Italy Immersion Program in Family Therapy & Italian Culture

Spring 2014 Italy Immersion Program was a huge success! Students enjoyed having the opportunity of being immersed in the Italian community and culture for two full weeks!

The program will be offered every-other year, so the next program will take place in Spring 2016.

Family Therapy Training

This new immersion program is focused on family therapy training and cultural competence development through rich experiential activities, while immersed in Italian communities and culture. The training will be in English.

Italy has a rich history of family therapy. Students will develop greater knowledge of how cultural factors influence the assessment and treatment of mental health problems among immigrant families. The training experiences will include:

  • Strategic Family Therapy: Two days of clinical training in strategic family therapy with Giorgio Nardone, director of the Strategic Therapy Center (Centro di Terapia Strategica) in Arezzo, Italy, and one of the major figures associated with the family therapy approaches developed at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto, California.
  • Three-Generational Couple Therapy: One day of clinical training in three-generational couple therapy and utilizing children as a resource in family therapy at Maurizio Andolfi’s Academy of Family Psychotherapy (Accademia di Psicoterapia della Famiglia) in Rome. Maurizio Andolfi studied with family therapy pioneers James Framo, Jay Haley, Salvador Minuchin, Carl Whitaker, and was an adjunct faculty member at Alliant.
  • Immigrant Families: One day of clinical training in working with immigrant families at the Silvano Andolfi Foundation, a center in Rome established by Maurizo Andolfi to conduct research on and provide clinical services to immigrant, low-income, and other marginalized families.

Cultural Competence

Immersion in Italian culture paired with self-reflection and self-of-the-therapist work will help students gain a greater understanding of their own culture, identity, values, experiences, perceptions, ethnocentrism, privilege, and oppression.

Students will learn basic Italian language skills and process their experiences becoming immersed in Italian culture and history.  Student will visit key Italian sites and monuments, view Italian artwork, and engage in activities like attending an opera, learning to make Southern Italian dishes like pizza, and attending demonstrations on making papyrus paper and Italian ceramics, and of course enjoying lots and lots of gelato!

Sample Schedule of Clinical & Cultural Activities

The first week of the program will contain four days of clinical training in family therapy on the mainland (the “boot”) in Rome and Arezzo. During the first week students will also visit the following important cultural and historical sites:

  • Rome: The capital of the Roman Empire and of modern Italy is the location of some of the world’s most recognizable landmarks like the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain.
  • The Vatican: The seat of the Catholic Church, this sovereign City State located at the center of Rome (the smallest internationally recognized independent country in the world) is the home of the Pope, Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum, which contains the Catholic Church’s collection of art and artifacts.
  • Florence: The cultural and political capital of Tuscany, this medieval city is the birthplace of the Renaissance and, as such, has key art galleries and museums, and Michelangelo’s David.
  • Naples: The birthplace of the pizza and spaghetti.
  • Pompeii: An ancient Roman city buried under volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, the ash preserved detailed frescos, artifacts, buildings, and positions of people killed by the volcanic eruption.
  • The Amalfi Coast: Breathtaking maritime cities terraced into steep cliffs overlooking pristine Mediterranean beaches.

In an effort to provide students with an opportunity to experience parts of Italy that are less “European” and more culturally “Italian,” students will spend the second week on the island of Sicily (the “soccer ball” being kicked by the “boot”) experiencing the following cornerstones of Southern Italian life:

  • History: Sicily was sequentially conquered and ruled by the Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Ostrogoths, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Spanish, Holy Roman Empire, and the Bourbons, until finally becoming part of modern-day Italy in 1860. The influence of so many cultures is evident across the various facets of Sicilian life.
  • Architecture: We will visit some of the best-preserved temples and other structures from the Greek and Roman Empires which are located in Sicily. The influence of Phoenician, Arab, Spanish, and French is also clearly visible in Sicilian architecture.
  • Art: Sicily is well-known for artistic ceramic serving dishes; we will learn how to make ceramics in Caltagirone, the center of Sicilian ceramics and terra-cotta sculptures.
  • Music: Viewed as the culmination of the arts (music, poetic lyrics, acting, dance, artistic set design), Opera is at the core of Italian culture. One of the most famous composers of the bel canto style, Vincenzo Bellini, was Sicilian. We will visit Teatro Massimo in Palermo, the largest opera house in Italy and the third largest in Europe. We will also attend an opera.
  • Agriculture & Cuisine: Food is at the center of Italian life. Italians have a saying that Americans eat to live and Italians live to eat! Sicily, dubbed God’s Kitchen, is one of Italy’s primary agricultural centers, leading to regional specialty dishes featuring local fruits and vegetables. The soil in Sicily is believed to be especially fertile because of Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest active volcano. Sicilian cuisine is known for hearty flavors, fresh produce, locally-harvested seafood, regional wines, pastries (the birthplace of cannoli) and gelato (believed to have originated in Sicily using ice from Mount Etna). We will sample a variety of Sicilian cuisines and will learn how to make pizza and other local specialty dishes.
  • Family-centric culture: Italian culture revolves around the family and is epitomized by the saying la famiglia e’ tutto (family is everything). Family cohesiveness, loyalty, and honor are cornerstones of Italian family values. We will interact with and observe family in multiple settings during the program, allowing us to increase our understanding of Italian families, and in turn, our own families of origin.

The Italy Immersion Program will not include Venice; however, students have the option of visiting Venice on their own at their own expense at the conclusion of the program.

Expectations of Students

  • Have an open mind.
  • Be respectful.
  • Be flexible (for example, Italy is known for union strikes that shut things down with no notice).
  • Attend scheduled clinical trainings in Italy.
  • Participate in scheduled activities.
  • Share hotel rooms with one or two other students, possibly including Italian students from the Nardone and Andolfi family therapy programs.
  • Be prompt and timely.
  • Be able to walk long distances.

Projected Cost

  • Program Registration: $3,999 – This price includes all travel within Italy, all lodging, all breakfasts and dinners, the clinical trainings, and all events and activities; the only costs of the program not included in the registration fee are airfare, all lunches, and registration in the associated course (see below for details).
  • Airfare: $1,500 – This is an approximation. Students will fly into Rome and out of Palermo.  Airfare varies substantially. I recently looked online and roundtrip tickets from LAX to Rome were about $1,200 and one-way tickets from Palermo to Rome were about $200 (these tickets are often available for about $100). A multi-city ticket with departure from LAX to Rome and return from Palermo to LAX is about $1,350. There are cheaper prices if you were able to leave a day earlier ($850), but that will result in lodging expenses for the night before the program will begin which would likely off-set the price difference). Students can also contact the Italian travel agency who will be coordinating aspects of the program regarding flights; group discounts may be available. If you can use frequent flyer miles (your own or gifted to you by someone else), you will not have any airfare costs, significantly reducing the cost of the program.
  • Food: $200 – Students will need to buy their own lunch every day; breakfast and dinner are included in the program registration fee.
  • Course: $3,183 – Students are required to register for a 3-unit course that will be taught in conjunction with the Italy Immersion Program entitled “Family Therapy & Culture in Italy” (PSY 6654). This course will count as an elective. Students can use financial aid for the course: students can use both FAFSA and GradPlus loans (depending on qualification). Depending on qualification, students can also use GradPlus loans to pay for the program registration fee ($3,999).

Therefore, participation in the program will cost approximately $8,900. Although the total cost will vary based on airfare and how much you spend on lunches, this is a substantial amount of money and a substantial investment in your education and clinical training. You will have to determine if the return on your investment is worth it for you. We hope that the clinical training, connections you will developed with the other participants, and what you will learn about yourself as you interact with Italians and participants will be invaluable to your clinical and personal development.

Students who participate in the Italy Immersion Program must be able to pay for the program, take 2 weeks of work off, miss 2 weeks at their practicum site, leave family members for 2 weeks, and enroll in the associated “Family Therapy & Culture in Italy” course.

Family Therapy & Culture in Italy Course (PSY 6654)

Students who participate in the Italy Immersion Program are required to register for a 3-unit course that will be taught in conjunction with the program. This course will count as an elective. Students can use financial aid for the course: students can use both FAFSA and GradPlus loans, (depending on qualification). Depending on qualification, students can also use GradPlus loans to pay for the program registration fee ($3,999).