Family matters: Ann Starr and the Family Therapy Training Institute

Ann Marie Starr, exiting director of the Family Therapy Training Institute, poses with Jane Pirsig, executive director of Aurora Family Service

Reflecting on her work at Aurora Family Service, Ann Marie Starr considers it a privilege to help build stronger families in the community as they regain hope and stability in their lives.

In her years as director of the Family Therapy Training Institute, she shared this passion with her colleagues and clients.  Ann Starr recently retired from the agency after many years of service.

In addition to her work at the Institute, Starr is also a licensed therapist and social worker. Whether in her role of teaching and mentoring students or in counseling families in her private practice, she’s helped change the community and the face of the profession.

“The thing that strikes me the most is the resiliency of families and that, somehow, it is within the human spirit to find a way,” said Starr.

The Family Therapy Training Institute of Aurora Family Service is a premier postgraduate professional school for marriage and family therapists. Since its establishment in 1972, the Institute has provided mental health professionals the advanced skills needed to remain at the forefront of helping families manage through troubling times.

“Our students provide direct service as volunteers to the most vulnerable, sometimes the poorest, citizens of our community,” said Starr. “It’s about giving and giving back to the community. That’s what the Institute represents on behalf of Aurora Family Service and Aurora Health Care.”

Since 1882, Aurora Family Service has helped Milwaukee families live healthier lives. The agency works with families to create strength-based solutions that involve the community in creating healthy results. In partnership with schools, churches, community groups, social service agencies, and local government, Aurora Family Service helps families to anticipate, identify, and manage challenges they face in their everyday lives. Programs include: family counseling, family enrichment, elder services and financial wellness, among others.

The Family Therapy Training Institute of Aurora Family Service is accredited by the Commission of Accreditation for Marriage and Family Education¾the accrediting body for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

“The students all have graduate degrees in mental health or psychology. This is the only post-graduate degree training institute connected with a major health care organization,” said Starr. She emphasized the importance of providing these services in various health care settings where there are family needs.

The Institute promotes clinical excellence through real-world experience alongside exceptional and experienced clinical therapists and supervisors. The training of culturally competent therapists for the underserved, largely minority community, is at the core of its mission.

As part of Aurora Health Care and Aurora Family Service, the family therapy training program provides students with exposure to a wide variety of experiences, while providing critical support to families. The Institute serves the mission of strengthening families and communities both through the counseling provided by trainees and by preparing the next generation of family therapists to serve the needs and challenges of families.

“It’s about really connecting to people’s spirits. It’s about possibilities,” said Ann.

To find out more about other programs and events sponsored by Aurora Family Service, please call 414-342-4560, visit or become a friend of Aurora Family Service on Facebook.

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