All in the Family: Deepening Skills and Practice in Working with Families

October 14, 2016 9:00 am - 5:00 pm


Columbia School of Social Work, 1255 Amsterdam Ave., New York 10027

Event Organizer

Office of Professional Excellence

6.5 contact hours are available for NYS, NJ and CT Licensed Social Workers

$250 single; $200 each for 5 or more

Alumni will receive a $50 discount. Please email for promotional code. Your email should contain your name and the year you graduated.



While many social workers in direct practice are trained to work with individuals, they are often challenged when more than one person is in the room. A lack of emphasis on group dynamics in social work training, supervision, and agency placement contributes to this unpreparedness.

In recent years, however, social service organizations—especially child welfare agencies—have begun to recognize the value of working with the family as a system. By making families the unit of attention in social work practice, clinicians will have a richer understanding of problems their clients encounter, the relational dynamics that inform clients’ experiences, and the strategies that will help clients find solutions that will enhance overall wellbeing.

Workshop Description

This workshop provides participants with a conceptual frame and clinical tools for effective work with families. Participants will learn how to conceptualize the family as a system, paying close attention to relational dynamics and patterns of interaction. This will help social workers reframe and broaden their understanding of the problems many families experience.

Participants will learn the effective interviewing skills necessary for working with families as well as techniques for addressing issues including parent-child conflict, school problems, and communication impasses. The training will place an emphasis on how social locators such as race, gender identity, immigration status, and culture exert an influence on family relationships and the worker-client relationship.

Learning Objectives:

Participants will learn to:

  • Identify and apply fundamental concepts of family therapy (e.g. triangles, cycles of interaction, complementarity, fused/rigid boundaries) relevant to assessment and treatment of family problems.
  • Discuss the influence of both the clinician’s and family’s social location on case assessment, treatment, and therapeutic relationship.
  • Use interviewing techniques and treatment strategies to help families address common problems they encounter such as communication impasses, child-parent conflict, and school issues.


Walter Vega, LCSW received his Masters in Social Work from Columbia University School of Social Work in 2004. He began his social work career in family preventive services where he provided case management and counseling services to low-income families in Brooklyn, many of whom were recent immigrants to the United States. He is a graduate of Ackerman’s Clinical Externship training program and became a member of Ackerman’s teaching faculty in 2010. For the last three years, Walter has also served as the faculty liaison to the Ackerman Institute Student of Color Supportive Space, a collaboration among Ackerman trainees and alumni of color who seek to have a forum for sharing their unique experiences at the institute and in the field of family therapy.

In addition to being a social worker, Mr. Vega has been a teacher and trainer for over 15 years. He has been an adjunct lecturer at Columbia University School of Social Work since 2006 where he has taught courses in Human Behavior in the Social Environment, Social Work Practice with Families, and Critical Conversations in a Social Justice Paradigm. He is also an instructor and academic counselor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice for students in the school’s SEEK (Search for Education, Elevation, and Knowledge) Program. Mr. Vega has a private practice in Brooklyn and Manhattan seeing families, couples, and individuals. He also works as a family therapy consultant for various organizations in New York City, including Administration for Children’s Services, Good Shepherd Services, and Mt. Sinai Hospital.