• Behind the Curtains

Collaborative-Dialogic Practices Across the Globe: Developing MFT Programs in Nairobi

Happy New Year dear reader! Behind the Curtains is working on new posts for 2021, and our first piece of the new year is ready to showcase the work that other Collaborative-Dialogic learners are doing. I recently connected with Dr. Michelle Karume, DMFT, a full-time faculty member at the United States International University- Africa (USIU-A) located in Nairobi Kenya. She and I are both alumni from the Marriage and Family Therapy program at University of Houston- Clear Lake campus. I am thrilled to share more about her experiences and the work she is doing at USIU-A.

How did you first come to learn about HGI?

I completed my M.A. in the MFT program at UHCL. I had a really good experience with a great cohort and faculty. I would frequently come to HGI for our Family Therapy Student Association meetings and the events at HGI. Many students would go and I treasure all that I learned while there, through the various talks that Harlene Anderson would host. Marriage and family therapy is a passion and being in that program with all I experienced was very fulfilling. I later moved to a different state to do a doctorate in MFT and the foundation that was laid at UHCL was tremendously helpful at that level.

I am curious about your process and interest in becoming a faculty member at the United States International University Africa and what that work has looked like.

Once I graduated, I knew I needed to bring MFT to Kenya (my home country). So, I moved and while searching for jobs had also applied to USIU-A. I was truly honored to be accepted to this fine institution. Since then, I have developed two MFT programs, one at USIU-A an Ma in MFT and a Ph.D in MFT at a different University. The joys of teaching MFT is that I get to teach the students in all the theories including Collaborative Language Systems.

How you have been incorporating collaborative language systems at the university and what the response has been like?

As students learn various MFT theories, they get to choose the ones that fit well with them and several gravitate towards Collaborative Language Systems. The essence of creating meaning has really been a benefit in my work with clients and as well with the students. The postmodern theories like Collaborative Language Systems have allowed the students to broaden their perspective on how to work with clients and this is always a joy to witness. I use Harlene’s videos and articles when teaching about CLS and I am grateful for her contributions to the field. However, I could never do it as great as her!

So, what next?

I am honored that I get to impart the MFT knowledge to a community that so needs it. So, with that, I’ve been thinking for a while how it would be such an honor to have Harlene guest lecture in one of my classes. The course being an introduction to MFT where Harlene would basically introduce the class to Collaborative Language Systems, how it works and therapeutic stance etc. Everything fell into place and Dr. Anderson was a guest lecture in my Introduction to Marriage and Family Therapy class, and also the MFT students had been invited by Dr. Diane Gerhart to a conversation in her class where Dr. Anderson was the speaker as well.

So, in one semester-the students got to experience and interact with Dr. Anderson twice. They had just a wonderful experience each time. They continued to speak of how much they learned and how humbled that a founder of one of the theories they have been learning actually came to their class (that was something they were so excited about). This experience really allowed the students to ask her directly the questions that, of course, on other theories they don't get to do. The students spoke on how having her really helped them see Collaborative Language systems in a clearer way. Having Dr. Anderson in my class was truly special for me. I, who once sat at her feet learning from her as a student; and now me being a faculty member teaching and having her join my class as a guest. Talk about a full circle moment. Truly a humbling experience.

That sounds wonderful. I am thrilled that you had that experience and that you could share it with us. You’ll have to keep us posted how your program continues to grow and thrive. Thank you for taking the time to share with us about your work.

Yes, I will certainly keep you posted on how the program continues. Thank you for this opportunity and a big thank you to Dr. Anderson for the pioneer and teacher that she is. Happy New Year to all of you at HGI.


A huge thanks again to Dr. Karume. We wish her nothing but the best with her work. If you have any experiences about learning from HGI or would like to share about your work with Collaborative-Dialogic Practices, please feel free to email me at Take care!

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