Find personal peace and strength through

Liberation-Based Healing





Find personal peace and strength through

Liberation-Based Healing





Welcome to IFS

WELCOME.The Institute for Family Services (IFS) is a team of family therapists committed to producing change that embraces safe, respectful, nurturing and empowering relationships for all individuals, communities and families.

The Institute is well known throughout New Jersey and the nation for its innovative programs. These programs support family members around issues of loss, chronic illness, substance abuse, marital conflict, divorce, post-divorce, single parenthood, youth, children and parenting in crises, workplace challenges and mental health in New Jersey. The programs also encourage healing by embracing life-affirming choices, based on a strong foundation of empowerment and accountability. Mindful of the resilience embodied by those who struggle, our therapeutic process anchors the problems presented within a system of support, care, and action strategies.

Family Therapy

The structure of families today range from the traditional nuclear families, single parent families, extended families, etc.

Read More

Post-Graduate Training/Internship

Post-Graduate Training Program Liberation Based Practice Trainees receive didactic and live supervision in the clinic.

Read More

Liberation Based Healing Conferences

The Annual Liberation-Based Healing Conference Since 2005 the Institute for Family Services has been bringing together health.

Read More

Foundational Pillars Of Critical Conciousness

Please contact us at if you would like to discuss a workshop  for your organization.

Read More

Liberation Based Healing

Our view of healing and therapeutic practices:

Liberation-based Healing is a combination of practices of therapy grounded in decolonial scholarship, critical social learning, and family therapy interventions. This process of critical learning and dialogue around presenting issues is developed through innovative use of social media, culture circles, and community sponsors. Sponsors are men, women and adolescents who have had transformative experiences with this approach and ally with new clients in their efforts to heal.

The step-by-step building of social capital makes this therapeutic approach sustainable over time. This approach to healing departs from traditional practices of pathologizing clients, or focusing solely on symptom reduction. While being symptom-free is important, therapeutic focus is on building and strengthening foundations of resistance and resilience. Therapists at the Institute work towards creating and sustaining a community of helpers, clientele, friends, and professionals.

"It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams."-Gabriel García Márquez

Dr. Rhea Almeida,
Founder of IFS

Read More

Nocona Pewewardy

Mabel Quiñones


Mabel Quiñones is a staff clinical psychologist at the Veterans Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico where she coordinates the Psychology Fellowship Program specialized in Women's Psychology and in Primary Care and Mental Health Integration. She also holds a private practice in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Dr. Quiñones' clinical interests are centered on gender issues and gender inequality, social power differentials, intersectionality and mind/body issues. For the past five years, she has been developing and coordinating a post-doctoral psychology fellowship program at the San Juan VA that is designed to expand psychology practice beyond traditional lines and ground psychological interventions on the concepts of intersectionality and social power differentials.

Nocona Pewewardy

Nocona Pewewardy


Nocona Pewewardy holds and MSW from the University of Oklahoma and a PhD in Social Welfare from the University of Kansas and a law degree from the University of Oregon. Her work includes publications focused on challenging white privilege. Her scholarship has evolved to explicitly address how white privilege, as a manifestation of structural white supremacy, operates in social work practice and discourse. She is faculty at the Institute for Family Services and provides training and consultations to organizations on white privilege.

 Dr. Rhea Almeida

Dr. Rhea Almeida


Rhea V. Almeida, MS, Ph.D., LCSW, founder of IFS, is a family therapist and Columbia Graduate. She has over 30 years experience as a trainer, therapist, activist, and author.

Creator of the Cultural Context Model, Dr. Almeida is the author of three books and numerous journal articles and book chapters. Her upcoming book Liberatory Healing Practices is due to come out in 2017.

Dr. Almeida has published numerous articles and is the author of her fourth book on Liberation-Based Healing Practices. Dr. Almeida has served on the editorial boards of several distinguished journals in the field including The Journal of Cultural Diversity and Mental Health, The Journal of Marital and Family Therapy and The Journal of Feminist Family Therapy. She currently serves as Consulting Editor for the White Privilege On-line journal and serves on the Council for Racial and Economic Diveristy at the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Dr. Almeida is a member of the American Family Therapy Academy and a clinical member of the American Association of Marital and Family Therapists. Dr. Almeida has served on numerous boards including the Council for Contemporary Families, The American Family Therapy Academy, the National Association for Social Workers and Orthopsychiatry. She is also an Approved Supervisor for the Association of Marital and Family Therapists. She serves on committees for doctoral students interested in pursuing research in the area of liberation based healing.

She has been featured in the Los Angles Times, CNBC, National Public Radio, USA Today and Pure Oxygen.

You can reach her or the IFS faculty at

All IFS faculty are postgraduates trained in Family Systems Therapy, the CCM, and Liberation-Based Healing. Dr. Almeida received the American Family Therapy Award for Innovative Contributions to Family Therapy. She is annually honored by the Award from the Domestic Violence Hotline for her work with women and families with domestic violence. She is nationally and internationally recognized for her work with women and families with domestice violence. She is nationally and internationally recognized for her work with men who experience a range of challenges.

She is nationally and internationally recognized for her standpoint on Intersectionality and Liberatory Healing Practices.

Dr. Rhea Almeida


Eunjung Ryu, PhD, LMFT, LCSW, has over 20 years of clinical experience working with families. Her doctoral thesis from Drexel University researched the Cultural Context Model. Her dissertation was on "sponsoring change in self and others: Female sponsors in the Cultural Context Model". Dr. Ryu was a member of the Affinity Counseling Group beginning in 2005 providing the Cultural Context Model of family therapy to high-risk youth their families and communities. She has presented nationally and internationally on domestic and community violence, and transformative family therapy. Dr. Ryu's publications are in the area of Spousal Use of Pornography and Its Clinical Significance for Asian-American Women: Korean Women as an Illustration on the Journal of Feminist Family Therapy (20004), and on Korean American Families in Ethnicity & Family Therapy in 2005.
Dr. Ryu was honored as Therapist of The Year with The Essential Piece Award, by the Family Support Organization of Middlesex County and Coordinated Family Care in New Jersey in 2007.

Dr. Ryu continues her work with families in Korea using a transformative lens of family therapy: The Cultural Context Model. She is currently teaching at EwhaWomans University and Sungshin Women's University and runs an institute for family therapy training.

White Privilege Conference

Dr. Carolyn Tubbs

Dr. Carolyn Tubbs


Dr. Tubbs is an Associate Professor in the Marriage and FamilyTherapy Program at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, TX. She earned her master’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies at Texas Tech University and her doctorate in Child Development and Family Studies/Marriage and Family Therapy at Purdue University. Dr. Tubbs was a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Family Research Consortium III and a Research Scientist at Penn State University for the Welfare, Children and Families: A Three City-Study, a multi-site ethnographic study on welfare reform. Dr. Tubbs is an associate editor for JMFT and a member of the Taos Institute. Her research interests include qualitative research methodology, shared parenting among couples with a history of intimate partner violence, health care disparities, mental and physical health issues, and parenting in low-income populations.

Currently, she is collaborating with the Institute for Family Services on evaluation and dissemination research.

As part of her work, Dr. Tubbs has examined facilitators of family stability, family rituals, and parenting in low-income families. Dr. Tubbs has also been involved with the National Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community in researching the causes and solutions to domestic violence in African-American communities located in both urban and rural regions throughout the United States.

Dr. Tubbs has presented with Dr. Almeida at the Missouri Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, as well as the American Association for Marriage Family Therapy and the American Family Therapy Academy conferences. Recently, she presented with IFS at the 2016 Liberation-based Healing Conference.

Dr. Andre L. Brown

Dr. Andre L. Brown


Dr. Brown's professional career highlights include serving as professor at Hunter College, NY and Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR. He has also served as the Co-director of Affinity Counseling Group in NJ, a Board member for the Council on Contemporary Families, and as member of several national boards.

Dr. Brown is faculty at the Institute for Family Services and conducts research on teaching pedagogy on the Cultural Context Model and liberation healing practices. He is co-founder of the Liberation Based Healing Conference.

Dr. Brown has published numerous journal articles and was awarded the Early Career Award from the American Family Therapy Academy. He is also a member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists.
Dr. Brown’s research focuses on the development of treatment models that use the supportive structures of families, schools and communities to address trauma, violence and substance abuse. Research and clinical interests also include resilience in street-life-oriented Black men, the psychosocial development of adolescents living in the urban context, contemporary family structures, impact of infidelity on families, liberation psychology, and cultural equity in service provision.

Dr. Brown holds several grants to develop and implement re-entry and restorative justice services for youth and families involved in the justice system.

Lisa Dressner

Lisa Dressner


Lisa Dressner founded Affinity Counseling Group, a private community-based mental health center, in March 2000, and replicated the Cultural Context Model to work with families impacted by incarceration. She has developed clinical programs for professionals and institutions in the areas of liberation based healing and community organizing, including the Zakee Bowser Foundation and the Raritan Bay YMCA. She is faculty and Director of Training at the Institute.

Lisa has joined Dr. Almeida in presenting nationally and internationally on domestic and community violence, creating therapeutic healing communities, juvenile justice clinical practice and reform, as well as a presenter at the national White Privilege Conference.

Lisa Dressner

Giovanni Sanchez

Sponsor, Designer

Giovanni Sanchez is a sponsor for IFS who engages with male identified clients inviting them to disinherit toxic norms of masculinity and enter spaces of fluidity and non-binary identities.

Giovanni Sanchez is also an experienced Pattern Maker and Fashion Designer with many years of designing and making high-end women’s and men’s clothing. He owned a clothing company in Costa Rica and his work been featured in numerous fashion shows in Costa Rica and throughout Latin America, including for the Ms. Costa Rica Universe Contest. Currently, Gio’s Studio GV, in Manhattan, provides services for celebrity fashion designers, such as LaQuan Smith, theater companies, and customers in the NYC area.

He is also the resident designer of clothing for the IFS family!

Ohlaysha Hicks

Ohlaysha Hicks


Ohlaysha Hicks is an educator and a licensed marriage and family therapist who infuses her commitment to youth development throughout her work. Both fields of work inform each other in meeting the needs of youth and their families. In addition, her professional career has allowed her to expand her scope and coach local cross-country and track and field teams where she contributes to youth’s academic, social, emotional and athletic success. She completed her undergraduate work at Rutgers University and attained her Master’s degree through Capella University in Human Services, with a specialization in Family Therapy. She’s completed her Post-Graduate Training at the Institute for Family Services and has since co-founded Family, Individual, Couples Therapy Associates where she advocates and links youth and families within the communities as an integral part of therapy. She’s invested in creating safe spaces for learning and healthy development with the support of open communities where healthy connections and accountability can occur. Developing the language, connections and skills needed to succeed are integral to her work with children and families as both an educator and a therapist.

Marriage as a Partnership

"We are so great Rich and I and enjoying our new baby Nellie is just about six months old and we are enjoying her massively. We are very much a partnership around everything related to her and the other children and in a very good ..."

Life outside Work

"I thought I came here for therapy. What I received was a gift of life that included learning how to be a man in today's world both in my home and at work. I feel more loved at home and my work colleagues describe me as more caring and competent than ever."...

Expanding Definitions of Courage and Masculinity

"I never imagined that learning new notions of masculinity such as expanded emotionality, embracing femininity, balancing work and family life, embracing relatedness over individualism, valuing collaboration, maintaining flexibility, valuing shared power of relatedness, could make a better and more courageous man."...

Intersectionality of Spirituality and Family Life

"I have always struggled to bridge the teachings of our scriptures with fairness in the lives of women, our lives. Here we were able to integrate the powerful readings and forces of Goddesses in Hinduism, and bring their relevance to bear on daily life. It was also healing to share this with the circle of women from different cultures and hav...

Finding Community

"Your vision and your ability to help us recognize our own wisdom has helped us to create our own community where we can be supported, make mistakes, celebrate our successes, and encourage our growth. Thank you for being an incredible power in my life."...

A Different View of Desegregation.

"I was shocked to hear a bunch of white, Indian and Latino and Black men talking about racism in the workplace at my third session! What I discovered, though I never expected it, was a mutual sense of respect and care that I did not believe could exist in a mixed race circle.”...

Years later-lessons stayed with me

"Dr. Rhea Almeida- I know that it has been a long time but first I want to say thank you for everything you have taught and instilled in me. I still follow all your teaching to this day and is what has made my life so fulfilling. I was wondering if you know of anyone in the --- area that does counseling like IFS...

View All

The Liberation-Based Healing Conference

The Liberation-Based Healing conference was first envisioned by Dr. Rhea Almeida, director of the Institute for Family Services in NJ. She and her colleagues, Lisa Dressner, Judy Lockard, Pilar Hernandez-Wolfe, and Andrae Brown developed and expanded the conference over the past years with many others having collaborated with this initiative. They include, Mabel Quinones, Rebecca Chaisson, Judy Lewis, Nocona Pewewardy, Cornel Pewewardy, Marilyn Armour, Gail Rice, Diana Melendez, Jose Paez, Willie Tolliver, Carolyn Tubbs...and the list continues to grow.

The conference grew out of a general disillusionment by scholars and those they were serving, with mainstream conferences in the mental health fields (psychology, family therapy, counseling).

We, like many others, wanted to connect with a critical mass of liberation-based healing scholars and young minds to work towards building a scholarship that departed from the dominant discourse situating life affirming and transformative experiences within historical, present and future trajectories of life

In the spirit of shared spaces and shared communities, we chose to travel the conference inviting various localities to co-host with us. This has provided multiple regions and communities including the east and west coast of the United States, Puerto Rico and Calgary, Canada with the opportunity to experience and participate with this exciting conference.

Read More

Books & Publications

The Institute for Family Services launches the groundbreaking book

Liberation Based Healing Practices by Rhea Almeida, PhD

"Dr. Rhea Almeida creates an entirely new paradigm, one in which there is deep trust in the human capacity to relate, collaborate, share, and heal.” — Jacqueline Battalora, Saint Xavier University, author of “Birth of a White Nation."

Buy Now

Decolonizing strategies necessary to create Liberation Based Healing practices call for changing the lens and the language, and debunking the myth of healing through diagnostic codes, individual structures and the rigid bifurcation of individuals, their families, their context, and their healing spaces…Liberation based healing locates these complexities within a societal matrix that shapes relationships in the context of power, privilege, and oppression, and builds on the foundations of critical consciousness, empowerment and accountability. Rhea Almeida - Liberation Based Healing Practices

Almeida’s cogent analysis of how to challenge privilege, power, oppression using intersectionality is the only text that offers a liberation based healing “how to” for helping professionals and educators who are engaged in preparing students for professions in social work, counseling and therapy.

Willie Tolliver, MS, DSW, Associate Professor at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.