Interview with Nancy Knudsen (Excerpts)

Nancy Knudsen, Co-Director & Co-Founder of the Couple & Family Institute of New England (CFINE) in Northampton, MA was interviewed by Jeremiah Gibson, NEAFAST President, about CFINE's upcoming symposium Sexual Identity, Gender Identity: Staying Current in a Rapidly Changing LandscapeThese are the highlights from the interview. Watch the full interview here.

Jeremiah Gibson: We’re excited to announce and promote a symposium that CFINE is hosting on Saturday, October 26th called "Sexual Identity, Gender Identity: Staying Current in a Rapidly Changing Landscape."

Nancy Knudsen: This year we’re really excited to be offering this symposium on sexual and gender identities to really expose people more fully to the very changing landscape of this field, which a lot of us—particularly older therapists—know very little about…and even younger therapists can have a hard time staying up to date. 

Jeremiah: I’m wondering what are some the takeaways that you’re hoping attendees will get out of this conference?

Nancy: The new piece that most people don’t yet understand is that this field is now being looked at as a spectrum rather than as a duality of: "You’re either this, or you’re that." So what I’m hoping is that in the very beginning of the day everybody will feel they are getting up-to-date information that will help them feel more confident about knowing the vocabulary, knowing the latest thinking, and just being able to converse with clients and other professionals with a new base of knowledge. 

So that’s the first part of the day. Then we’re planning to have a complex case presentation and have all the presenters be panelists to talk about the case. Because all of us want to know how to we apply this information to actual cases. What does it look like when we’re faced with a couple or a family where one member is questioning either sexual or gender identity? It has an impact not just on that individual but on the whole system. There may be children involved, there may be extended family involved that are unsupportive or simply confused and uncertain how to relate to the individual who’s expressing a desire to shift their sexual or gender identity. Or maybe there’s even a partner who’s feeling grief about the transition.

Jeremiah: What are some therapeutic skills that you’re hoping attendees get out of this conference?

Nancy: We want to humble ourselves as clinicians to really collaborate with our clients to learn about their experience; to learn about what it’s like to be inside our clients’ reality…and family members as well because they may not share vocabulary even with their own family members. So we have to be very humble in this process of learning to collaborate. As we learn from them, what do we have to offer here? We have a wonderful skill as family therapists, as couples therapists, to be able to make room for multiple realities. And that is a gift to any couple or family that is struggling with how to make sense of somebody’s new choices or a shift to a new identity. This is the challenge in our field in general is to really make room for multiple perspectives and to be able to have deep empathy for each perspective without making anybody else in the system wrong.

Jeremiah: What are the first three pieces of feedback that you give to new therapists? 

Nancy: I welcome new therapists to a really rich and exciting field in which they will grow for a lifetime in their work. It’s an honor to be in this field, and I have found that in my thirty-five years now, I have a founder richness in the material, to what it brings to me personally each step of the way. Secondly, I recommend to people that they find a model that they feel resonance with a learn in thoroughly. In graduate school, people learn many models and touch in on lots of different ways of looking at people and at systems. But, myself, I find it very helpful to immerse myself fully into one model until I really get it, and then I can make new choices and shift to something else. Finally, finding a specialty niche of some sort over time really differentiates you in the field. That’s just a piece of advice if people want to go in the direction of building a private practice.

For more information about CFINE's symposium "Sexual Identity, Gender Identity: Staying Current in a Rapidly Changing Landscape" on October 26, 2019 visit their website:

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