Judith Z. Anderson, Ph.D.

by Deborah Neff, MY HERO Staff writer from United States

Studying heroes and how heroes think and what they do is a way to help kids model and begin to develop their own heroic imagination.

145358Judith AndersonPhoto by Judith Anderson 

Psychologist and MY HERO board member Judith Anderson has been with MY HERO since its early beginnings when Jeanne was beginning to talk with a group of parents about counteracting children’s negative role models with examples of people “being good” and giving back to the community. 

 “The parents’ young children were involved in a special program, a community learning center that was part of the public school. This was in 1995 when parent involvement was new and the moms’ felt that what kids needed was to develop positive role models,” Anderson said in a recent interview with MY HERO. 

Dr. Anderson has been a generous supporter of the MY HERO Project and particularly its use of heroism as a teaching tool to offset negative inputs and violence. Heroes are not just grand heroes, but “everyday heroes” and positive role models. 

Dr. Anderson proposes that we need to expand the definition of “hero” to include heroic action, which everyone is capable of: “When kids are taught and reinforced by teachers and parents that they expect them to take action, they are more likely to do so. Studying heroes and how heroes think and what they do is a way to help kids model and begin to develop their own heroic imagination (2012 Ed Tech conference ISTE).” 

Anderson also helped launch MY HERO’s online Teacher’s Room. This was back in the early days of the Internet when just one classroom per school had a computer. The project was piloted at a local level where teachers could access a framework to prompt their students to write stories. This vision has spread throughout the world and the writing prompts and lesson plans in the MY HERO Teachers Room are used in classrooms globally. 

In 2018 she received MY HERO’s annual Community Hero Award, presented at the 11th Annual Laguna Hero Fest at Laguna Beach, California for her many contributions to families in the community. From the efforts of her non-profit Foundation for the Contemporary Family to her work with community programs, Anderson has been an avid champion for students and parents. 

“I am so grateful to Judy for her ongoing support for teachers and students around the globe who use MY HERO,” says MY HERO Co-founder and Director Jeanne Meyers. “I am grateful for her leadership with the PTA in Laguna Beach, for bringing together parents and leaders in the field of education and parenting to help guide and nurture our community with the launch of Coffee Break for parent education and communication.”

“Anderson has been a champion for promoting compassionate education and understanding throughout the website,” continues Meyers. “We are pleased to shine a light on her important contributions.”

MY HERO Relationships First Award

Dr. Anderson’s nonprofit, the Foundation for the Contemporary Family, supports the work of MY HERO with the MY HERO Relationships First Award, honoring student  and professional filmmakers whose work reflects the issues and dynamics of contemporary families. 

The award is presented each year at the MY HERO International Film Festival for short films that demonstrate that contemporary families “come in all shapes and sizes.”

The Relationships First Award fits well with the mission of Anderson’s foundation, which is to enhance the lives of couples and families by supporting promising and innovative research, creative intervention programs, and clinical education. 

Asked why she was attracted to working with MY HERO, Anderson said it was a natural fit with her professional interests as a psychologist and with the work of her nonprofit; both focus on the relationships and needs of contemporary families. 

Virtually all of Dr. Anderson’s work champions the importance of relationships and the healing power of the human connection. She believes that relationship skills are a crucial aspect of life and should thus be one of the “Four R-s: Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Relationships.” 

She became aware of the social and emotional aspects of relationships at an early age—her mother was also a psychologist, this at a time when female psychologists were uncommon. Anderson said that she learned at a young age that through motivation, focus, and striving a person can develop one’s sense of self as hero. 

Not coincidently, the concept, “relationships first,” is also the name of a nonprofit Anderson has been involved with since its founding in a think tank consisting of a group of relationship scientists, counselors, and advocates who came together to “bring relationship education out of the clinic to the public.” Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Anderson and her colleagues, their process, called Safe Conversations, has trained leaders and shared the process in communities around the world.

For the last two years Anderson and some of her Bay Area colleagues have been working with Village Impact to build schools in Kenya for refugees living in their own country. According to Anderson, “The schools provide an anchor for the community and hope for the future. They have no electricity, but the group has created a counseling program for children at their schools to counteract issues such as sexual abuse and early pregnancies.” 

About Dr. Anderson

Dr. Anderson is a highly regarded and respected clinical psychologist and teacher who specializes in relationships. She practices individual, couples, and family therapy and is a recognized expert on divorce, remarriage, and blended families.

Her nonprofit, Foundation for the Contemporary Family, focuses on “enhancing the lives of contemporary couples and families by supporting innovative research, creative intervention programs, and clinical education.” It supports innovative programs like MY HERO Relationships First Award, offers dissertation research grants, and provides clinical training and tools for therapists working in relationships.

Dr. Anderson is a graduate of Stanford University, UC Berkeley, and CSPP and has received intensive postgraduate training in couples and family therapy. 

For more than ten years as Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Anderson has been training and supervising residents and fellows at the UCI College of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP), where she teaches Advanced Couples Therapy. 


Judith Anderson at ISTE 2012 (film)


Dr. Judith Anderson - Community Hero Award (film)


Dr. Anderson’s website:

Page created on 9/10/2021 8:50:03 PM

Last edited 4/6/2022 11:47:53 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.