Family Science Professors Build Ties with Colleagues During South Korea Trip
From June 26 to July 7, Family Science professors Norman Epstein and Jinhee Kim visited South Korea and had a variety of professional meetings with colleagues from Korea and neighboring Asian countries. They focused on challenges facing families and interventions designed to assist families that are experiencing stresses. Dr. Epstein was invited to Korea based on his pioneering work in developing cognitive-behavioral couple and family therapy, and Dr. Kim was invited due to her groundbreaking work in developing programs to enhance community couples’ financial literacy and relationship skills. Their Korean colleagues shared that there is a growing need and demand for family therapy and financial counseling due to rapid economic and social changes. Since the 1960s, South Korea’s economic growth has been exponential, and in just the past two decades major social changes have included significant immigration leading to ethnic diversity and multicultural families, intense academic pressure on children and their parents, and a younger generation whose members at times challenge traditional family values (e.g., marriage and fertility rates are decreasing; children are less likely to provide for aging parents). Drs. Epstein and Kim sought to develop closer ties between our Department and Family Science professors at universities in Korea, as well as leaders in the family therapy field in Asia, in order to develop new opportunities for collaboration on research, education of graduate students, and training of family therapists.
On June 28, Dr. Epstein, along with visiting family therapists from several Asian countries, toured the Dobonggu Healthy Family Support Center in Seoul, a facility directed by Dr. Woochul Park, who completed his Ph.D. degree in our Department of Family Science in 2014. The Center, one of many across South Korea established by the national government, provides a variety of services to community families, such as classes in Korean language and customs for immigrant spouses; as well as parenting skills, job training, financial counseling and family therapy. Dr. Epstein presented a talk, “The Past, Present and Future of Cognitive-Behavioral Couple and Family Therapy,” for faculty and students in Dr. Park’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Duksung Women’s University, in Seoul. On June 30 and 31, Dr. Epstein was privileged to participate in the 2017 Korea-Taiwan-Japan Family Therapy Case Conference (hosted annually by one of the three countries on a rotating basis, with additional participants from Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore), in which therapists from each country made two case presentations that were discussed in depth by the entire group of 80 participants.
On July 3, Dr. Kim met with administrators and faculty from the College of Human Ecology at Seoul National University (SNU) to present a Memo of Understanding (MOU) on behalf of Department of Family Science Chair Dr. Elaine Anderson, designed to initiate research internships for SNU graduate students who would be mentored in the Family Science department at the University of Maryland. The MOU has been signed by University of Maryland College Park Provost Dr. Mary Ann Rankin and the SNU College of Human Ecology dean. Drs. Epstein and Kim presented to faculty and students of the Department of Child Development and Family Studies, on “Research and Treatment for Intimate Partner Violence” and “A Financial Management Program for Healthy Families: Education, Counseling and Service,” respectively. On July 5, Dr. Kim presented on financial management for couples and Dr. Epstein presented on clinical developments in cognitive-behavioral couple and family therapy for 100 family science faculty members, graduate students, counselors and therapists at the Busan Healthy Family Support Center, sponsored by Silla University and Pusan National University. The Korean professionals expressed interest in these topics because the integration of financial counseling and couple therapy and the cognitive-behavioral model of couple and family therapy developed by Dr. Epstein are relatively new to them. Finally, on July 7, Dr. Epstein presented an all-day workshop, “Cognitive-Behavioral Couple and Family Therapy,” for 200 professionals, sponsored by the Korean Association for Family Therapy, at Soongsil University in Seoul. Drs. Kim and Epstein received very positive feedback from attendees at their presentations. It was a productive and rewarding trip for both Family Science faculty members, hopefully paving the way for further collaborations with South Korean colleagues in the future.