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Annual Fall Conference 2023

October 13, 2023 - October 14, 2023

Friday, October 13, 2023 – 8:30 AM – 4:00 PM
Saturday, October 14, 2023 – 9:00AM – 4:30 PM

Hybrid Format – Available both in person* and online** via Zoom. All registrants will have access to a video recording of the conference.

    • **Online registrants will be emailed information to connect to the conference on the morning of each day at 7:00AM, and participants are asked to connect fifteen minutes before conference start time. Participants are strongly encouraged to become familiar with the use of ZOOM technology before the meeting.

Download the 2023 Fall Conference Schedule & Speaker Bios


About the 2023 Pittsburgh Family Systems Conference and Symposium

Since its inception in 1979 by Paulina McCullough MSW, WPFC’s annual fall conference and symposium has provided a forum for lay and professional persons to present their ideas and efforts to apply family systems theory.  Continuing a multi-year theme of challenges in applying Bowen theory, this year’s conference focuses on the intriguing concept of emotional cutoff.  Keynote presentations addressing this concept will start off each day and be followed by talks on various aspects of cutoff and related topics in family systems theory. Lively panel discussions among the speakers and Q & A sessions for both in-person and online participants will round out the two-day event.

An optional, informal reception will conclude the day on Friday, featuring light refreshments and the opportunity to socialize with in-person presenters, fellow attendees, and WPFC faculty and board.

Conference Theme

Murray Bowen M.D. described his concept of emotional cutoff in 1975 as a process between generations of a family, varying in intensity with the degree of unresolved emotional attachment between young adults and their parents.  For the younger generation, getting geographical or emotional distance from their parents may seem to promise relief from the felt intensity of parental pressure or conflict. 

In fact, distance can be useful in assuring safety and navigating challenging situations between the generations and in a variety of other relationships.  However, relationship distance and cutoff can also result in long-term declines in the effectiveness of families and social groups.   Avoided conflicts can remain unaddressed and unresolved, and systems can become less flexible and innovative in addressing future challenges.  The stress and anxiety of an original conflict can be sustained in normalized distant relationships, long after the original triggering issues are forgotten.

This conference will explore emotional cutoff from diverse perspectives including its relationship to transgenderism, clinical case studies featuring cutoff, personal observations of family cutoff and efforts to bridge it, and the benefits of extended family connections, to name a few.

Keynote Presenter

WPFC is pleased to announce Priscilla Friesen LICSW as the conference keynote speaker.  Ms. Friesen wrote the seminal article, “Emotional Cutoff and the Brain,” which was published in Peter Titelman’s book, Emotional Cutoff, in 2003. Click here to download your free copy of the article!

Ms. Friesen first encountered Bowen family systems theory in 1976 while in graduate school at the University of Kansas. Once kindled, her interest compelled her to move to Washington DC and begin her 45 years’ professional association with Bowen theory and the Bowen Center for Study of the Family.  

In her decades of teaching and clinical work, Ms. Friesen has pursued a fascination with how the brain, mind, and relationships operate in synchrony.  Her two presentations at this conference will reflect this enduring interest:

          • Emotional Cutoff Redux: An Update on Emotional Cutoff and the Brain will review research and experience since Friesen’s 2003 article on the relationship of brain physiology and the functioning of individuals in systems marked by varying degrees of emotional connection and cutoff.
          • Emotional Cutoff and the Process of Aging and Death will explore the relationship of emotional cutoff to the course of aging and death in a family system.


Registration Fees

WPFC offers registration for live attendance—in person and online—and to view the recording of the conference for those unable to attend on the scheduled date. Social Workers, LPCs and LMFTs who register to view the conference recording are still eligible to receive all credit hours. This option is not currently available to Psychologists due to APA guidelines.

Please note: the conference recordings will be available to all registrants for a period of 60 days.

      • $265 – Registration Fee (In Person, Online, or Conference Recording Only)
      • $130Student Fee: Please send a scanned copy of your student ID or other proof of enrollment to rebecca@wpfc.net in order to receive a discount code to be used during checkout.

The WPFC Scholarship Fund was created to provide financial aid to students, clinicians and other professionals facing financial hardships. This fund is made available through the generosity of our donors to keep education accessible and Bowen Family System Theory within reach to further one’s own work.

If you would like to receive financial assistance for this program,  please click here to send an email to rebecca@wpfc.net for more information.

COVID Protocol

Western PA Family Center asks those who plan to attend the conference in person to follow all state, local, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 safety guidelines.  Please do not attend in person if you have any cold, flu, or COVID symptoms. WPFC will accommodate any needed change in registration from in-person to online.  Masks for in-person attendees are optional.

Learning Objectives

WPFC_Oct 2023_Symposium – Learning Objectives

Continuing Education Credits

Social Work:

**CEs are available for Social Workers, LPCs and LMFTs who register to view the recorded conference.**

Pennsylvania LSW/LCSW, LPC and LMFT continuing education credits are a flat fee of $15.00 per person.  

This program is offered for 12 hours of social work continuing education through co-sponsorship of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work, a Council on Social Work Education-accredited school and, therefore, a PA pre-approved provider of social work continuing education. These credit hours satisfy requirements for LSW/LCSW, LPC and LMFT biennial license renewal. For information on social work continuing education call (412) 624-6902.

Please note:

        • Participants requesting Social Work CEs will receive their credits from our co-sponsor approximately 3-5 weeks after the conference takes place. The Western PA Family Center does not provide participants with their CE certificate.



Pennsylvania Psychology continuing education credits will be provided for a fee of $25.00 paid directly to GPPA.

All Psychology CE recipients must attend the conference live, both days, (in person or online via Zoom) to receive their credits.  After the program has been completed, recipients will receive a link to GPPA’s website to submit a training evaluation and submit their CE payment online.



Conference Registration questions:  Contact Rebecca Keller at rebecca@wpfc.net

WPFC Programs:  Faculty Director – Cynthia Larkby, Ph.D. at Cynthia.larkby.phd@icloud.com


Day 1
10/13/2023 8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Day 2
10/14/2023 9:00 am - 4:30 pm
Free – $265.00


Western PA Family Center
(412) 362-2295


Nova Place
100 South Commons
Pittsburgh, PA 15212 United States
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The numbers below include tickets for this event already in your cart. Clicking "Get Tickets" will allow you to edit any existing attendee information as well as change ticket quantities.
Conference Recording Only
Please select this ticket only if you do not plan to attend either in person or via Zoom.
$ 265.00
Social Work CE
12 Credit Hours
$ 15.00