|Marianne Lichtenstein Walters
Family Therapist Shaped
Feminist View Within Field
By Joe Holley Washington Post Staff Writer, Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Marianne Walters, 76, founder and director of the Washington-based Family Therapy Practice
Center and a pioneer in the field of feminist-oriented family therapy, died of lung cancer Feb. 21 at
Sibley Memorial Hospital. She was a District resident.
Feminist family therapy, as Ms. Walters conceived it, reflects an awareness of how gender roles
influence each individual in the family and relationships within the family. Gender roles also
influence relationships between the family and society, she said.
Marianne Walters, 76, founded
the Family Therapy Practice
Center in the District in 1980. A
friend described her as full of
grit and honesty. (Family Photo)
In a 1988 article in The Washington Post about how young women view their mothers, Ms. Walters
took the feminist family perspective, noting that it was common for girls to be disapproving of their
By devaluing what their mothers have, she told The Post, girls perpetuate the system where success is seen as the prerogative of the
male. What kind of society is it where a man who sells used cars or stocks is valued more than a woman who nurtures the next
generation? These girls are forging new territory. As they do, they don't realize that it was not men, but their mothers and other women who
have helped create all these opportunities opening for them.
Richard Simon, editor of Psychotherapy Networker magazine, described Ms. Walters as a straight shooter with a gift for the hilarious
wisecrack . . . who never let us forget that, however serious this calling, there was also something deeply joyous about it.
With Marianne, you discovered that the ability to have fun, lighten up, laugh -- even in sessions -- could be just as valuable a therapeutic
asset as any of the fancy interventions we couldn't wait to try out.
Ms. Walters was born in Washington and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School. She received her bachelor's degree in social
work from the University of California at Berkeley in 1952 and her master's degree in social work from the University of Illinois in 1954.
Throughout the 1960s, she was involved in civil rights marches, war protests, abortion rights sit-ins and gay rights demonstrations. She
also worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the 1968 Poor People's March on Washington, helping organize
Resurrection City, a tent city on the Mall.
From 1963 to 1966, she was chief social worker for a pilot project sponsored by the Center for Youth and Community Studies at Howard
University, and from 1966 to 1980, she was a family therapist in Philadelphia. From 1975 to 1980, she was executive director of the Family
Therapy Training Center at the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic, where she was known for her work with single-parent and low-income
families. In 1978, she founded the Women's Project in Family Therapy.
She founded the Family Therapy Practice Center in 1980 after returning to her home town. The center, one of the nation's first free-standing
family clinics run by a woman, trains counselors and therapists, administers research projects and works with area family service
agencies, including the District's Sasha Bruce House, a shelter for abused, neglected and runaway children.
For many years, the center ran an extern program that allowed veteran therapists from across the country to spend a year working with Ms.
Walters and her colleagues. The center also provides family therapy to underserved populations in the area.
In her work with families, at the center and in her private practice, Ms. Walters made an effort to know her clients as people, as unique
individuals. Simon said she had an ability to become a benign member of the family, almost instantaneously.
The family viewed as a mechanism to be acted on, a series of interconnecting stimuli, may begin to be experienced as 'other,' she wrote in
a 1985 article for Psychotherapy Networker. The result is the loss of the very familiarity, the knowing, that we bring with us as therapists who
work with families.
I would have my friends go to her periodically when they were in trouble, said Celia Morris, a friend and former client. She was full of grit
and honesty and imagination and zest. She was really, really something.
Ms. Walters was the author of numerous articles and monographs and the editor of several books. She was co-author, with her Women's
Project colleagues, of The Invisible Web: Gender Patterns in Family Relationships (1988).
Her marriage to Joseph Hart Walters ended in divorce.
Survivors include three daughters, Lisa Walters of Philadelphia, Suzanna Walters of Bloomington, Ind., and Pamela Walters of Frederick; a
sister, Barbara Bick of the District; a brother, Lawrence Lichtenstein of Miami; and three grandchildren.