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Conference Keynote Presentation

Loss and Resilience Through Turbulent Times:
Meaning Making, Hope, and Transformation

Froma Walsh, PhD

In the tragic deaths and upheaval wrought by the pandemic, precious loved ones have been lost; and lives have been upended. Couples and families are strained, worried about their children, and struggling with financial and multi-stress challenges, worsened by global effects of war and climate change. Clients and therapists alike are depleted, yet still must navigate a rollercoaster course of changing conditions and future uncertainties. How do we respond?

The morning will address these concerns, presenting best practices in a resilience-oriented systemic approach. We are eager to put the pandemic behind us, and our society avoids dealing with loss, encouraging a rapid “closure” on grief and suffering: “Just move on!” and a faulty view of resilience: “Just bounce back!” Yet, we need to address the surge in depression, anxiety, substance use, and couple and family distress. While most mental health approaches focus on individual symptom reduction, systemic therapists are uniquely valuable in healing from the painful grief of loss, in addressing reverberations in couple and family relational systems, and in attending to larger systemic, social-economic, and cultural/spiritual influences. Practice principles and illustrations for individual and relational coping, healing, and resilience will be offered, with discussion of therapeutic challenges.

Our afternoon will focus on beliefs and practices that foster clients’ –and therapists’--resilience through these turbulent times. In practice guidelines, case illustrations, and attendees’ experience, we’ll discuss ways to facilitate meaning making, reorient hope, and tap transcendent values that offer spiritual moorings, heighten appreciation of what matters in life, and inspire new purpose, creativity, and positive growth. Beyond problem solving, this resilience-oriented systemic approach can yield profound transformation—deepening bonds and inspiring new life possibilities to thrive.

Photo of presenter Froma Walsh, PhDFroma Walsh, PhD, is Co-Founder & Co-Director, Chicago Center for Family Health, and Firestone Professor Emerita in the Crown School, University of Chicago. Dr. Walsh, a highly respected leader in the field of family therapy, is the foremost expert on family resilience, with extensive experience in adverse situations of trauma, complicated loss, disruptive life transitions, and multi-stress, chronic conditions. Her research-informed family resilience framework is widely applied in clinical and community-based practice. Her collaborative, systemic practice approach integrates developmental, relational, contextual, socio-cultural, and spiritual perspectives. She is a valued consultant nationally and internationally for resilience-oriented research, training, and practice.

Dr. Walsh, is; Past Editor, Journal of Marital & Family Therapy, Past President, American Family Therapy Academy and has received awards from AAMFT, AFTA, APA and others for her distinguished contributions to the family therapy field. She received her BA degree with honors in Psychology, the University of California, Berkeley; MSW, Smith College; and PhD in Human Development & Behavioral Sciences, the University of Chicago; and she served in the Peace Corps in Morocco. With 120+ publications, her recent books include Strengthening Family Resilience (3rd ed.); Normal Family Processes: Diversity & Complexity (4th ed); Spiritual Resources in Family Therapy 2009, 2nd ed.), and Complicated and Traumatic Loss: Fostering Healing and Resilience (2023).