   Spend time with friends at this multi-fun event.


The hotel is located in the middle of downtown Oakland, with short walks to Lake Merritt, Jack London Square, the Oakland Museum of Arts, to many fine restaurants, and with BART transportation to both the San Francisco and Oakland Airports. 
A couple booking considerations:
Planning to attend the pre-conference on the morning of Thursday, June 20 (limit 40 people)? We suggest that you book your stay beginning June 19.

Attending the Board meeting (board members & committee chairs) on Wednesday from 12:30-9:00pm? Be sure to book your reservations for June 18 or 19 (depending on where you're traveling from).

Meet us there in June!

Pearls of Wisdom, 2.0: 

Sharing with and learning from each other

The tenth annual Pearls of Wisdom panel sets the stage for inspiring us to relate to one another with generosity and open-heartedness. To do this requires deep listening, curiosity and continual self-reflection as we interact with people who are different from us in multiple ways.  Panelists of different ages and social locations will be in dialogue about how their generational position and social locations have shaped their core beliefs about family therapy and social justice, and what they understand both about the strengths and limitations of those beliefs. Panelists and audience members may find long-held and cherished ideas shifting in interesting ways. (90 minutes)

Moderator: Lisa Bibuld, PsyD

Panelist: Jane Ariel, PhD

Panelist: Blanca Lugo, MFT

Panelist: Froma Walsh, PhD

Panelist: Diane Estrada, PhD, LMFT

Panelist: Laurel Salmon, LMFT

Panelist: Justine D'Arrigo-Patrick

Call for Proposals:

Brief Presentations and Collected Works



Proposal submissions are now closed.

If you have submitted a proposal, you can expect to hear back in January. 



Support the 2019 Conference

The annual AFTA Conference facilitates robust dialogue for therapists committed to advancing the integration of social justice, systems theory, and family therapy practices. It brings together professionals committed to advancing family therapy research, theory, and practice that aligns with principles of justice, liberation, and equality. These professionals include students, early career therapists, and leading practitioners, researchers, and scholars in the family therapy profession.

Your donations help fund scholarships for students from marginalized backgrounds (an expense of $250.00 per student scholarship), hotel subsidies for students and members who would not otherwise be able to attend and more....

Each year this innovative and enriching conference is made possible by generous donor support from people like you.