Helping Marriages and Families Thrive
Claire Frazier-Yzaguirre (MDiv '84, MA/MFT '89) pictured herself as headed towards a relatively traditional pastoral role when she first came to Fuller in 1979. She graduated with her MDiv four years later, was ordained in the American Baptist Church, and served as a chaplain at USC and then on staff at a church. While working in a pastoral capacity with families, however, Claire soon found that marriage and family counseling was of keen interest to her--and she developed a church ministry offering counseling and family life seminars. Meanwhile, Fuller's recently launched program in Marriage and Family Therapy caught her eye.
"God led me back to Fuller," she explains, "and the MFT program became the launching pad into the specific work that God had given my husband and me to do." A dream of starting an institute to help families began to crystallize in their hearts and minds, and after Claire graduated with her second Fuller degree this dream took shape as "Thriving Families." It began as a counseling center in Irvine, California, through which Frazier-Yzaguirre and her husband, Dr. John Yzaguirre, offered marital and family therapy. But Thriving Families soon became much more as they developed and added educational programs ministering to churches all over California's Southland.
"Our programs evolved out of the growing needs we were hearing from churches," she says, and the Institute came to offer marriage and family formation programs to over 150 churches spanning the Christian spectrum. "Many churches have few resources to help couples as they prepare to marry," says Frazier-Yzaguirre, "and hardly anything after they marry--which has given us the serious challenge of developing a curriculum that would help them through their marriage and life course."
Fuller played a key role in this work, she stresses. "I am so deeply grateful to Fuller for its excellent foundational training, and for holding to such a deep focus on the integration of Christian faith and psychological practice. I often think of my time at Fuller," Frazier-Yzaguirre reflects, "as we work to integrate psychology and spirituality and apply this to marriage and family life."
Thriving Families offers educational programs for engaged and married couples, as well as programs in parenting, health, and spirituality. As Frazier-Yzaguirre puts it, "Our programs aim to give people an inspirational vision of the life of unity that God calls us to live, and the practical skill-building to do it. And it's a special blessing to equip churches in their ongoing ministries to the family."
"Every day we hear from couples who need help--and sometimes we see ourselves as missionaries to the family," Frazier-Yzaguirre says, "as we share God's love with them and teach them a way to really thrive, not just survive." One married couple they saw recently, for example, had been fighting almost constantly. Frazier-Yzaguirre taught them their model of Christian marriage, which emphasizes three essential dimensions of empathy, autonomy, and mutuality. Through a commitment to learning skills in these areas, the couple was able to build a much healthier marriage.
"Our work is a vocational call to help families--and to help churches in their key ministries with their families," Frazier-Yzaguirre says. "And our greatest joy is helping them go the distance and experience the joy of unity together--God's life for us on earth."
More information about the resources and programs offered through Thriving Families is available at www.ThrivingFamilies.com.