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Dr. Maria Marchetti-Mercer

2023 Keynote Speaker for Oxford Symposium in SBFC


Dr. Maria Marchetti-Mercer was born in Milan (Italy) and moved to South Africa in the mid-seventies. She studied at the Rand Afrikaans University (now University of Johannesburg) where she obtained a B.A. (Humanities) (cum laude), B.A. (Hons) (Philosophy), B.A. (Psychology) (cum laude), MA (Clinical Psychology) (cum laude) and D. Litt. et Phil.  in Psychology with a thesis on the Milan School of family therapy. She worked as a researcher at the Human Sciences Research council in 1990 where she was part of the National research team on Family Murder and then at the University of Johannesburg as a lecturer until December 1994. In 1995 Dr. Marchetti-Mercer moved to the University of Pretoria as a senior lecturer. She was promoted to associate professor in 2000 and then to full-professor in 2004. She was appointed as Chair of the department of Psychology (the first woman to hold this position in the department) in October 2001 and she served in this position until December 2011.  In 2012 she moved to the University of the Witwatersrand where she served as the Head of the School of Human and Community Development until December 2016. She is now a Professor in the department of Psychology at Wits.

Dr. Marchetti-Mercer has been involved in the training of professional psychologists for nearly 20 years and has a special interest and expertise in family therapy. She has also received advanced postgraduate family therapy training in Italy under the mentorship of Profs. Mara Selvini Palazzoli and Maurizio Andolfi. She is a C2 rated National Research Foundation scientist attesting to her standing as a researcher. Her most current area of research is the impact of emigration on South African families. She has published widely in this area and has presented her research at a number of conferences both nationally and internationally. She has also presented her work at a number of universities abroad such as Yale, Georgia State University, the University of San Francisco, the University of Western Australia and the Auckland University of Technology.

Dr. Marchetti-Mercer has given the following presentations at Oxford Symposia in SBFC:

2014       A Personal and Professional Journey of Emigration: Some Guidelines for Working with Emigrant      

                Families in the Context of School-Based Family Counseling

2012       The Value of a Systemic Perspective on Emigration for School-Based Family Counselling:  Lessons                 from South Africa

2009       The South African Experience of Emigration: A Family Systemic Perspective

2008       Migration, Transnationalism and Family Life: Implications for School-Based Family Counseling

2003       Therapeutic Interventions in the Aftermath of School Violence: Guidelines for Mental Health       


Dr. Marchetti-Mercer is a Fellow of the Oxford Symposium of School-Based Family Counseling (SBFC). In 2008 she was presented with the Award for Outstanding Contribution in School-Based Family Counseling presented by the Institute for School-Based Family Counseling at Brasenose College, Oxford. In 2010 she received an award for the Best poster for her work entitled, “Relational bereavement in emigration: Those staying behind,” at the 7th European Family Therapy Conference, Paris, 30 October 2010.

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