Couple and Family Therapy Students Bring Their Skills to Clinics in Morocco & Spain

November 13, 2019 | Graduate students from the Council for Relationships and Thomas Jefferson University’s collaborative program in Couple and Family Therapy traveled to Morocco and Spain to learn about mental health services in other regions of the world. These students are working towards their Master’s Degrees in Family Therapy (MFT), and this trip exposed them to mental healthcare in a different culture as well as reminded them of some universal therapy lessons.

Students met with families to talk about their struggles at a clinic for children with disabilities.

The graduate students traveled to institutions including hospitals, orphanages, and senior citizen homes. They provided counseling services with the help of faculty supervisors and interpreters. The group observed mental health practices, family structure, and culture.

This kind of trip abroad was new to the MFT program. “It’s an interesting experience that’s aligned with our mission to help our students be as culturally competent as possible. We hope to be able to expand the opportunity to more students in the future,” said Program Director Dr. Ken Covelman.

Dr. George James, Psy.D, LMFT, AAMFT Approved Supervisor & Associate Program Director of the Department of Couple & Family Therapy at Thomas Jefferson University

Associate Program Director, George James, Psy.D., LMFT, accompanied second year MFT students Rachel Smoot and Tiffani Koch on the trip. He commented:

“Counseling services are very rare in Moroccan society, and as a profession it is mostly unknown. The volunteer experiences combined with excursions are meant to expand students’ worldview, foster an understanding of other cultures, and expose students to the variety of mental health experiences in which people in Morocco engage. Students also practice communicating across language and cultural barriers, a skill-set transferrable to certain populations in the US.”

When speaking to the students, it is apparent that these goals were achieved. Second year MFT student Rachel Smoot shared:

“Through my clinical experience working with Moroccan individuals and families, I was reminded that while cultural differences surely exist, there are also common themes that bind us: wanting to be heard, wanting to belong, wanting to know that what we are feeling is “normal.” We may not have been able to give them “answers,” but they walked away feeling lighter simply because we listened. This reminds me that above all therapeutic techniques and interventions, my clients at CFR need me to be present, listen, and care.”

“My time in Morocco opened my eyes to the privilege of being a person from the US, and the privilege of being a therapist. I learned a lot personally and professionally, and I am grateful for the opportunity to travel,” said Tiffani Koch.

Council for Relationships is partners with Thomas Jefferson University to offer a Master’s in Family Therapy Degree. Learn more about this program by visiting the Thomas Jefferson website. There will be an information session about the program on Monday, November 18th at 130 South 9th Street, Edison Building, Suite 100, Philadelphia, PA 19107. Click here to register for the information session.