The Prelicensed Vote (Part 1 of 2)
February 1, 2019
Why AB 5 Matters to Prelicensed Therapists
August 19, 2019
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The Prelicensed Voice (Part 2 of 2)

Part one of this series (The Prelicensed Vote) talked about the voting process for CAMFT’s prelicensed members. Per CAMFT’s Bylaws (Article IV, Section B (2)), prelicensed members are only able to vote for one board member (the Pre-Licensed Director-at-Large) in every other year’s election. Peter Cellarius and Joseph Gutierez are this year’s candidates… and part two of this series explores their viewpoints in more detail!

Per CAMFT’s Bylaws (Article VI, Section A (3)(b)), only one of its twelve board members can be a prelicensed therapist (all others must be licensed therapists). This means the Pre-Licensed Director-at-Large bears the responsibility of serving as “the prelicensed voice” on CAMFT’s Board of Directors. It’s a responsibility I know Joseph and Peter don’t take lightly, and I encourage every CAMFT voter to:

  • Read this blog article (it’ll give you a lot to think about when deciding who will best represent your interests within CAMFT!)
  • Share this blog article (make sure your friends are well-informed when they cast their vote for CAMFT’s Pre-Licensed Director-at-Large!)
  • Vote by the March 21 deadline (there’s no reason not to – and remind your licensed colleagues to support you with their votes as well!)

Disclaimer: The candidates’ names and responses have been displayed in alternating order throughout this blog article to avoid the appearance of favoritism. Prelicensed and its founder are not endorsing one candidate over the other. The responses have not been edited. Additional information about both candidates can be found on the CAMFT website.

Why have you decided to run for the CAMFT Pre-Licensed Director-at-Large position at this particular point in your MFT career?

Peter: I was affected by the challenges faced by many in my cohort at Palo Alto University.  They were struggling with balancing financial pressures, other jobs, the emotional demands of young families – and then they found themselves in non-paying positions and uncertain waters.  I have a friend who told me this weekend that she may have to go back to waiting tables after graduation simply to make her payments on her loans.  Some of this is outside of CAMFT jurisdiction but better traineeships, more paid positions, and a decent living wage for our interns and associates in clinics and private practice should at least be possible.  If elected, I will work on this.

Joseph: After a career in International Business as the Global Director of Marketing for a fortune 500 company, I took a risk and changed careers to allow myself to pursue a career in Clinical Psychology, which has long been a passion of mine. There have been challenges, but I want to become as involved as possible and want to “immerse” myself in all aspects of my new career. Serving on the Board would allow me to use my skills and strengths to support pre-licensed members and be an advocate for change in a number of much needed areas.

CAMFT’s prelicensed members are not able to vote for other CAMFT board member candidates (only for the Pre-Licensed Director-at-Large). What are your thoughts on this?

Joseph: This is a provocative question and I imagine would yield any number of points of view. While I do believe that the pre-licensed Board position is intended to bring a pre-licensed view point, I do believe that all Board members have a duty to serve the entire constituency. After all, every member has been in the pre-license phase of their career at some point. I also know that it is unhealthy to have a Board with separate factions or agendas from the whole. So, all things considered, I believe that all members, regardless of their status, should be allowed to vote for all of the Board positions.

Peter: In 2018, out of thirty-two thousand CAMFT members, over ten thousand were pre-licensed and associate.  And yet, out of 12 board seats only one is pre-licensed and even worse – we can all only vote for that one seat!  This doesn’t make sense to me.  Our community – those who are not yet licensed – will be serving clients the longest.  It is disingenuous to say that our community should only get to vote for one seat because only one seat will be concerned with pre-licensed interests.  All our futures are affected by what CAMFT decides and adopts.  We should have the right to vote for all of CAMFT.

Many CAMFT candidates talk about working toward better pay for Associate MFTs, but what do you actually plan to do with regard to this critical issue? What action steps will you take if elected to CAMFT’s Board of Directors?

Peter: There are some practical steps that we can fight for starting now.  We can end the practice of unpaid internships.  To deal with the financial impact of this, we can lobby for offset funds and tax credits to make it easier for practicum sites to comply.  We can make it easier for licensed MFT’s to offer private practice opportunities including support, assistance in becoming a supervisor, and possibly easing of intern-to-supervisor ratios for private practice.  And we can provide stronger guidelines concerning intern remuneration.  Today this is fully up to each practice and the amounts paid vary widely.

Joseph: This is an extremely important issue which needs to become a much higher priority and needs a lot of work. I have surveyed the physician industry, the legal industry and the business community and, not surprisingly, equivalent Intern, Trainee and Associate positions are all paid positions. My first steps in moving this agenda forward are as follows:

  • conduct a quick current assessment to understand what, if anything, has been done or is currently underway in this regard.
  • engage the BBS, local, state and national governing and regulating bodies and CAMFT as well as groups such as to place this as one of the top three priorities for this year.
  • work with the larger employers such as the behavioral health functions in the many county mental health facilities, Sutter Health, Kaiser, etc., to lobby for pay for trainees, more stipends and scholarships.
  • help identify higher paying positions paying positions and make these more visible.

As the Pre-Licensed Director-at-Large, you would be in a unique position to represent the interests of CAMFT’s prelicensed members, who make up nearly one-third of CAMFT’s total membership. If you faced resistance to allocating more of CAMFT’s resources toward supporting prelicensed members, how would you respond?

Joseph: Establish resource priorities is always a compromise and part of what makes a Board successful. I would focus first on those issue which represent the highest priorities of the pre-licensed cohort and find the benefits to the whole so that in the end our priorities are met and everyone wins.

I have a history of experience successfully negotiating with corporate boards, for profit and not for profit boards and heads of state. I have found that persistence and find some common ground always “moves the needle” in a positive direction.

Peter: I am fortunate in being able to leverage the skills I have learned in business.  I was in charge of mergers and acquisitions as well as global partnerships for a very successful public company for over ten years.  I was the lead negotiator on our most complex partnership deals, and we were recognized for our success in the industry.   This is only possible by knowing at a deep level how to form coalitions, how to work through influence, and how to listen before you speak so that you understand the needs of others.  Often, when positions polarize it is not because there is no solution; it is because not enough work is done to find common ground.  I know how to do that and would do so again – person by person, hill by hill, and issue by issue.

If elected, how will you personally connect with CAMFT’s prelicensed members over the course of your two-year term?

Peter: Honestly, I would look to the pre-licensed community to help me figure this out!  I would intend to use coalition groups, social media, member organizations and would reach out to the places where the pre-licensed are.  Schools, clinics, practicum sites and practices.  Initiatives like saveCAMFT and CAMFTUNITED have demonstrated that we know how to rally involvement and support from the community of healers.  I would consult with people who were involved in these movements, and in fact have already begun this work.

Joseph: Since my nomination for this position by the Nominating Committee, I have been surprised and delighted and the many supportive emails I have received with suggestions, questions and thoughts. I am told that I am a natural and strong networker. Over the next two years, I would personally connect in the following ways:

  • continue the already strong email communication program that is in place;
  • personally, connect with all of the local CAMFT chapters and make myself available to them; and
  • investigate the opportunity of opening and sponsoring a pre-licensed Blog hosted on the CAMFT web site.

What endeavors would you like to see CAMFT take on in order to make membership more meaningful to prelicensed MFTs?

Joseph: There are so many areas of opportunity to make things better for the pre-licensed members. The whole issue around hours is an area that needs some analysis and reform. As an example, I was recently asked by a pre-licensed CAMFT member if anything could be done about the 6-year rule to help people who choose to take a break for pregnancy, child care, medical conditions or other circumstances. They have submitted a law change proposal to their state legislator to create a system where people can “bank” the hours they have done so far, and take a break and then start back again at a later time.  This is the type of initiative that I would take on if I am elected.

Peter: Again – I am not going to presume that I know already what will be most meaningful to pre-licensed MFT’s.  I feel I’ve hit on some topics already and would refer people to my recent CAMFT-originated email and candidate statement.  But I will be open and listening respectfully.  I’ve already started a dialog with some folk who have reached out to me with creative ideas about banking of intern hours which shows promise. 

How has CAMFT membership personally benefited you as a prelicensed MFT?

Peter: I wish I could say I have taken advantage of all that CAMFT offers during my time in graduate school.  But I have not, and neither did most of my cohort.  The better question might be – how can we make CAMFT more relevant and of value to our over-stretched, stressed, and occasionally frustrated pre-licensed colleagues?

Joseph: I have found my membership in CAMFT to be very helpful. I read the Therapist and always take something valuable away and appreciate the responsive free advice I get whenever I call with questions. I have attended the annual conference and have found the speaker, workshops and networking to be outstanding.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a prelicensed MFT, and how have you worked to overcome it?

Joseph: I would have to say that my biggest challenge has been the lack of pay or low pay. When I began this career, it was very difficult economically to support my family, afford school and work in a job that I can “afford” in order support my family.

I became very focused on creative ways to solve this. I looked long and hard and would only take a paid practicum. I applied for every scholarship or stipend I could find and I “dug very deep looking.”

I now work two jobs in order to make all of this work.  I love the work but it shouldn’t be this hard.

Peter: It seems that each pre-licensed person I know is a little island onto themselves.  Most don’t feel like someone has their back.  They are in it alone, and just pushing through until the hours and the MFT exam are behind them.  I also feel that challenge.  Group supervision is helpful, but I would much prefer a more connected community of peers and colleagues.  I know that communities like exist, and I would like to see more instances of that kind of coming together.  I network and I stay in touch with cohort friends, but I think we can do better.

Is there anything else you would like to say as CAMFT’s prelicensed members compare your responses with those of the other candidate for Pre-Licensed Director-at-Large?

Peter: Mostly I want to say – good luck to you all; you have chosen a path of service and caring, and we can do a better job to honor and value you from the very start.  Of course I hope you will vote for me but even more – I hope these issues matter enough to you to simply vote.

Joseph: Yes. I don’t think that you can go wrong with either candidate. But I can only speak for myself. I have worked very hard to receive the honor of placement on the ballot by the nominating committee and the honor to serve you. I don’t know anyone who will work harder on your behalf.

Thank you to both candidates for their thoughtful responses! Joseph and Peter have offered to answer other questions readers may have via email.

About the Author

Robin Andersen is the founder of Prelicensed. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT 100070) who is passionate about giving back to associate marriage and family therapists, trainees, and students by maintaining this valuable resource. More information about Robin can be found here.

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