Teal Background

Join us for our 40th Annual
Meeting and Open Conference
in Austin, TX
June 21-24, 2018

Hosted at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center

Relational Activism:

Supporting Just Relationships in Family Therapy

June 21- June 24, 2018

AT&T Hotel and Conference Center

at the University of Texas at Austin

AFTA’s 2018 Annual Meeting and Open Conference gathers AFTA and non-AFTA members who are couple and family therapists, researchers, educators and others dedicated to the advancement of systemic thinking, practices and policies in the world. The theme, “Relational Activism: Supporting Just Relationships in Family Therapy,” will invite reflection on what activism in family therapy means and provide the opportunity to explore this concept from new perspectives. How we advocate for, support and sustain relationships in the contemporary era will be the central theme woven throughout the meeting.

The conference will officially open with an inspiring keynote address, "An Invitation to Post-Oppositional Practice" from Ana Louise Keating,Ph.D. Post-oppositionality offers relational approaches to knowledge production, social interactions, alliance-building, and transformation that borrow from but do not become limited by or trapped in oppositional (either/or, us-against-them) thought and action. Post-oppositionality does not entirely reject oppositional consciousness but instead moves through it, taking what’s useful and transforming (rather than negating or denying) the rest. Drawing on U.S. women-of-colors theories (especially those by Gloria Anzaldúa), this presentation offers an overview of post-oppositionality, exploring its relevance for 21st-century social-justice work (including pedagogy and daily practice). After discussing the current status of oppositional thought and offering a tentative definition of post-oppositionality, Keating provides several examples of post-oppositional work, investigates additional possibilities, and offers tentative tactics that practitioners can borrow, modify (based on their specific contexts and needs), and apply.

AnaLouise Keating, PhD, is a professor and director of the Multicultural Women’s and Gender Studies doctoral program at Texas Women’s University. Her work primarily focuses on transformation studies, U.S. women-of-color theories, Gloria Anzaldúa and pedagogy. AnaLouise is the author of numerous publications, including Transformation Now: Towards a Post-Optional Politics of Change, Teaching Transformation: Transcultural Classroom Dialogues, Women Reading Women Writing: Self-Invention in Paul Gunn Allen, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Audre Lorde, and The Glorida Anzaldúa Reader. She also co-edited This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation Alongside Gloria Anzaldúa. AnaLouise will speak with us about what it can mean to inhabit post-oppositional spaces in a variety of relational contexts. We see her work as timely and uniquely situated to inform our roles as educators, supervisors, and clinicians in the current sociopolitical climate.

We welcome a spoken word performance by Edyka Chilomé, born Erica Granados - De La Rosa, a queer woman of color cultural worker based in North Texas. She is a child of Salvadorian and Mexican immigrant activists with roots in the United Methodist Church and third world liberation movements. Edyka holds an M.A. in Multicultural Women’s Studies from Texas Women’s University, where her researched focused on the decolonial power of spiritual [Art]ivism. She has been asked to share her poetry and speak on social justice issues on multiple media platforms and in spaces around the country including The Dallas Museum of Art, The Prindle Institute for Ethics, and Boston University. Edyka has also published numerous articles, essays, and poems including a collection of poetry that explores queer mestizaje in the diaspora entitled She Speaks | Poetry. She currently serves as a faculty member of the presidential award-winning initiative, The Clemente Course for the Humanities at El Centro College.

2018 Plenaries

Friday: Contemporary Issues


Ruben Parra-Cardona, Ph.D.

The Urgent Need to Embrace Advocacy in Family Therapy Practice and Prevention: Lessons Learned in Parenting Prevention Research with Low-income Latino/a Immigrants

Topic description

The United States is witnessing a tumultuous time in which issues of diversity, power, and privilege have become highly contentious and controversial. For example, rather than addressing historical immigration as a human rights issue, conservative movements have increasingly disseminated narratives identifying immigrants as a threat to the US on several levels. Where should we stand as family therapists in our daily practice in the midst of this reality? Dr. Parra-Cardona will reflect on lessons learned from a 10-year program of applied prevention research informed by family therapy theories, evidence-based and cultural adaptation models, and social justice and advocacy principles. In addition to describing the positive effects of culturally adapted interventions, he will reflect on the critical role of advocacy throughout the implementation of this program of prevention research, as well as the urgent need for family therapists to adopt this stance not only in clinical and prevention settings, but also in the larger socio-political context. 


Dr. Parra-Cardona is an Associate Professor in the Steve Hicks School of Social Work (SHSSW) at the University of Texas at Austin. At the SHSSW, he also serves as Coordinator for Mexico and Latin American initiatives and Co-Director of the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. He earned his master’s degree in couple and family therapy at Syracuse University and his doctorate in couple and family therapy at Texas Tech University. His research is focused on the cultural adaptation of evidence-based parenting interventions for low-income Latino/a populations. This program of research has been funded by NIMH and NIDA. He also conducts research focused on examining the cultural relevance of services for Latina survivors and Latino men who batter. Dr. Parra-Cardona has used the experience gained in these US-based studies to collaborate with Mexican institutions and state governments in the implementation of prevention programs of research. Dr. Parra-Cardona serves on the editorial boards of three leading journals in the fields of family therapy and family studies (Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, Family Process, and Family Relations). He is also the Vice-President of the Family Process Institute.

Jean Malpas, LMHC, LMFT

From Otherness to Alliance: How Families and Clinicians Grow with Gender Diversity

Topic Description

What are the effective ingredients to cultivate optimal parenting and allyship in cisgender-identified caregivers of gender diverse youth? How do we support the family’s relational transition? How do our social locations as clinician, trainer or supervisor inform and impact the driving and restraining forces in our work? Pulling from the work developed by the Gender & Family Project’s team at The Ackerman Institute for the Family, this plenary highlights the dilemmas faced by youth, parents, family members, and clinicians embarking in a journey through gender diversity. The first part of the plenary emphasizes the multiple levels of family engagement (family therapy, community groups and organizing) developed to support cisgender parents raising gender expansive children and transgender adolescents. The second part of the plenary expands into a conversation with discussants Amy Tuttle and Shawn Giammattei to reflect on the complexities and opportunities brought forth by the social locations of the clinicians and program leaders. 


Jean Malpas, LMHC, LMFT, is the founder and director of the Gender & Family Project at The Ackerman Institute for the Family (www.ackerman.org/GFP), director of International Training, and a psychotherapist in private practice in New York City. He has presented nationally and internationally on issues of gender, sexuality, addiction, and couple and family therapy. Jean’s work with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, couples, and families has been published in numerous books and journals. Media appearances include a TEDx Talk, “The Gift of Gender Authenticity,” National Geographic’s “Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric,” and PBS Frontline: “Growing Up Trans.” Jean’s leadership has been recognized by the American Family Therapy Academy’s first Early Career Award (2011) and the Social Justice Award (2018).

Friday Discussants


Amy Tuttle, Ph.D., LMFT

Shawn Giammattei, Ph.D.

Saturday: Relational Activism


marcela polanco, Ph.D.

Family Therapy Activism from Latin American Decolonial Perspectives: Inter-Cultural and Inter-Linguistic Solidarity

Topic description

An activist vocation in family therapy ought to include the revision of the very same theories and practices from where personal, social, political, historical, etc. transformation is engaged.  Supporting the development of just relationships from perspectives that are predominantly centered in single, Western, European cultures and language, may inadvertently undo some of the well-intended efforts of justice. marcela situates activism from the perspective of knowledge production and dissemination. As a mestiza (coexistence of her Africana, Indigenous and European influences), she borrows from the work of Latin American activists on decolonial perspectives to reflect critically upon neocolonial structures that support knowledge development. She discusses a knowledge fair trade proposal for family therapy based on an inter-cultural and inter-linguistic ethics of solidarity to redistribute the current social order of knowledge production of a center and a periphery. She emphasizes a need to construct new terms of dialog across cultures their languages, aesthetics, and ethics.


marcela polanco, Mestiza (Indigenous, Africana and European) from Colombia, immigrant in the U.S., is a family and narrative therapist, in English. She is part of the team of graduate faculty members at Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio, TX. She leads their family therapy master’s program and bilingual training certificate, the Psychological Services for Spanish Speaking Populations (PSSSP). In Spanish, marcela's work borrows from decolonial practices and ethics of solidarity. She is currently studying Aymara´s decolonial thinking and anti-racist feminism with GLEFAS, Grupo Latinoamericano de EstudioFormación y Acción Feminista. 

Kameelah Mu'Min Rashad, MEd, MRP, MS

Bearing Witness to Beauty, Resilience, and Vulnerability: Development of the Voices of Muslim Families Project

Topic Description

Islam is the fastest growing religion in the U.S., with estimates of the Muslim population ranging from 3 to 8 million. The tragedy of the 9/11 terrorist attacks thrust the American Muslim community into the center of the debate on religious diversity and inclusion in the U.S. and spurred rigorous debate on the meaning of citizenship, unlawful surveillance, monitoring, discrimination and profiling, democracy, and religious tolerance. According to the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding’s 2018 poll, 61% of American Muslims report experiencing religious discrimination, while 64% also report experiencing racial discrimination in the past year alone. Indeed, in this socio-political climate, many parents are voicing concern about their children’s emotional well-being and safety. According to a study conducted by the Council on American Islamic Relations, 64 percent of students experienced bullying in school as a result of verbal harassment such as being called “terrorist” and in some cases, physical assault, including female Muslims having their hijab/headscarf forcefully removed. Family therapists can play a pivotal role in helping families cope with the stress and anxiety of living with racism, discrimination, and harassment—all factors that exacerbate existing family stressors and tensions. However, it is important that family therapists and advocates first bear witness, with compassion and humility, to the stories and voices of American Muslim families. Using personal accounts from her own life and complex stepfamily, the presenter will share information about who American Muslims are, and how their stories of resilience and vulnerability are shaped by anti-Muslim bigotry, anti-Black racism, oppression and white supremacy. An artist installation created by Kameelah Rasheed will accompany this presentation and offer an immersive experiential opportunity to learn more deeply about American Muslim families.


Kameelah is the Founder and President of Muslim Wellness Foundation (MWF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing stigma associated with mental illness, addiction and trauma in the American Muslim community through dialogue, education and training. Kameelah is the Fellow for Spirituality, Wellness and Social Justice at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). In this capacity, Kameelah supports students in their exploration of faith-based activism, spirituality, emotional well-being and healing.  Kameelah served three years as the Muslim Chaplain at UPenn and continues to facilitate discussions on religious identity development and challenges faced by American Muslim youth. She is also a resource to the wider Penn community and administration on Islam and Muslims. Kameelah graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Psychology and MEd in Psychological Services. She has pursued further graduate education, completing a second Masters in Restorative Practices & Youth Counseling (MRP) from the International Institute for Restorative Practices and obtaining a post-Masters certificate in Family Therapy from the Philadelphia Child & Family Therapy Training Center. She is pursuing her doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, PA.

Saturday Discussants


Jill Freedman, MSW

CharlesEtta Sutton, MSW, LCSW, BCD

2018 AFTA Award Slate

Brief Presentations and Interest Group Descriptions