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Hello World! Are there opportunities out there for us, MedFTs?

Posted By Tania Riosvelasco, Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Before our very eyes, the world of Medical Family Therapy is growing, extending its reach to the far corners of the country, patiently and steadily solidifying its foundation as a cornerstone of what an exceptional & enriching healthcare service should be. The more I learn about MedFT, the more I feel compelled to get involved in it. While there are a lot of opportunities to do that within the US (it is after all, the birth place of Medical Family Therapy), they are lacking abroad. As a self-described ‘international MFT’, seeking to practice outside the United States, I’m left wondering, "What opportunities exist abroad for those of us who want to work in the field of medical family therapy?”

My personal experience with Medical Family Therapy, although relatively short, has been very enriching and is deeply rooted in my own life. Coming from a medical family I had a lot of insight into the medical world and developed an interest in the medical profession early on (I tried medical school in Mexico, but decided that I was better off without a scalpel in my hand!). I followed the mental health route and had no doubts when choosing an MFT program with an emphasis in Medical Family Therapy. And when it was time to choose a practicum site, I immediately focused my efforts on getting into the only collaborative care program, offered at UCSD Family Medicine.

Through my practicum year and my time afterwards as an intern, I gained invaluable knowledge of the medical world & how it intersects with the world of family therapy. How a family medicine clinic operates, the busy and unpredictable schedule of physicians, the myriad of health problems that patients present with, the prevalence of mental illness, and how family & social dynamics can positively or negatively impact patients’ health and motivation to adhere to their treatment regimen.
Tania Riosvelasco

"Individually we are one drop.

Together, we are an ocean.”

~Ryunosuke Sator

Throughout all of this, the most valuable lesson I learned was the importance of being able to collaborate and work as a team with other healthcare providers to seek and ensure the best quality of service for a patient.

The seed of Medical Family Therapy has planted deep roots in me and recently relocating to Germany, I seek to find opportunities to practice and continue my growth within the field of medical family therapy.

I also learned, while presenting at the IFTA 2011 conference in Amsterdam, about several programs in Europe where mental health clinicians are seeking to incorporate psychotherapy services, specifically family therapy, into hospitals (Norway). And about two specific projects: one where family therapy is being incorporated into a clinic specializing in obsessive compulsive disorders (The Netherlands), and another in a clinic where mental health treatment alongside family therapy is required by law (Germany).

Talking to the presenters, I got a general sense of the challenges of trying to incorporate collaborative & integrative care in Europe, as the field of family therapy is still struggling to make a stance, and the field of medical family therapy is small. In Germany for example, insurance will not cover family therapy services, so for psychotherapists trained under MFT models it is a challenge to pursue a career only providing psychotherapy services within a family therapy perspective and building a self-paying client base.

So it can be a little scary, to go out of the comfort zone that I feel the US provides, where medical family therapy is seemingly everywhere! Just take a look around the CFHA (and Google) and you’ll find a network of colleagues, research, information & links invested in furthering this field. But if we step outside these boundaries, what is there abroad?

Recently, the CFHA started an international sub-committee headed by AJ Jayabarathan (Canada) with colleagues from Spain, Hong Kong & Germany, which will seek to expand the reach of medical family therapy on a global scale. I hope this helps create opportunities for international family therapists & other mental health providers that want to continue working in this field. Although I don’t mean to imply that the field of MedFT is non-existent outside the US, it does seem to be lagging, and I think there should be more involvement and interest in creating and strengthening a global network to ensure that the advances made within the US are shared and implemented on an international level as well.

For colleagues out there, how have you done it? Are there opportunities for MedFTs on the global field? Or did you have to create them? Let’s share & grow!

A few links:

International Society of Behavioral Medicine (

European Family Therapy Association (

International Family Therapy Association (

The German Association for Systemic Therapy, Counseling, & Family Therapy (

Asociación Mexicana de Terapia Familiar (

Instituto de la Familia A.C. (

Tania Riosvelasco, from Mexico, received her Master’s in MFT from the University of San Diego and worked as an intern at the Family Medicine Division of the University of California at San Diego. She has recently relocated to Germany and seeks to continue working in the field of MedFT. She also works as a translator (English-Spanish) specializing in psychotherapy & mental health translations.

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Jackie M. Williams Reade says...
Posted Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Thank you for writing this post! I have been wondering about the receptivity of other countries regarding MedFT. I work in pediatric palliative care and have sensed a bit of openness in that specialty for hiring a variety of psychosocial providers and/or researchers in the international context. I would love to see both MFT and MedFT grow internationally!
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