Last week, I attended my first BBS board meeting. Up until that point, I had not been able to attend any of the meetings due to my work schedule; however, after publishing two blog articles about the BBS (Common Mistakes When Dealing with the BBS and An Open Letter to the Board of Behavioral Sciences), I decided to make attending the next meeting a top priority. This blog article offers an attendee’s guide to BBS board meetings while also sharing some of my personal experiences and observations of the BBS board meeting I attended.
I made sure to review the agenda a few days prior to the meeting in order to familiarize myself with the many items the BBS board members would be discussing. You can learn about upcoming BBS board meetings by visiting the BBS website and navigating to their Board Meetings page. You can also subscribe for e-mail alerts to receive notifications about when and where BBS board meetings will be taking place throughout the year. BBS board meeting locations alternate between Sacramento and Southern California, and agendas/materials are posted on the Board Meetings page ahead of time. Some meetings focus on petitions for early termination of probation, while other meetings focus on BBS reports, legislative updates, and other items for discussion. Reviewing the agendas/materials ahead of time will ensure you attend the meetings that are of most interest to you.
Arriving early can be beneficial for a number of reasons. It provides an opportunity to speak with BBS board members who have also arrived early, and it gives you time to familiarize yourself with who else is attending the meeting. In many cases, there are representatives from professional organizations, test prep companies, and mental health agencies. It’s interesting to see what stances various groups within the MFT field take with regard to legislation and other proposed changes. I took the opportunity to introduce myself to Kim Madsen (Executive Officer of the BBS) and Wendy Vitalich (fellow advocate of prelicensed MFTs).
There are opportunities for attendees to comment on most agenda items, and attendees can make suggestions for future agenda items as well (either at the beginning or end of meetings, depending on the format). If you would like to make a statement or request during a public comment portion of a meeting, then you may want to write down bullet points or a summary to serve as reminders when standing at the podium. I noticed that some attendees came prepared to make statements, while others took notes throughout the meeting and responded to comments that were made by board members and fellow attendees during the meeting.
I did not initially plan to speak up during a public comment portion of the meeting; however, after listening to dialogue between Ben Caldwell and the BBS board members, I felt the need to call for transparency with regard to the LMFT clinical exam. I ended up sharing my experience of “failing” the exam, only to find out one month later that I actually passed the exam (you can read my story in detail here). I wasn’t sure how the BBS board members would react. Ultimately, they seemed to express shock and dismay after hearing about my experience with a BBS staff member. Kim Madsen made a point of stating the issue would be addressed, and she even shared information I wasn’t privy to prior the meeting: the BBS is looking to do away with PSI, the company that currently administers the LMFT clinical exam. The public comment portions of these meetings are your chance to express concerns, offer praise for changes that have been made, and advocate for yourself and your colleagues – take advantage of them!
This particular meeting concluded after approximately four hours; however, meetings can be longer or shorter depending on how quickly the agenda items are discussed. BBS board meetings are recorded, so if you miss something that is said during a meeting, you can listen to the webcast afterward. This is also a great way to stay informed about what was discussed if you cannot attend a meeting. Webcasts can be found on the BBS’ Board Meetings page and are generally posted the following day.
Once the meeting concluded, I spoke with Kim Madsen (Executive Officer of the BBS) and Steve Sodergren (Assistant Executive Officer of the BBS) in order to ask questions about my particular situation with the LMFT clinical exam. Attending the BBS board meeting allowed me to express my concerns and receive closure regarding my negative experience with the BBS. Kim and Steve explained that BBS staff members always have access to PSI’s test results, regardless of whether or not a statistical analysis period has concluded. All scores automatically display as “fail” while a statistical analysis period is in effect; however, once a statistical analysis period concludes and a passing score is determined, scores update to either show “pass” or “fail”. If you will recall, a BBS staff member showed me my test result while a statistical analysis period was still in effect. The BBS staff member thought the statistical analysis period had concluded, and so they didn’t question my “fail” score; however, if they had realized the statistical analysis period was still in effect, then they wouldn’t have shown me my test score, as they would have known the score wasn’t finalized. Kim and Steve assured me that they will be following up with that particular BBS staff member to ensure these kinds of mistakes won’t be made again in the future.
I’m glad I attended the BBS board meeting, and I plan to attend as many of the Southern California meetings as possible! I found the experience to be enlightening and empowering. My one complaint about the meeting is not actually directed at the BBS board members… it’s directed at the MFT field as a whole. There were only about a dozen attendees, and the vast majority were representing larger groups/organizations. I would have loved to see more people like me who were simply there to share their concerns. I realize it can be difficult for MFT registered interns, trainees, and students to attend BBS board meetings when they’re busy seeing clients, attending supervision, networking, etc.; however, I believe attending a BBS board meeting is the most effective way to get your viewpoint across to the BBS. E-mails and phone calls reach BBS staff members, but they rarely (if ever) reach BBS board members. I encourage you to attend future BBS board meetings when your schedule allows for it, and to use this guide as a starting point for your own advocacy efforts!
Do you have other tips to add to this guide? If so, leave a comment below!