Barry J. Jacobs: I had
the privilege recently of conducting a phone interview with Claudia
Grauf-Grounds, Ph.D., a long-time acquaintance from the CFHA and Society of
Teachers of Family Medicine (STFM) conferences.
For two decades, she has been an exemplar of the collaborative care
champion who has gracefully straddled the family therapy and family medicine
worlds, teaching trainees from each about the culture of the other. In workshops and at meetings, I have always
been impressed by Claudia’s equanimity and good cheer. Perhaps this reflects her self-assurance
about her missions as an educator and clinician, as well as her deep and
What experiences in your professional or personal life were most influential in
your development as a medical family therapist?
terms of my professional development, I was teaching family therapy at the
University of San Diego in the early-‘90s when JoEllen Patterson asked me to
apply for a part-time behavioral faculty position at Sharp, a new
community-based, family medicine program that was being started by family
medicine leader Joe Scherger. After I
was hired, along with psychiatrist Steve Groban, we had to figure out what to
do. We started going to the STFM Family
in Family Medicine conferences, held each year for many years at Amelia Island,
Florida, where I met the gang—Jeri Hepworth, Tom Campbell, Susan McDaniel, Dave
Seaburn, Alan Lorenz. All of these were very
competent professionals and wonderful people who wanted to address families and
suffering but could also talk in the same paragraph about their own families. They were all mentoring me. I met Tina Schermer Sellers at Amelia Island
at the same time I was applying for my current position at Seattle Pacific
University. I shared her vision to work with families and
illness and we hit it off. Tina had
worked for years as a family therapist in oncology and she had had the idea
independent of me to start a certificate program in MedFT at SPU. In 2001, we started a MedFT certificate
program for our masters and post-masters family therapy programs.
personal experience that has informed my career was that my son was born with transposition
of the greater heart vessels that meant there were no connections between his
lungs, heart and body. He was
suffocating at birth. During his two
open heart operations and subsequent hospitalization, my husband and I basically
lived at the Children’s Hospital in San
Diego. We coped
not only because of the amazing hospital professionals who supported us but
also because of our faith community at that time. That experience has led me to think a lot
about internal and external resources of healing. That’s how I train my students and work with
my clients—evaluating the kinds of internal and external resources that clients
use. My son, by the way, is now 23 and is doing great. His internist at University of Washington
wrote about him in an academic journal because he is the only person with that
congenital cardiac condition who later went on to compete in Division II track.
2: What do you consider
your most important contribution to the MedFT field?
my role as department chair, I’ve been able to facilitate Tina’s dream to start
a university-based MedFT certificate—one that isn’t affiliated with one
hospital or residency program. Instead,
we put students in multiple healthcare settings where they get an overall
picture of how families can be involved in medical care. But we also ask each student to focus during
training on one illness—fibromyalgia, cancer, diabetes, etc.
also worked to expand George Engels’ biopsychosocial model to one that is
biopsychosocial-spiritual by presenting consistently at CFHA and STFM
conferences on spirituality and by collaborating with other trainers on this
topic and by introducing a core course on Spirituality & Health in our
MedFT course curriculum.
3: What do you think MedFT, as a field/orientation,
needs in order to move into mainstream healthcare?
think there are situations now that prompt people to think about their own
families and illness situations—e.g., dealing with aging parents, wounded
warriors in military families. People
understand intuitively that it’s important for healthcare to be family-based. But we’re still using a fee-for-service,
individually oriented reimbursement model.
Families want to be engaged in healthcare but realize that they will
have to pay for it out of pocket. Our
field must advocate for a more family-based reimbursement system.
4: What do you think our training models lack that
puts us behind some other fields?
like the hubs of MedFT training that I’m seeing in different contexts. The difference is that we’re still an
interdisciplinary group and interdisciplinary groups have difficult getting
traction politically. Things like writing
blogs will help us because that’s where real people live.
5: Ideally, where would you like to see MedFT in
the next 10 years?
NAMI is an
integrated whole of families and healthcare professionals devoted to relieving
the suffering of families dealing with psychiatric illnesses. I’d love for MedFT to become a kind of professional
NAMI—a go-to field that demonstrates the value of working with families with
all illnesses and advocates for those families.
Ph.D. is Chair and Professor of the Department of Marriage and Family Therapy
in the School of Psychology of Seattle Pacific University. For many years, she also supervised the
behavioral science training of family medicine residents at the University of
Washington. She is the co-author of Essential
Skills in Family Therapy: From the First Interview to Termination (Second
Edition) (Guilford, 2009) and has also published extensively on MedFT
training, couples treatment, anticipatory loss and spirituality in Families,
Systems & Health and other journals.
She and her husband, a pastor, have three adult children (ages 23-30)
and an 18-year-old dog named Coffee Grounds.