The Family Institute at Northwestern University

The Family Institute at Northwestern University

The Family Institute at Northwestern University is the Midwest’s largest center for marital and family therapy, education and research. Founded in 1968, The Institute provides counseling and psychotherapy throughout the Chicago metropolitan area, including community-based mental health services for low-income, at-risk families. It also operates two graduate programs in marriage and family therapy and counseling psychology at Northwestern University, in addition to conducting research projects that lead to better understanding and treatment of mental health issues. The Family Institute is an independent, not-for-profit organization responsible for its own funding.

Mission and Core Values

The mission of The Family Institute is to strengthen and heal families from all walks of life through clinical service, community outreach, education and research.

Core values and beliefs include:
* The family is the singular most significant factor influencing human identity.
* Family-based therapy is a powerful model for change, one that not only helps people cope with major life issues, but that can ultimately transform how we lead our lives, resulting in healthier communities and societies.
* High-quality mental health care should be available to all who need it, regardless of their financial resources.
* The definition of "family" takes many forms, and is not limited by the boundaries of biology and marriage.


In the 1960s, Chicago-area psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers began exploring an innovative type of treatment, family therapy. They formed a study group under the stewardship of Charles H. Kramer, MD, and in 1968, the group established the not-for-profit Family Institute of Chicago. In the following years, The Family Institute formalized training in family therapy, developing a two-year postgraduate program, as well as workshops and seminars for mental health professionals. In 1975, it merged with Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s new Institute of Psychiatry and formed the Center for Family Studies.

In 1986, William M. Pinsof, PhD succeeded the retiring Dr. Kramer as President of The Family Institute and Director of the Center for Family Studies. The Family Institute separated legal and financial ties from Northwestern Memorial Hospital in 1989 and reestablished itself as an independent not-for-profit.

In 1990, The Family Institute signed an independent affiliation agreement with Northwestern University. The following year it began its first academic offering under the new affiliation, a Master of Science degree in Marital and Family Therapy. The affiliation with Northwestern University was enhanced in 2001 with the formation of the Center for Applied Psychological and Family Studies, an umbrella for academic and research collaboration. In 2002, Northwestern University moved its Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology program to The Family Institute.

Today, The Family Institute is an independent affiliate of Northwestern University and is solely responsible for its own funding, which is generated through tuition, philanthropic support and clinical revenue.

Graduate programs

The Family Institute operates two graduate programs with degrees conferred by The Graduate School of Northwestern University: the Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology and the Master of Science in Marital and Family Therapy.

The Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology is designed to prepare professional counselors who are capable of understanding and intervening in relation to both individual and social-system functioning within family, work, learning and community settings. The program is committed to a life-course developmental perspective and to a personality and social-systems approach to the study of human psychopathology, personal and career growth, and adaptation.

In the Marital and Family Therapy Program, students are taught a systemic, integrative and problem-centered approach to psychotherapy that was pioneered at The Family Institute. This approach specifically aims to address clients' emotional, behavioral and interpersonal problems by considering the influences of family and other relationships in a biopsychosocial context. In this integrative systemic approach, psychodynamics, biology, gender, socioeconomics, culture, ethnicity and family life cycle issues are all actively considered in order to help clients understand and address their problems.

Both graduate programs prepare students for careers as mental health professionals and include comprehensive academic curricula from Northwestern University and intensive, supervised clinical training components. Because The Family Institute is also a psychotherapy treatment center, many students receive hands-on clinical training and may fulfill their clinical practicum requirements by seeing clients through the Bette D. Harris Family and Child Clinic and/or the Community Outreach Program.


The Institute's clinical research activities are focused on two areas:
* The process and determinants of how people change in psychotherapy
* Anxiety and mood disorders over the life course, within the context of the family

Research at The Family Institute is conducted under the auspices of Northwestern University's Center for Applied Psychological and Family Studies. The Center is operated by The Family Institute and housed at our headquarters in Evanston, Illinois. All research projects receive approval from the Northwestern University Institutional Review Board to ensure protection to volunteer subjects enrolled in studies.

Clinical service

Clients see therapists either through The Family Institute’s staff practice of licensed psychotherapists or through the Bette D. Harris Family and Child Clinic, which offers a sliding-fee scale, based on ability to pay.

Family Institute psychotherapists collaborate with clients of all ages from young children to older adults to provide the focus, structure and problem-solving skills necessary to successfully resolve a broad range of serious concerns. The psychotherapists help families develop the skills necessary to deal with challenges such as marital discord, blended families, children with behavioral or emotional problems, and troubled parent-child relationships over the life course. The Family Institute also offers services to assist couples throughout their partnerships, pre-marital counseling at the outset, therapy to resolve problems causing family dysfunction, and, if necessary, help to address the pain of separation and divorce. With the guidance of experienced psychotherapists, clients gain knowledge about themselves, explore their relationships, develop skills to improve communications, change ineffective emotional and behavior patterns, and learn to manage stressful situations when they arise.

Community outreach

The Institute launched its Community Outreach Program in 1989, offering family-oriented psychotherapy to clients who face financial and geographic barriers to receiving services. Today, nearly 1,000 children and adults are helped annually through this service. Partnering with 13 local schools and non-profit organizations, the Community Outreach Program applies strategies that prevent vulnerabilities, promote strengths and coping skills, and treat mental health challenges in places where clients already feel connected. Family, couple and individual therapy, groups, classroom discussions, parent education workshops, case consultation and teacher trainings are provided by Institute staff therapists and therapists-in-training. Due to the program’s philanthropic support, clients receive services at no or very low cost.


External links

* [ The Family Institute]
* [ American Association for Marital and Family Therapy]
* [ American Psychological Association]
* [ Northwestern University]

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