Through the Storm: How a Master’s Degree Program in Marriage and Family Therapy Came to New Understandings After Surviving Both a Natural and a Human Disaster Within 6 Months

  • Anne RamboEmail author
  • Kara Erolin
  • Christine Beliard
  • Flavia Almonte


As faculty and students in a master’s degree in marital and family therapy program in Florida (in the United States), we found ourselves unexpectedly enveloped by two external emergency events in one academic year. In September of 2017, our area was hit by a category 5 hurricane. Six months later, in February of 2018, a tragic school shooting took place near our campus. In both crisis situations, faculty and students were affected themselves, both directly and indirectly, and yet also challenged to respond as helping professionals to other survivors. Our understandings of ourselves and our community were altered, and our commitment to relational healing increased. For many of us, our commitment to political advocacy increased as well. This article discusses the changes to our learning community brought about by the cumulative impact of both events.


Hurricane School shooting Gun control Community Social media Master’s degree Family therapy Advocacy 


  1. Alvarez, L. (2017, November 17). A great migration from Puerto Rico is set to transform Orlando. New York Times. Retrieved April 29, 2018 from
  2. Beliard, C., Cunningham, P., Fontus, F., & Moye, D. (2018). Therapists of color: Surviving long enough to keep fighting. Journal of Systemic Therapies, 37(1), 18–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Dixon, D. (2018, January 2). Florida has handled nearly 300,000 Puerto Rican refugees since Hurricane Maria; Gov. Scott says state will welcome more. The St. Augustine Record. Retrieved April 29, 2018 from
  4. French, D. (2018, March 2). Did lax Obama era school discipline policies enable the Parkland shooter? The National Review. Retrieved April 29, 2018 from
  5. Grinberg, E., & Yan, H. (2018, April 16). A generation raised on gun violence sends a loud message to adults: Enough. CNN. Retrieved April 29, 2018 from
  6. Hamilton, H. (2017, October 6). Before and after: Coastal changes caused by Hurricane Irma. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved April 29, 2018 from
  7. Hobfoll, S. E., Watson, P., Bell, C. C., Bryant, R. A., Brymer, M. J., Friedman, M. J., … Ursano, R. J. (2007). Five essential elements of immediate and mid-term mass trauma intervention: Empirical evidence. Psychiatry, 70(4), 283–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Kelly, S. (2016). Diversity in couple and family therapy: Ethnicities, sexualities, and socioeconomics. Toronto, ON: Praeger/Kelly.Google Scholar
  9. Keneally, M. (2017, September 11). Breaking down Hurricane Irma’s damage. ABC News. Retrieved April 29, 2018 from
  10. Kolayjian, A., & Paloutzian, R. (2009). Forgiveness and reconciliation: Pathways to conflict transformation and peace building. New York, NY: Springer.Google Scholar
  11. McDowell, T., Knudson-Martin, C., & Bermudez, M. (2017). Socioculturally attuned family therapy: Guidelines for equitable theory and practice. New York, NY: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. McGoldrick, M., Giordano, J., & Garcia-Preto, N. (2005, 3rd edition). Ethnicity and Family Therapy. New York: Guildford Press.Google Scholar
  13. Mendel, D. (2018). An evaluation of the efficacy of the PROMISE program in Broward County (Unpublished dissertation). Nova Southeastern University.Google Scholar
  14. Montgomery, B. (2017, April 5). Why cops shoot. Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved April 29, 2018 from
  15. National Child Traumatic Stress Network, National Center for PTSD. (2006). Psychological first aid field operations guide (2nd ed.). Retrieved from Scholar
  16. Rambo, A. (2018). “Through the Storm: How one MFT program survived a hurricane”. Family Therapy Magazine January/February 2018, pp. 36–41.Google Scholar
  17. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2005). Psychological first aid for first responders: Tips for emergency and disaster response workers [Fact sheet]. Retrieved from
  18. Travis, S. (2018, February 2). Nikolas Cruz refused mental health services once he turned 19, Runcie says. Sun Sentinel. Retrieved April 29, 2018 from
  19. Walsh, F. (Ed.). (2015). Normal family processes: Growing diversity and complexity (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne Rambo
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kara Erolin
    • 1
  • Christine Beliard
    • 1
  • Flavia Almonte
    • 1
  1. 1.Nova Southeastern UniversityFort LauderdaleUSA

Personalised recommendations