About Us

Families On The Line:

A Practice For Patients And Their Families

The struggle of people who suffer with borderline personality disorder (BPD) or severe emotional dysregulation, and that of their families, is deeply painful. This practice was originally founded to help patients strive for a life worth living; and as they do so, to fully benefit from the support of their families, as in fact DBT-based family support is proven to be an effective complement to DBT treatment for patients.

Today, Families On The Line is a fully DBT adherent practice staffed with clinicians who are extensively trained in a variety of evidence-based therapies and who are passionate about easing the suffering of our clients with specialized and proven therapeutic interventions. Along with treatment for borderline personality disorder, we also offer our expertise in the treatment of trauma, anxiety disorders, grief and substance use related disorders.

We see patients in our Westport, CT and in our New Haven, CT offices.

Wherever they are located, we offer family members dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills-based family counseling and coaching via phone or Skype.

Marie-Paule de Valdivia, MBA, LCSW, CPFC - Founder, Families On The Line

My experience is unique and multi-faceted. I am the relative of a family member who manages their BPD symptoms and with whom I enjoy a loving relationship.  I also have considerable experience working with family members and I am extensively trained in working with clients who suffer from the symptoms of BPD.


I have volunteered on the board of the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder for 10 years, believing passionately in that mission and developing the Family Connections program in the US and around the world, as well as teaching it at home and overseas to hundreds of families and colleagues.

I am frequently invited to speak on the topic of families’ experience and treatment at conferences in the US and worldwide.

 My Journey

When our child’s illness became evident a decade ago, we, her family, were very much overwhelmed and had no sense of where to turn. Despite the fact that they had been in intensive therapy; for about a year we floundered about, while their life which had been full of promise came to an abrupt stop, filled as it was with impulsive and dangerous behaviors. Yet no one brought up with us the diagnosis of BPD. And when they turned 18, of course no one discussed anything with us at all anymore. It is only when I discovered the description of BPD symptoms on the website of a well known psychiatric hospital, that all became clear.

Our child went into treatment. We took the NEABPD Family Connections class. Things improved vastly, both at home and for them. There were bumps in the road, but the progress was marked.

I started teaching Family Connections, I could see the profound effect on families and loved it. So I went back to school and earned an MSW. I was given the extraordinary opportunity to complete my second year practicum in the DBT program of the Yale-New Haven Psychiatric Hospital. This gave me a well-rounded view of BPD, from a parent’s as well as from a clinician’s perspective.

I have helped patients and continue to do so; I have been helping families for many years; and perhaps most importantly, our family is solid and our adult child has a kind of hope and a life journey we could not have imagined.

My DBT Experience

Founder & Therapist
Families On The Line

Assistant Clinical Professor of Social Work in Psychiatry (2015-present)
Yale University, School of Medicine
Along with supervising doctoral students in psychology, I also co-directed the Annual Yale –NEABPD conference in 2015 and 2016.

DBT Clinician
Yale-New Haven Psychiatric Intensive Outpatient Hospital
During my tenure at YNHH, I delivered group and DBT therapy to adults, adolescents and their families. During a part of that time I also co-directed the DBT program of the Yale New Haven Psychiatric Day Hospital.

Board member and (c) Family Connections Leader (2009-2018)
Executive Vice President (2017-2018)

National Education Alliance for Borderline Personalitydisorder
As part of this all-volunteer organization, I helped grow the Family Connections program from serving a few hundred families annually to serving thousands of families in over 20 countries. I facilitated classes for about 400 families; and trained class leaders internationally. I chaired the Family Connections committee on the board from its inception and for 7 years.

Alli Kalpakci, PhD

Alli has an expertise in working with individuals who experience intense emotions that often lead to problems in interpersonal relationships, risky or impulsive behaviors, self-harm and suicide, and intense self-criticism and hopelessness. 


She is passionate about working with individuals who have not previously found therapy helpful, and she is committed to genuinely and radically accepting her clients in order to help them experience real and measurable changes in their life.

Alli received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at the University of Houston and completed pre- and post-doctoral fellowships at Yale University School of Medicine, specializing in using Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) in her work with adults and adolescents with borderline personality disorder and their families. Her relevant clinical training includes intensive fellowships at Yale New Haven Hospital Intensive Outpatient DBT Program, The Menninger Clinic, The DBT Center of Houston, the Adolescent Diagnosis Assessment Prevention Treatment Center, and the West Haven VA Outpatient Addiction and Recovery Services program. Alli also has an extensive research background and is a published author in peer-reviewed journals and books on borderline personality disorder, social cognition, emotional sensitivity, and the development of personality disorders.

In addition to DBT, Alli is trained in multiple therapeutic interventions including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Prolonged Exposure [PE], DBT-PE, Cognitive Processing Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, CBT-SUD, and Mentalization-Based Therapy.

Francesca Penner, PhD

Francesca’s primary area of work is with adolescents who are experiencing depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, difficulties related to trauma and grief, or emotion dysregulation. She also enjoys working with children, adults, and parents.



Francesca received her PhD in Clinical Psychology, with a focus on youth and families, from University of Houston and completed her clinical internship at University of Mississippi Medical Center. Francesca’s clinical training has included both cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) approaches. She has been trained at Texas Children’s Hospital Trauma and Grief Center, the DBT Center of Houston, the University of Houston Adolescent Diagnosis Assessment Prevention and Treatment Center, and the child psychiatric inpatient unit, pediatric psychology service, outpatient neuropsychology service, Center for the Advancement of Youth, and Center for Gender and Sexual Minority Health TEAM Clinic at University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Francesca completed Behavioral Tech’s DBT Foundational training and a yearlong placement at DBT Center of Houston before starting as a DBT clinician at Families on the Line in 2022. She is currently working towards licensure as a clinical psychologist. Francesca is also a research postdoctoral fellow at Yale Child Study Center and has published several peer-reviewed manuscripts focused on adolescent and caregiver mental health and parent-child relationships.

Heidi Sormaz, PhD, E-RYT

Heidi is a PhD in Cognitive Psychology and an E-RYT. She has an expertise in attention, mindfulness, and body-based stress and distress management skills.


Heidi received her PhD and MS in Psychology from Yale. She has taught at Yale University, San Francisco State University, and Albertus Magnus College. She is currently working toward her license in Clinical Psychology. She is an expert on the influence of arousal and attention on performance and how anxiety affects thinking, stress management and performance in pressure situations. She has been an educator, speaker, and trainer with over 20 years of experience in designing and leading seminars on stress management, mindfulness, and educator training. HDR Press published her book Performing Under Pressure, and Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine published her article Meditation can Reduce Habitual Responding.

Heidi is the director and owner of Fresh Yoga in New Haven. She has studied yoga and meditation for 25 years and taught for 20. Heidi travels nationally to teach, has taught often at Kripalu in MA and the Esalen Institute in CA. Heidi has been featured in Yoga Journal and was selected by The Great Courses to design their first course on yoga; Yoga for a Healthy Mind and Body, Audible.com released her How to Live a Yogic Lifestyle and in early 2022, The Great Courses will be releasing her course on ending “overthinking” (worry, rumination, and cognitive distortion).

The Fine Print

Duration:  Session length is 60 minutes

  • Fees: We offer a range of fees based on services for individual therapy and skills groups. We offer need-based and time limited sliding scales based on openings.
  • Initial phone consultation at no cost. Goals are for you to evaluate whether we can be of help, and for us to ascertain whether we can indeed help you – and provide you with referrals and guidance if we can’t.
  • Method of payment: Upon billing, you can remit payment with a check, credit card or through PayPal.
  • Insurance coverage:  We are not paneled with insurance companies.  We will provide you with all the bills and statements necessary to submit invoices to your insurance company.
  • Coaching: If you live outside of Connecticut, the only service we can offer you is family/parent coaching, not therapy.  While we in fact are practicing, licensed or supervised clinicians, offering therapy services across state lines is not allowed. We obtained coach certifications in order to offer this service beyond our state of licensure. Read The International Coach Federation’s Code of Ethics to which we adhere.


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