Froma Walsh

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Froma Walsh
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Kenosha, Wisconsin
CitizenshipUnited States of America
Alma mater
  • University of California
  • Smith College
  • University of Chicago
OccupationClinical Psychologist and Professor Emerita
Known for
  • Family resilience
  • Family strengths
  • Family processes
  • loss in families
  • gender disparities

Froma Walsh (1942 - Present), MSW, PhD, is a Clinical Psychologist and family therapist. Her work has focused on family resilience. She is the Co-founder and Co-director of the Chicago Center for Family Health as well as the Mose and Sylvia Firestone Professor Emerita at the University of Chicago.

Early Life and Education

Froma Weisberg Walsh grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin and Burbank, California. She received her BA in Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley (1960-1964), where she was involved in primate studies and was worked alongside Mark Rosenzweig (psychologist) and Marian Diamond on enriched environments in neuroplasticity. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco (1964-66), in the women's center (foyers feminins) and in psychological services for maladapted youth. She received an MSW at Smith College, Northampton, MA, with clinical practica at the Yale University Child Study Center and at the department of psychiatry (1968-1970). She earned her PhD in Human Development and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Chicago (1977) and was influenced by the work of Bertram Cohler and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on positive life course development.


In 1971 Walsh was the Family Studies Coordinator for a Schizophrenia Research Program in Chicago, which was sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health. She brought a family systems orientation in contrast to prevailing mother-blaming theories of mental illness in the field of psychiatry. She expanded her studies from families of psychiatric patients to a broad community sample to understand the diversity, challenges, and strengths in family life. In 1978, Walsh joined the faculty of the Family Institute of Chicago, Northwestern University, where she was an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry. From 1982 until her retirement, she was on the tenured faculty at the University of Chicago in the School of Social Service Administration and the Department of Psychiatry, Pritzker School of Medicine, and was appointed the Mose and Sylvia Firestone Professor. Additionally, Dr. Walsh and Dr. John Rolland co-founded the university-affiliated Chicago Center for Family Health (1991-current). Under their co-direction, the award-winning institute has provided resilience-oriented family therapy training and community consultation, with a core commitment to diverse and underserved families.

Major Contributions

Dr. Walsh has made major contributions to family systems theory, training, psychotherapy practice, and research in several areas over her career: family resilience; normal family processes; traumatic loss; gender role/relations in families; spiritual resources in families; and therapeutic benefits of human-animal bonds. She has made contributions to the literature in over 120 scholarly publications, including 13 authored and edited books.

Family Resilience

Dr. Walsh has dedicated much of her work on family resilience [1] [2] [3]. Walsh's research-informed family resilience framework has helped to shape theory, research, and practice with individuals, families, and communities facing adversity [4] [5] [6] [7]. Over 30 years, Dr. Walsh and her CCFH colleagues have developed programs building family resilience with a range of adverse situations: complicated bereavement; chronic illness/disability; relational trauma; major disasters; war-related and refugee displacement; divorce; job loss/unemployment; LGBTQ stigma; and at-risk youth (e.g. Family-Schools Partnership; and Gang Reduction/Youth Development).

Normal Family Processes

Dr. Walsh has also refocused psychotherapy from family deficits to family strengths and in deconstructing myths of "the normal family." Walsh addresses the diversity, challenges, and resilience of families in the context of societal and global transformations [8]. Informed by the research evidence that children and families can thrive in diverse relational structures, she identifies key family processes and socio-cultural influences in risk and resilience.

Traumatic Loss

In collaboration with Monica McGoldrick, Walsh developed the systems approach to address complicated bereavement in families [9]; and many scholarly articles [10] [11].

Spiritual Resources in Families

Walsh has advanced the use of broadly inclusive multi-faith perspectives in clinical practice, in her edited book, Spiritual Resources in Family Therapy [12] [13] and other publications [14].

Gender Relations in Families

To bring attention to gender disparities in families and psychotherapy, Walsh and colleagues Monica McGoldrick and Carol Anderson organized the Stonehenge Conferences that took place between 1984-1986 and the edited book, Women in Families: A Framework for Family Therapy [15].

Human-Animal Bonds

Walsh's articles on the relational significance of companion animals address their benefits in health and wellbeing; role in family dynamics; and therapeutic benefits [16] [17] [18].

Throughout her career, Dr. Walsh has conducted international training and consultation to develop local capacities to strengthen families facing adversity, from conditions of poverty to major disasters, refugee displacement, and war-related strife [19].


  • President of American Family Therapy Academy
  • Editor of Journal of Marital and Family Therapy
  • Presidential Citation for Outstanding Career of the American Psychological Association
  • Distinguished Contribution to Family Therapy Theory and Practice Award of the American Family Therapy Academy
  • Distinguished Contributions in Marriage and Family Therapy Award of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Blanch Ittleson Award for Distinguished Career of the American Orthopsychiatric Association
  • Senior Career Research Award of the Society for Pastoral Counseling Research.

Key Publications

  • Normal Family Processes (1982)
    • Normal Family Processes: Growing Diversity and Complexity (2016)
  • Women in Families: A Framework for Family Therapy - McGoldrick, M., Anderson, C. (1989)
  • Living Beyond Loss: Death in the Family -McGoldrick, M. (1991, 2004)
  • The Concept of Family Resilience: Crisis and Challenge (1996)
  • Strengthening Family Resilience (1998, 2016)
  • Spiritual Resources in Family Therapy" (1999, 2009)
  • Family Resilience: A Framework for Clinical Practice (2003)
  • Traumatic Loss and Major Disasters: Strengthening Family and Community Resilience" (2007)
  • Human-Animal Bonds I: The Relational Significance of Companion Animals" (2009)
  • Human-Animal Bonds II: The Role of Pets in Family Systems and Family Therapy" (2009)
  • Applying a Family Resilience Framework in Training, Practice, and Research: Mastering the Art of the Possible (2016)
  • A Family Developmental Framework: Challenges and Resilience Across the Life Cycle (2016)

In the media



  1. Walsh, F. (1996). The concept of family resilience: Crisis and challenge. Family Process, 35(3), 261-281.
  2. Walsh, F. (1998). Strengthening family resilience. New York, NY: Guilford Press
  3. Walsh, F. (2003). Family resilience: A framework for clinical practice. Family Process, 42(1), 1-18.
  4. Walsh, F. (2007). Traumatic loss and major disasters: Strengthening family and community resilience. Family Process, 46 (2) 207-227.
  5. Walsh, F. (2016a). Applying a family resilience framework in training, practice, and research: Mastering the art of the possible. Family Process, 55, 616–632.
  6. Walsh, F. (2016b). Strengthening family resilience (3rd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.
  7. Walsh, F. (2016c). Normal family processes: Growing diversity and complexity (4th ed.). New York: Guilford Press.
  8. Walsh, F. (2012). Normal family processes: Growing diversity and complexity (4th ed.). New York: Guilford Press. (1st ed. 1982)
  9. Walsh, F. (2004). In & McGoldrick, M. (Ed.), Living beyond loss: Death in the family (2nd ed.). New York: Norton.
  10. Walsh, F., & McGoldrick, M. (2013). Bereavement: A family life cycle perspective. Special Issue: Family Science, 4 (1), 20-27.
  11. Walsh, F. (2019). Loss and bereavement in families: A systemic framework for recovery and resilience. In B. H. Fiese, M. Celano, K. Deater-Deckard, E. N. Jouriles, & M. A. Whisman (Eds.), APA handbook of contemporary family psychology: Foundations, methods, and contemporary issues across the lifespan., Vol. 1. (pp. 649-663). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association
  12. Walsh, F. (Ed.) (1999). Spiritual resources in family therapy. New York: Guilford Press. (2nd ed., 2009).
  13. Walsh, F. (Ed.). (2009c). Spiritual resources in family therapy (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.
  14. Walsh, F. (2013). Religion and spirituality: A family systems perspective in clinical practice. In K. Pargament, A. Mahoney, & E. Shafranske (Eds.). APA Handbook of Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality. (Vol. II, pp. 189-205). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Press.
  15. McGoldrick, M., Anderson, C., & Walsh, F. (1989). Women in families: A framework for family therapy. New York: W.W. Norton.
  16. Walsh, F. (2009a). Human-animal bonds: I. The relational significance of companion animals; and II. The role of pets in family systems and family therapy. Family Process, 48(4), 462–480. 481–499.
  17. Walsh, F. (2009b). Human-animal bonds II: The role of pets in family systems and family therapy. Family Process, 48(4), 481-499. doi:10.1111/j.1545-5300.2009.01297.x
  18. Carey, B. (March 14, 2011). Emotional power broker of the family. Science Section, The New York Times
  19. “Fostering family resilience with housing instability” at the United Nations 58th Session of the Commission on Social Development, (New York, February 11, 2020).

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