Jo Ellen Patterson

Jo Ellen Patterson
Phone: (619) 260-2273
Fax: (619) 849-8125
Office: Mother Rosalie Hill Hall 225D


  • Ph.D University of North Carolina Greensboro
  • M.Ed. Wake Forest University
  • B.A. Baylor University

Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family.

- Anthony Brandt

Recognizing the profound impact of the family on human development, Jo Ellen Patterson, Ph.D. became interested in families - their joys and sorrows, early in her career.   But, it wasn't until her twenties that she discovered a relatively new profession - Marriage and Family Therapy.  Simultaneously, she learned about a new medical speciality - Family Medicine.  Immediately, she decided to spend her career exploring family well being.  Using an interdisciplinary perspective which blends the social and biological sciences, she focuses on training and education that offers the most comprehensive understanding of family well being.

Now, many years later, Dr. Patterson has published four books on family health and family therapy and is finishing her fifth book on evidence based practice.  Her bestseller, Essential Skills in Family Therapy  2nd ed. (Guilford, 2009), has been adopted by many training programs across the United States.  In addition, it has been translated into Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

A second and equally important interest of Dr. Patterson has been understanding the role of culture on families and development.  Dr. Patterson realized that religious work, therapy, education, indeed any enterprise that involves cross cultural exchanges, requires an understanding and respect for culture. 

She obtained a Rotary Scholarship to Cambridge University for a year to study history and culture.  A few years later, she moved with her husband to Zaire and did field work in rural Zaire for the Agency for International Development  (AID).  Then, she lived in Cairo for two years where she served as a consultant for the international school and taught at the American University in Cairo (AUC).

Since coming to USD over twenty years ago, Dr. Patterson's interests have not varied.  She has developed mental health services in Pediatrics, Reproductive Medicine, and Family Medicine at UCSD School of Medicine.  Also, she has been given a faculty appointment as voluntary Associate Clinical Professor in the Departments of Family Medicine and Psychiatry.  At UCSD, she also serves as a Voluntary Associate Clinical Professor in the Division of Global Health.  She has served on the board of the Collaborative Family Healthcare Association and has had 3 Fulbrights to Norway, New Zealand and Hong Kong. She also serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy and Family Systems and Health.

Scholarly Work