Mercy Professor Saliha Bava Recognized for her Contributions to the Field of Couple and Family Therapy

Mercy Professor Saliha Bava

Saliha Bava, Ph.D., professor of marriage and family therapy, was honored by the American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA), the leading professional organization for family therapy practitioners, teachers and scholars, for her contributions to the field of couple and family therapy. The 2023 AFTA Distinguished Contribution to Family Therapy Theory and Practice Award was presented to Dr. Bava at AFTA’s 45th Annual Meeting and Open Conference held in Baltimore, Maryland, last year. She is the first Indian to receive this prestigious honor.

With this latest achievement, Bava takes her place alongside founders and thought leaders of the family therapy movement, also known as systemic therapy. Her work as a scholar-practitioner, professor, organizational consultant, editor and practicing therapist have kept her at the forefront of theory and practice, both in the classroom and in the fields of systemic therapy and organizational development. 

“I view this honor as a celebration of all my relationships that brought me to this moment,” said Bava. “I am grateful to be included among such highly respected thinkers and practitioners in our field. The recognition will allow my work in relational intelligence to have a wider impact while propelling me to do more to create a just world.”

Bava’s contributions have been recognized for addressing social justice in systemic psychotherapy and for her expertise on diversity, equity and inclusion. Her groundbreaking concepts have been featured in leading family therapy textbooks such as “Mastering Competencies in Family Therapy” and “Socioculturally Attuned Family Therapy.” She is the author of several books, chapters and articles on systemic therapy and relational intelligence and is an internationally invited speaker and podcast guest. Her latest book, “The Relational Workplace: How Relational Intelligence Grows Diverse, Equitable and Inclusive Workplace Cultures,” co-written with Mark Greene, provides insights for leaders and lay readers interested in exploring inclusive relationships in their daily interactions.

In addition to her research, writing and teaching responsibilities, Bava also founded Mercy’s Relational Play Lab where students research relational intelligence as applied to couples and individuals in a variety of situations and organizations. A former student, Somer Saleh, wrote: “The lab gave me the space to think critically as a student [and to] research historically as a human being what has been going on and respond actively as a therapist in my field.”

Bava’s reputation continues to grow with each new endeavor. After being tapped to write the opening chapter of a new anthology on family therapy, Bava was surprised to learn her work had a formative impact on the two Asian American co-editors. “These editors entered the field after, and they knew of my work. They saw me not only as a person from a culture they could relate to, but also as a role model—someone who’d gone before them, breaking ground, not knowing I was doing so,” she said. “Being able to see yourself reflected, not just among your peers but also among your teachers and mentors, is so important, especially in the field of family therapy.”


Mercy University Professor Saliha Bava poses with her 2023 AFTA Distinguished Contribution to Family Therapy Theory and Practice Award