About Us
Family Life Centre’s Head Office in Parkwood – Donated

In 1949 The Johannesburg Marriage Guidance Society was established in response to the increase in marital and family breakdown. All reliable research showed that children growing up in a stable environment were more likely to live productive lives this research is relevant today.

In 1978 The Johannesburg Marriage Guidance Society amalgamated with The Youth Advice Bureau and in 1979 the name was changed to: Family Life Centre.

Above: Family Life Centre’s Head Office in Parkwood – Donated

The Family is the only way we have of teaching people to be Human - Dr Margaret Mead

The dynamic courage and vision of The Family Life Centre’s founders (which included Mr David Murray from the Johannesburg City Council and Joan Philips, Psychologist) has had its impact on The South African Society today.

  • Joan was appointed as South Africa's first school psychologist at Johannesburg Preparatory School for Girls (BARNATO PARK). Many schools followed the lead.
  • Joan's courage and persistence resulted in her giving talks to children and teenagers about sex - after school hours. Society has adapted this to our schools today. This courageous step is the beginning of the work we do with our Education for Living programme in the schools.
  • Family Life Centre was one of the first to introduce Trauma Counselling in South Africa
  • Family Life Centre was the first NPO to introduce Employee Support Services to companies.

Above: Children holding Balloons Safe Families, Save Families: international Day of The Family 2008


The Family Life Centre is affiliated to The National office Families South Africa. Each of the 27 offices in South Africa are autonomous with their own Executive Committees and Directors. Each are responsible for their own funding.


The Mission of Family Life Centre

Is to promote and maintain stable, satisfying relationships within individuals, families, marriages and community life for all people of South Africa. Work is carried out throughout Soweto, Diepsloot, Coronationville, Noordgesig, Westbury, Riverlea, Lenasia South, Newclare, Bosmont, Ennerdale, Alexandra and Ivory Park. Training courses and counselling services are offered to these communities as well as those reached by the Parkwood offices.

The range of services is designed to enhance the personal skills of individuals assisting them to:

  • Manage their lives,
  • Enrich their relationships
  • Make a contribution towards developing their communities and ultimately, society.


The Philosophy of Family Life Centre

Numerous community-based programmes, ranging from support groups for teenage mothers and HIV/Aids positive people, to self help and income generating groups, rape, child abuse and violence awareness, student and adult education programmes, counselling and training, are offered by volunteers or social workers employed by The Family Life Centre.


Training and the Grounding of our Expertise

From International Experts

Family Life Centre invited many experts in their fields to hold workshops at regular intervals they included:

A recent picture of Joan Philips who celebrated her 90th Birthday in 2008
  • In the 1950s world renowned authorities on marriages and marriage enrichment; Dr David Mace and his wife Vera Mace assisted with establishing the Johannesburg Marriage Guidence Society.
  • Dr. Florence W. Kaslow, a World Renowned expert in the field of psychotherapy, visited twice and proved a good friend and wonderful teacher.
  • Gianfranco Cecchin (Milan): Co-founder of the Milan School of Therapy
  • Tom Andersen (Norway) introduced the reflective team into Family Therapy at Family Life Centre.
  • In 1974 World Renowned Anthropologist Dr. Mead to came to South Africa and gave impetus to the growth and banish the stigma attached to marriage counselling.
  • In 1974 Family Life Centre attended the first conference on Family Therapy ever to be held in South Africa.
  • In 1987 Professor Wilma Hoffman – Head of Social Work at University of Witwatersrand, attended Divorce Mediation Training by the authority John Haynes in The United States. Upon her return she provided 40 hour training to The Staff at The Family Life Centre.

Above right: A recent picture of Joan Philips who celebrated her 90th Birthday in 2008


Services offered by Family Life Centre which address current issues in South Africa

  • Community development programmes: Youth Community Development and adult capacity-building programmes reached 60 696 people over past year.
  • Education for Living in the Schools: Learners participated in a variety of life skills programmes. An Anti-Bullying campaign was rolled out over past years in community schools
  • A recent picture of Joan Philips who celebrated her 90th Birthday in 2008
  • Facilitators in ARV Clinic at Helen Joseph Hospital.
  • Holiday Programmes, to empower the youth
  • Parenting Groups
  • Individual / Couple Counselling
  • Trauma counselling
  • Family therapy
  • Play Therapy
  • Support groups, e.g. HIV/Aids.
  • Divorce and family mediation including maintenance issues – kept abreast of the New Children’s Act. Trained over 60 new Mediators over the past year in Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth.
  • Training: we have been accredited by Health and Welfare SETA as a Training Centre. Trained 30 Volunteers serving 4 000 patients a month and other interested community members.
  • Marriage Preparation and Marriage Enrichment Programmes

Above right - Our Chairman Athol Williams and Kolobe from Our Diepsloot Office


We have Satellite offices in :

Soweto, Lenasia South, Westbury, Ennerdale, Diepsloot, Alexandra


The Family Life Centre's Executives

Ridwana Jooma-Cook – Chairperson

Ridwana has two degrees in Arts and Law, along with a Certificate in Industrial Relations, which provided the basis for a comprehensive understanding of legal processes and business in South Africa, in particular labour law and human rights law. This was consolidated with a qualification to practice law obtained in 1999, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Administration (PDBA) at the Gordon Institute of Business Science in 2006. She is the Director and owner of her company Being a Woman People Development, and the Founder Member Director of a BEE rating agency, Honeycomb BEE Ratings. Her vision: "An Awakened, Empowered and Transformed People of the World. I want to spend my life being part of a movement that causes a revolution in consciousness."

Dr Esther Price

Dr Esther Price is a Clinical Psychologist who received her PhD in 2008 from the University of Houston. She is currently a lecturer at the Dept of Psychology at the University of the Witwatersrand. She has also taught various courses at the postgraduate level in the greater areas of traumatization, working with HIV and AIDS, working with teenagers, family therapy, systems theory and self–care. Dr Price has also worked as a trainer with the South African Institute for Traumatic Stress (SAITS) and conducted training workshops for mental health professionals in the areas of "working with trauma" "working with children and adolescents" and "working with people living with HIV/ AIDS". Dr Price has received the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Research (Wits University) as well as Teaching Excellence Award (Psychology- Wits University).

Pam Gillingham – Director

Pam has worked as a Social Worker since 1993. She worked extensively with community development programmes that targeted both adults and youth.

Pam spearheaded specialized services in the filed of gender-based violence and sexual harassment at Wits University.

Pam headed up the Training Department at The Family Life Centre FAMSA Johannesburg which involved; coordinating, developing and updating the organisation’s training programmes, as well as facilitating courses. She also does individual and couple therapy.

Pam was appointed Director and took over the helm on 1st December, 2012.

Vicky Berrington

Vicky Berrington is a leading and highly acknowledged expert in the legal profession in South Africa and within the African region. Vicky has headed her own company since 2007 and specialises in advising the professional service industry on, inter alia, assessments to clearly identify target markets, relationship marketing, brand building, competitive intelligence gathering, new business development, advisory and mentoring consultancy services to small to medium sized companies (international & local), and the implementation and writing of Business/Marketing strategies, assisting business start-ups, guiding companies with their BBBEE (Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment) compliance issues, amongst others. She has advised a broad spectrum of African law and financial firms on issues of marketing and business development.

She has consulted to the South Africa Israel Chamber of Commerce since 2007 and took over as CEO for a term in order to assist with the networking, cementing of member relationships and growth of the Chamber. She continues this in her capacity as a consultant.

The Family Life Centre' Management

Claudia Abelheim

Claudia graduated with a Master's degree in Educational Psychology from The University of Witwatersrand and completed her internship at The Family Life Centre. After qualifying, Claudia continued with counselling individuals, couples and families at The Family Life Centre as well as in private practice. In 2013 Claudia launched the Child and Adolescent Assessment services at The Family Life Centre.

In 2014 Claudia joined our Marriage Preparation and Marriage Enrichment Department. This coincided with the introduction of the Customised Version of Prepare/Enrich. Claudia has enhanced this department with her professionalism, knowledge, relaxed and non-threatening manner.

We are very excited to welcome this dynamic Psychologist to our Education for Living team.

Ann Rennie – Manager of Student Affairs

Ann Rennie joined The Family Life Centre 27 years ago. Shortly after joining she took over The Education for Living Department. This involved; selecting educators – training and supervising the team.

Ann ran various Training Courses and Groups, supervised social work students during their final year’s practical work. This lead to Ann taking over the Management of the Psychology Masters students for their internship at The Family Life Centre.

Over the past 27 years Ann has always counseled individuals and couples focusing on relationships, emotional and parenting issues. Ann has enjoyed working with couples on The Marriage Preparation and Enrichment courses.

Claire Penfold – Head of Divorce Mediation

Claire is legally trained with: BA (Hons in Psych) LLB from Wits. She joined The Family Life Centre in Jan 2000. Claire is the Divorce and Family Mediation lead trainer at Family Life Centre.

Claire sits on the board for NABFAM (National Accreditation Board of Family Mediators) The Family Life Centre is a founding member of this board - setting standards for mediators and training for SA.

Thuli Bottoman – Manager

Thuli Bottoman: Joined The Family Life Centre in October 1989 she has brought a richness of experience to the organization. Prior to joining Family Life Centre she headed up an education programme teaching Life Skills in hospitals and Family Planning Centres.

Thuli has initiated and facilitated HIV/Aids support groups. These have been successful by empowering and creating a positive attitude amongst those who attend. Other workshops facilitated by Thuli include: Stress Management, Self Awareness, Self Esteem, Communication, workshops in Conjunction with True Love Love Magazine and The Foschini Group

Dalene Rathnum – Manager of Training

Dalene joined Family Life Centre's City Office 10 years ago as a counseller and community developer. She progressed in the organization and become our key EAP (Employer Assistant Programmes) coordinator. In 2004 Dalene and her family moved to The UK where she worked for the Solihull Child and Family Services, counseling children and families.

Dalene returned to South Africa in 2006 when she rejoined The Family Life Centre. Dalene continued working with EAPs (Employer Assistant Programmes), counseling, training and became a valuable part of our Westbury Team. Dalene is an accredited HWSETA (Health and Welfare) Trainer and Assessor.

At the beginning of Dalene is appointed manager communities. At the end of 2012 Dalene has been appointed Head of Training which was previously the post held by Pam Gillingham – our current Director.

Joshna Lutchman

Joshna qualified as a social worker in 1994. She is also graduated in Psychology honours.

Joshna worked in the specialized field of disability for 10 years before joining The Family Life Centre. She enjoyed initiating the first ever Student Representative body at a school for the deaf. She was also involved in the introduction of demarcated parking bays allocated to people with disabilities in the local CBD area of Lenasia.

A mother to 2 beautiful girls, Joshna has found parenting to be a challenging but rewarding journey both personally and professionally.

In April 2013 Joshna joined the Management team when she was appointed head of the Community Division. She enjoys meeting and working in a field which impacts upon the lives of people and being instrumental in helping people in shaping their own realities. Joshna has secured a good reputation for The Family Life Centre’s services especially within the school environment.

Joshna facilitates our training which provides CPD Points for Social Workers. She always receives glowing feed-back on her knowledge, professionalism and ability to create a relaxed atmosphere.

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