Center for Child & Family Development

The Center has for 35 years provided children and families, particularly under-served families, with school-based family counseling services in Bay area public, private, and Catholic schools while also providing supervised training and internship opportunities for individuals training to be licensed therapists. 


Sheena Sattarpour, MA, LMFT is the Interim Executive Director and Jacqueline Shinefield, EdD is Chair of the Advisory Board. This is an important new opportunity for WISR to collaborate with a group committed to education for social justice. The Center will be a very valuable practicum option for those WISR MFT students who wish to gain experience in school-based family counseling in the Bay Area, and an unpaid internship option for recent WISR MFT alums.



The Center takes a unique approach to provide on-site school-based mental health services to students and families.  No fees are charged to families, and costs are offset by Title I federal funding.

The Center was co-founded in 1984 by Brian Gerrard, PhD, and Emily Girault, PhD, when both were counseling psychology professors at the University of San Francisco.  During the summer of 2020 the Center moved to the Western Association for Social Research (WISR) in Berkeley, California.

An extraordinary institution of higher learning, WISR embodies the  value of diversity and social justice in its teaching community and student enrollment.  

Its central beliefs are built on the worth and distinctiveness of each student’s background and in support of transformative learning.

The Interim Executive Director for the Center is Sheena Sattarpour, MS, LMFT.  She is responsible for overseeing program and clinical development.  Individual and group supervisors all hold licenses through the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) to9 supervise both marriage and family therapy and professional clinical counseling trainees and associates.

Mission Statement

The Center is committed to the academic, psychosocial, emotional, and spiritual development of students and families through teaching, training, research, and direct clinical service programs.  The Center recognizes that students can access educational curriculum when mental health needs are met.

The Center honors families and caregivers as integral to student success and pays respect to the fundamental role they play their child’s life.  Through outreach and engagement with families and those in a child’s support system including teachers and administrators, for example, the Center works towards serving the whole child.  A continuum of services through a systems wide approach is a hallmark of our work.

The Center values diversity—racial, ethnic, national, cultural, gender equity, gender identity and sexual orientation, neurological styles, physical and learning differences in the population it serves.  It recruits a cohort of trainees and associates who share this belief.  It emphasizes the concepts of cultural humility, sensitivity, and competency.

The Center holds firm on its social justice perspective, both in theory and application.  It believes that the psychotherapeutic process is designed to help children and families seek dignity, self-determination, wellness, and safety through the reduction of oppressive stressors.  By focusing on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) and toxic stress as a barrier to learning it gives special recognition and gratitude to Nadine Burke Harris, MD, the current Surgeon General for the state of California.

The Center asserts that children are not miniature adult and should not be treated as such.  It rejects the prejudice of childism.  It embodies the significance of those factors, by utilizing trauma informed, sensitive, and responsive interventions.

In response to the tragedies of those Black people who have been murdered in the name of hate during 2020 and historically, the Center is passionately recommitting to an anti racism platform in all aspects of its work with the full participation of its Executive Board.  Active attention will be devoted to staff, the cohort of trainees and associates, and community partners.

Partnerships and Delivery and Delivery Models

Through a collaboration among the Center, the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and the San Francisco Unified School District funding is secured through a federal entitlement program, Title I.   

All services are delivered in person at the school sites except during the pandemic of Covid-19 resulting in the Center working virtually.

A Training Institute for Professional Development

As the Center focuses on the well-being of students and families, it also offers a comparable view for supporting trainees and associates.  It strives to develop and deepen the psychotherapeutic skills of its participants through professional development.

Individual and group supervision, required monthly trainings, and opportunities for independent study—all are included in an array of learning activities.  Historically, the Center has emphasized family systems theory as a psychological modality.  This orientation remains at the heart of our training, not only for what it means for students and families, but also for what it affords a trainee/associate in becoming skilled in systems work.

Being able to navigate a family system in conjunction with utilizing opportunities of an educational system is a winning combination of skill sets in terms of clinical expertise and future marketability.  Case advocacy work abounds in schools.

Added to the fundamental theory and practice of family systems, the Center also encourages the exploration of current best practices for mental health service with children and families.  

It accepts trainees and associates at the current phase of their professional development and encourages the exploration of new content and skills.

The Center does not hold a belief that there is one single psychological orientation or modality which is effective for all clients.  It commits to make known. New ways of thinking and values what the trainee or associate brings to the learning experience.

Talk therapy, play therapy, sand tray, drama and expressive arts therapies, somatic approaches, relational work, trauma responsive perspectives—these are just a few of the modalities which are welcomed and supported by our supervisors and trainers.

Required monthly trainings include a didactic component, process-oriented dialogue, and experiential exercises.  The Center supports all types of learning and provides a safe environment for a most profound professional development experience.

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