(The viewpoints expressed in this blog article are solely those of Robin Andersen, LMFT.)

Since creating Prelicensed nearly three and a half years ago, I’ve spoken to hundreds (if not thousands) of prelicensed therapists in-person and online. I’ve focused on debunking myths about the prelicensed years, overcoming obstacles, and finding your place within the ever-expanding MFT field. Regardless of whether I’m speaking informally or at a professional event, I usually share a story or two about my own struggles, and how my prior experiences as an unpaid associate (formerly intern) ultimately led to the creation of Prelicensed. I’m proud to be an advocate for prelicensed therapists, and I’m proud to collaborate with numerous individuals who share a similar mindset.

I’ve recently increased my advocacy efforts by seeking election to CAMFT’s Board of Directors. After serving at the local and state levels of CAMFT for a number of years, I decided it was time to expand upon my commitment to both prelicensed and licensed members within the organization. This is a contested election (four candidates for three Clinical Director-at-Large positions), so voting will be crucial in deciding the outcome.

Unfortunately, the associates, trainees, and students I’m advocating for can’t vote for me.

Let me expand upon that last statement. If you are a prelicensed member of CAMFT, then you can’t vote for me, or for any of the other Clinical Director-at-Large candidates, or for the (uncontested) Secretary candidate, or for the President-Elect candidates. In fact, you’ll only be able to cast your vote for the Pre-Licensed Director-at-Large position. This is due to how CAMFT’s Bylaws are written (see Article IV, Section B (2)):

  • “The prelicensed member’s right to vote is limited to voting only for the one director at large who is elected from and by the prelicensed membership.”

Why Does This Matter?

CAMFT is an independent professional organization in California that specifically represents the interests of marriage and family therapists. CAMFT’s activities focus on “the advancement of marriage and family therapy as an art, a science and a mental health profession, and the advancement of the common business interests of its members.” CAMFT plays an essential role in advocating for the profession, so it’s important for CAMFT to be aware of what its membership wants (including the prelicensed members who make up nearly one-third of CAMFT’s total membership).

Under the current Bylaws, prelicensed members of CAMFT are only able to vote for one of its twelve board members. I believe that all of CAMFT’s board members care about issues affecting prelicensed therapists, but I question how effectively an organization can determine which issues to prioritize when it limits the voting rights of nearly one-third of its membership. CAMFT election results indicate what the licensed membership wants, but what about the prelicensed membership? How can an organization feel confident in its advocacy efforts when most of the board members haven’t been elected by the prelicensed membership?

Why Do the Bylaws State This?

I was able to find one article from The Therapist Magazine (January/February 2015), written by the former Executive Director of CAMFT, that discussed the historical context for this section of the Bylaws. I was disappointed to see how brief the article was and how it failed to explore the downsides of limiting prelicensed voting rights. Prelicensed members make up nearly one-third of CAMFT’s total membership, and I believe continuing to restrict their voting rights year after year is unacceptable.

It’s also worth noting that under CAMFT’s Bylaws, “All members of the Board of Directors must possess a Marriage and Family Therapist license (except the pre-licensed member)” (see Article VI, Section A (3)(b)). I will be discussing this further in a future blog article (part 2 of 2), as I feel this point deserves its own in-depth exploration around prelicensed representation within CAMFT.

What Has CAMFT Done So Far?

This section of the Bylaws has been brought to the membership’s attention over the years via The Therapist Magazine, CAMFT’s “Pre-Licensees’ Corner,” and CAMFT board meeting documents. The first mention of addressing this change that I could find was located in The Therapist Magazine (January/February 2015):

  • “In order to get meaningful feedback on this important issue, an online group has been created in the CAMFT Community called “Prelicensed Voting Rights.” We invite you to participate in this group by visiting http:// community.camft.org.. Staff will collect the comments from this Community group by April 1, 2015 and report back to the Board in June. A follow-up article will appear in The Therapist after the Board reviews the comments from the Community.”

Over a year later, the following statement was made in CAMFT’s Pre-Licensees’ Corner (March 2016):

  • “The [Pre-Licensed] Committee reviewed the current voting rights of pre-licensee members. Currently, the pre-licensed class of membership includes both trainees and interns and their voting rights are limited to electing the one pre-licensed member on the twelve member Board. The Committee agreed Interns deserve full voting rights in all CAMFT elections, and voted to recommend that the Board direct the Bylaws Committee to draft a recommendation expanding full voting rights to Interns. Other therapy organizations, e.g., NASW and the California Psychological Association, allow their post-graduate members to vote in the election of all Board members. To accomplish this bylaw change, a bylaw amendment would be needed to bifurcate the current pre-licensed class of membership into a Student Membership and an Intern Membership and to allow the Intern Membership to vote in all CAMFT elections. The Board will consider this Committee recommendation at its March 19-20 Board meeting in Napa, California.

I was able to find the outcome of that March 2016 board meeting:

  • “After a lengthy discussion about the Bylaw Committee’s proposed bylaw amendments that addressed housekeeping issues, including online voting, the Board opted to, instead, focus on other business to meet members’ needs and to re-visit these proposed amendments in the future. It was noted that once the BBS bill changing the title from “Intern” to “Associate” becomes law, clean-up language to the bylaws would be desirable and all suggested housekeeping changes could be recommended at some point after that law is in effect. Staff was directed to explore the possibility of separate classes of membership for Trainees and Interns the next time the Bylaws Committee meets to discuss possible bylaw amendments.”

The next mention of the issue that I could find took place two years later, at the March 2018 board meeting:

  • “The Board also directed the Bylaws Committee to review the bylaws as a whole and prioritize sections of the bylaws that need to be updated and/or clarified to bring back to the Board for further discussion.”

As you can see, there was no specific mention of prelicensed members’ voting rights. Since then, the Bylaws Committee has referenced amendments in May 2018 and August 2018, but it is not clear whether prelicensed members’ voting rights would be addressed.

  • “The Bylaws Committee will reconvene within the next three months (between June and August) to carry out the Board’s direction (from the March, 2018 Board meeting) to review and prioritize sections of the CAMFT Bylaws that need clarity/amendments for the Board’s review. The Committee will review and discuss any recommendations for amendments to the abovereferenced sections at this future meeting.”
  • “The Bylaws Committee will meet on August 29, 2018, to discuss the directives given to the Committee at the March 2018 Board meeting. An update will be provided at the December Board meeting.”

What Can You Do?

Fortunately, the public board book from the latest CAMFT board meeting stated the following (see page 157):

  • “The Board of Directors will have the opportunity to review and weigh-in on the Bylaws Committee’s suggested amendments at the March 2019 Board meeting. If the Board recommends substantial changes to the proposed amendments, the changes will go back to the Bylaws Committee then back to the Board for the June or September 2019 Board meeting. If the Board makes minor changes to the proposed amendments, the bylaws will go to membership for comment. As part of the member comment period, CAMFT will host in-person town hall meetings in northern and southern California for member feedback. In addition, CAMFT will host webinars for additional opportunities for members to provide feedback. After member comment is received, the Bylaws Committee will review the comments and make updates to the amendments. The final draft of recommended amendments will go to the Board hopefully by the end of December 2019 for final approval. It is anticipated the recommended changes to the Bylaws will be sent to membership for approval in early 2020.

This means that prelicensed and licensed members of CAMFT can take action over the next 1-2 years to give prelicensed therapists an unrestricted vote in future CAMFT elections.

Prelicensed Members:

  • Talk to your licensed colleagues.
    • They are the ones who have unlimited voting rights within CAMFT, and therefore have a louder voice.
    • They can advocate on your behalf by voting for candidates that want to support you.

Licensed Members:

  • Think of your prelicensed colleagues.
    • They have had, and will continue to have, a limited voice within CAMFT until you speak up on their behalf.
    • Please take the time to read each candidate’s statement, fill out your ballot, and mail it in by the deadline. One vote can make all the difference in a contested election.

All Members:

  • Attend as many state CAMFT meetings as possible.
    • Board meetings have member forums that allow attendees to present concerns or topics for future agenda items.
    • Once the Bylaws go to membership for comment, there will be “in-person town hall meetings” and “webinars for additional opportunities for members to provide feedback.” These are prime opportunities to tell CAMFT’s Board of Directors that you want to see specific changes to the Bylaws regarding prelicensed voting rights.

It’s important to me that all CAMFT members have an opportunity to be heard by the Board of Directors, regardless of whether or not I am ultimately appointed to a Clinical Director-at-Large position. Please share this blog article with prelicensed and licensed colleagues in order to spread awareness of this issue and encourage active participation in the CAMFT election process. I’m also happy to continue discussing this issue in the comments section below, and in our newly-launched Prelicensed Group on Facebook!

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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