You probably know me as the founder of Prelicensed, but what you may not know is that I wear many hats within the MFT field. In addition to my entrepreneurial and clinical work, I volunteer for the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) on the local and state levels. For those who aren’t aware, CAMFT is a large professional organization that represents our interests in a number of ways, including advocating for legislative and regulatory changes within and outside of California. I could go on and on about the wonderful work CAMFT is doing, but I’ll save that for a future blog article. Right now, I want to focus on an event I attended last month on behalf of Prelicensed and my local CAMFT chapter (San Diego North County).
Each year, CAMFT holds a Chapter Leadership Conference designed to support local chapter leaders. Nearly 100 individuals from 21 chapters attended this year’s conference to learn more about the state of CAMFT, discuss the MFT scope of practice, and brainstorm about how to support MFTs throughout California. There were several breakout sessions throughout the day, one of which focused on prelicensed MFTs and was facilitated by yours truly. This blog article summarizes my impression of the conference and is meant to instill feelings of hope about the direction we’re heading in as a community of mental health professionals!
The day started off with an introduction of CAMFT’s new Executive Director, Nabil El-Ghoroury. I had an opportunity to speak with Nabil later in the day, and I can say with absolute certainty that Nabil has prelicensed MFTs’ interests at the forefront of his mind. Nabil was previously the Associate Executive Director for the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS), and through his advocacy, he worked to resolve the internship crisis graduate students face.
During the “State of CAMFT” presentation, a few chapter leaders began discussing the pervasiveness of unpaid and low-paying positions for Associate MFTs. One individual said the situation is “bullsh*t” and asked what CAMFT is planning to do to change things (which was met with applause around the room). It was encouraging to see so many of my licensed colleagues advocating for Associate MFTs! Another attendee, who has been licensed for decades, claimed that unpaid positions weren’t always the norm. If the MFT field was able to shift from paid to unpaid, then it stands to reason we can shift back.
This portion of the conference was open to the public, not just chapter leaders. Attendees gathered in small groups to review our current scope of practice (hint: it’s buried in this enormous BBS document) and brainstorm about what we would want to change about it in the years to come. We examined scope of practice language for MFTs in various states, as well as scope of practice language for other mental health professionals in California. I found this time to be engaging, productive, and once again encouraging. Keep in mind that changes occur slowly in the MFT field; however, this CAMFT Connects session was a good starting point for future discussion and advocacy.
If you’re not clear about why our scope of practice is important, be sure to read Ben Caldwell’s blog article on MFTs in Texas losing the ability to diagnose, all because the word “diagnose” wasn’t included within their scope of practice. Fortunately, CAMFT and other organizations advocated on behalf of Texas MFTs, and the ruling was ultimately reversed!
Attendees split up for several breakout sessions toward the end of the day, including the one I facilitated. I estimated that about 1/5 of attendees came to this breakout session, making it one of the more popular ones! I had an opportunity to speak about my previous experience as a prelicensed MFT, share resources with chapter leaders, and generate discussion about how they can support their chapter members who are Associate MFTs, Trainees, and Students.
Nabil attended this breakout session and listened to stories of struggles and successes from individuals around the room. Threads of conversation that stood out to me included offering more education about the MFT field prior to graduation (so prelicensed MFTs know what to expect once they become Associates) and supporting prelicensed MFTs through ongoing mentorship (so the responsibility doesn’t fall solely on supervisors).
Last week, I met with Nabil again to discuss the challenges of finding paid positions as an Associate MFT. I’m sure this will be one of many conversations we have in the future! I’ve also received numerous e-mails from colleagues asking me to present on issues facing prelicensed MFTs and to share resources that can support prelicensed MFTs on their journey to licensure. If that is something you are interested in as well, please don’t hesitate to contact me and inquire about availability!
Attending this year’s conference inspired me to connect with colleagues in different ways, thus increasing Prelicensed‘s visibility and influence within the MFT field. With time and ongoing advocacy, I believe we can make an even greater difference for current and future prelicensed MFTs!