AAMFT restructure vote fails. What’s next?

red checkmark by piotr siedlecki via publicdomainpictures.netThe American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) announced today that the membership vote on a proposed AAMFT restructure was short of the 2/3 majority needed for the restructure to take effect.

Approximately 61% of voters supported the plan, with 39% opposed.

Had the vote passed, AAMFT’s state and provincial divisions would have been dissolved in favor of a more centralized structure. Members would have been able to organize themselves into “special interest groups” based on geography, clinical focus, or other interests.

The months leading up to the vote have included passionate arguments on both sides. AAMFT’s leadership has made clear that the financial and organizational pressures in AAMFT’s current structure cannot be resolved without some form of change. The failed proposal had been developed through a long and inclusive process, and AAMFT sent several mailers and email reminders to members encouraging a yes vote.

At the same time, some state and provincial divisions balked at the proposal, arguing that the current structure allows them to serve the needs of their local members far better than a centralized structure would. Some leaders expressed particular concern about what would happen to state-level advocacy, a concern that AAMFT tried to address through its Family TEAM and a series of videos about how state advocacy could work in a restructured organization.

The final vote tally allows for multiple interpretations. The fact that there were wide variations from one state to the next suggests the possibility that members who felt well-supported by their current divisions, or who live in areas where professional leaders encouraged a no vote, didn’t support the plan — but that those people are the minority of voting members. It could also be inferred that members generally acknowledge the need for structural change, and simply disagree about what kind of change would be best. And, as with any membership vote, it’s possible that a large number of voters were not fully informed on the issues involved, and voted based on their immediate response to what they read on the ballot itself.

Thankfully, the failed vote does not simply leave AAMFT back at the proverbial drawing board. They have gathered and shared a great deal of information in the past months about the current status of the organization and the potential benefits of various organizational structures. It is certainly possible that another alternative will be presented for a member vote next year. The future of the organization is sure to be a hot topic at next month’s AAMFT Annual Conference in Austin.

[ Note – I’m not on the AAMFT California Division leadership team now, but I’ve been on the Division board and chaired the Legislative and Advocacy Committee in the past. I still consult with that committee in a non-voting role. It’s worth acknowledging that the vote would have impacted me and many people I know and have worked with — some of whom supported the change and some of whom opposed it. ]