Guest Blogger

Don and Debra MacMannis

Don and Debra MacMannis

Don and Debra are a team both at home and at the office. Husband and wife for thirty years, they have simultaneously served as directors of the Family Therapy Institute of Santa Barbara, a nonprofit organization. In this capacity they oversee the clinical work of fourteen therapists providing help to hundreds of clients each year. They are authors or coauthors of numerous articles on parenting and clinical issues. In 2009, Don won the title of “Best Family Therapist” in a poll taken by In 2010, Debra was honored with an Award for Service to the Community by local therapists and the mayor of Santa Barbara “for thirty years of inspiration, leadership, and training provided to thousands of clinicians, and the devotion exemplified in consistent visionary work for the community.”

They are co-authors of a self-help book, How's Your Family Really Doing?: 10 Keys to a Happy Loving Family, for parents, for couples, and for anyone else who wants to make their family stronger. In addition to the blog, Parenting Tips, on PsychCentral, they have their own blog, which can be followed at

Don has a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth, a master’s in school-child psychology from University of Virginia, and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from California School of Professional Psychology. Also a musician, he was songwriter and music director for the animated PBS hit, Jay Jay the Jet Plane. His public education efforts have culminated in the writing and production of Kids EPs, an 8 album series of songs and activities that help young children with character and social and emotional learning. Don’s music has won over ten major awards.

Debra received her undergraduate degree in psychology with distinction from Stanford University and her master’s in social welfare from University of California at Berkeley with a specialty in family therapy and community mental health. Prior to founding the Institute in 1979, she was the executive director of Social Advocates for Youth in the San Francisco Bay Area, working with runaway teens and children at risk. She has taught marriage and family therapy at Antioch University, Pacifica Graduate Institute, numerous local agencies, schools, and mental health facilities. She finds respite from her busy life through painting, hiking, and being with her much loved dog, Shammy.

Don and Debra have lived in Santa Barbara, California for over thirty years where they raised and successfully launched two sons. They share a love of games, music, movies, biking, hiking, travel, and art.

For more from Don and Debra Manchester:
YouTube: How's Your Family
Facebook: How's Your Family
Twitter: @HowsYourFam
Amazon: How's Your Family Really Doing?: 10 Keys to a Happy Loving Family


Blog Posts by Don and Debra MacMannis

  • Our Constant Companion

    Change, Our Constant Companion

    “I wonder why progress looks so much like destruction.” -John Steinbeck We constantly remind families that whenever they embark on a new path, things can get worse before they get better. In a classic example, when parents decide it is time to set more limits, kids often act out even more than before. Similarly, when […]

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  • Riding the Emotional Rollercoaster

    Riding the Emotional Rollercoaster

    Dealing with emotions-our own and those of our kids and partners-can be one of the more painful, frustrating, and ultimately fulfilling parts of being in a family. After the groundbreaking classic bestseller, Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman came out in 1995, the world came to the shocking realization that just being smart (having a high […]

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  • We would be close

    We Would Be Close…If We Only Had the Time

    “What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life—to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories. –George Eliot The wish to seek and have a deep sense of family connection and commitment is universal. Ask people what is most important to them and their first answer […]

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  • Keys to Happy Family

    10 Keys to a Happy, Loving Family

    When we had our first child thirty years ago, we were both licensed and trained psychotherapists. Even with all our education in early childhood development and psychology, we were unprepared for how the birth of a child changed, well…everything. That’s when we started thinking about writing a book called We Got the Baby–But Where’s the […]

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  • The Most Important Gift You Can Give Your Child

    The Most Important Gift You Can Give Your Child

    “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”   -Leo Tolstoy Most people want to be the very best parents they can. That’s why baby books fly off the shelves, and hundreds of blogs and websites hand out advice on every topic imaginable—from breastfeeding to sleep schedules, from potty […]

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