The Center for Family Learning




The Family- Compendium I, II and III

Click on the image above to view articles available on this site

Click on the book to view chapters

available on this site

Click on the book to view chapters

available on this site

Click on the book to view chapters

available on this site

Terms and Conditions of Use: The information contained on this website is copyrighted material and is for educational and research purposes only. All materials, including but not limited to written materials, audio and/or video produced by or on behalf of The Center for Family Learning are copyrighted and may not be reproduced for commercial purposes or otherwise without the express permission of The Center for Family Learning Board of Directors. By using this website to access these materials you are acknowledging that you agree with the terms and conditions policy stated above.

The Center for Family Learning History and Development

History of CFL

The Center for Family Learning (CFL) had its origins in the Family Studies Section of the Department of Psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.  In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Phil Guerin was the director of education there, and further developed a format, originally designed by Ferber, Beels, and Mendelsohn,  for teaching psychiatrists,  psychologists, social workers and other professionals a family-centered approach to behavioral and relationship problems.  In 1973, with his wife, the psychologist Katherine Guerin, his students Betty Carter and Monica McGoldrick, and his long-time friend and colleague Tom Fogarty, Phil established CFL as an independent, non-profit educational institute.  In 1978 it received a permanent charter from the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York.  Over nearly forty years, CFL has taught thousands of professionals a unique cognitive systems model of family therapy, for the individual and the family.  CFL has produced three textbooks, used widely in graduate schools and postgraduate clinical training programs, a quarterly journal, and three volumes of selections from that journal; it developed and presented a “family systems training” for the lay public; and, until the coming of managed care, it conducted a clinic in which individuals, couples and families were treated by faculty and advanced students.

The Development of Theory and Practice

The basic theory that forms the foundation of the Center’s approach, family systems theory, was developed by Murray Bowen, MD, of the Georgetown Family Center.  Bowen theory is predicated on the idea that the family is an emotional system with a baseline level of anxiety and emotional arousal.  It affects all of its members depending on each one’s level of vulnerability, ego strength, and functional connectivity.  When individuals (adults or children), couples, or whole families manifest psychiatric symptoms or relationship problems, the theory and its derivative models provide a paradigm for viewing those problems as caused, exacerbated, or maintained in the family context. 

Tom Fogarty, influenced both by Bowen (triangles, for instance) and by Guerin (the genogram and the importance of extended family, for example), articulated over the years two quite different approaches to family systems therapy.  One was structural, based on the notion of movement, both within the parts of an individual and between people who are joined in an emotional system.  A prominent example is his concept of emotional pursuit and emotional distance, and the therapeutic use of reversal of movement to deal with it.  His second approach centered on the inner emptiness and incompleteness of the individual. He believed that accepting one’s emptiness was a precondition for genuine closeness with others.

Guerin’s contributions to the development of the family systems approach involve the further refinement of family systems theory, and its translation into practical, teachable methods for therapists to use in clinical practice.  One important example of refinement of the theory is his elaboration of the concept of the relationship triangle, including an extensive typology of triangles and the notion that the extra-familial triangle is an externalization of an unresolved (and often buried) intra-familial triangle. 


Guerin’s contributions to the practice of psychotherapy are legion.  One example is the staging of marital conflict and the finding that severe (stage III) marital conflict will be refractory to direct work on the relationship until the couple  has achieved some degree of self focus, resolved key triangles, and neutralized their bitterness.   A second example is the three-fold typology of the clinical presentation:  marital conflict, the child-centered family, and the individual, combined with explicit, theory-based models and protocols for each type’s treatment.


Professional Education

Behavioral and mental health professionals of all stripes typically emerge from their training with a smattering at best of family theory and therapy.  At the time of CFL’s founding, family theory and therapy was burgeoning, and many professionals wanted to learn more about it and to practice it.  Guerin developed CFL’s training program for them and the program was widely recognized as one of the very best.  It attracted a large number of applicants every year. 

The training program included two years of seminar-based training and supervision.  The most successful of these students were invited to participate as clinical associates in a third year of seminars and supervision, which included seeing cases in the Center’s clinic.  A fourth year, a fellowship in the research projects, was offered to the best of the clinical associates.  The purpose of these projects, staffed by faculty and fellows, was to test the efficacy of the Center’s models of clinical intervention.

Public Education

Two of CFL’s faculty, Eileen Pendagast and Randy Sherman developed a program of “Family Systems Training” to be used in community education.  Groups such as churches, schools and others were visited by CFL faculty to educate the interested public about the notion of the family as an emotional system, and about how people could navigate that system to produce better results and less dysfunction. 



One of the first textbooks in the field of family therapy was Family Therapy: Theory and Practice, edited by Guerin.  The Evaluation and Treatment of Marital Conflict, written by Guerin, Fay, Burden and Kautto, has been described in the professional literature as “one of the best books ever written in the field of family therapy.”  Working with Relationship Triangles, written by Guerin, Fogarty, Fay, and Kautto, has been called a potential classic.   For twenty years CFL published a quarterly journal, The Family, under the editorship of Eileen Pendagast.  It contained original papers by CFL’s faculty and students and by other professionals in the family therapy field.  The Center has also published three compendiums of the best articles from the journal, also edited by Pendagast. 

This website offers, for anyone interested in reading them, all of Guerin’s and Fogarty’s professional articles, as well as several selections from the books.


Three Models

Guerin and his associates have also interested themselves in finding treatment modalities that are based on the theory, yet geared to specific kinds of clinical problems.  These have included the Guerin Models for treating children, marriage, and individuals.