Call for Change group erroneously calls California licensure threat “unsubstantiated rumor”

A group of well-meaning MFTs has been trying to make AAMFT more transparent and accountable. But their latest report about the LPCC license in California, which claims to have found deception by AAMFT, gets the important facts wrong.

Nuvola apps error* See updates below.

If you’re a member of AAMFT or have been connected in any way with the “Call for Change,” you may have received an email with an unsettling headline:

Unsubstantiated Rumor Influences AAMFT’s Strategic Plan

The email goes on to say that this “unsubstantiated rumor” was the notion that there was a threat to MFT licensure in California connected to the development of the state’s Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) license. You can read the CFC’s complete report online: CA LPC Deception Revealed.

Because the threat posed by LPCC licensure was all “unsubstantiated rumor,” the CFC logic goes, perhaps someone at AAMFT knowingly ginned it up for political reasons:

What could be the motives behind generating such rumors, fear, and speculation within our membership in relation to a document and process as significant as a long range Strategic Plan? Since the truth of this matter was already known by AAMFT leadership, could the reason be political?

For anyone unfamiliar, the CFC group is made up largely of well-meaning MFTs who want a more open, accountable professional association. That’s a laudable goal, and they have pushed AAMFT into making some much-needed changes, especially around organizational transparency. There is surely more work to be done on that front, and for that reason, a subgroup like CFC can sometimes ultimately be a positive thing for the larger association they criticize.

In this case, though, CFC gets the important facts wrong, and loses a great deal of its own credibility in the process. It starts by reporting that Kim Madsen, the California Board of Behavioral Sciences Executive Director, told them “there had been no current or past discussions regarding replacing the LMFT license in California with the LPC license” (I’m quoting the CFC’s paraphrase of Ms. Madsen). I of course was not in on this phone call, but I suspect what Ms. Madsen said was that no such discussion took place at the BBS. And, with that kind-of-important detail, that’s true — the BBS never had a public meeting or vote where replacing the MFT license was discussed or voted on.

For the CFC to extrapolate that to the notion that no one in California ever discussed eliminating the MFT license, however, is a rather significant error. CAMFT (which is not affiliated with AAMFT or its California Division) specifically discussed replacing the MFT license. You can see it in page 14 of this California legislative committee report, and the same text was in an email to members that CAMFT sent in May 2007 (emphasis mine):

CAMFT states, “At some time in the future, we project that there will only be one masters level profession in California, with individuals specializing within that license. Thus, those who wish to specialize in systems work will do so; those who wish to specialize in art therapy will do so, etc. The current system with a variety of acronyms is confusing for consumers who just want to be helped and do not perceive greater value from one professional compared to the next.”

When CAMFT was negotiating changes to various versions of the LPCC bill, they sought to make MFTs and LPCCs as indistinguishable as possible. And without distinctiveness between professions, it becomes much harder to argue that distinct licensure should be maintained. Sure enough, the following language was inserted into a version of the 2008 LPCC bill (which ultimately failed; again, emphasis mine):

The Department of Consumer Affairs and the Board of Behavioral Sciences shall collaboratively evaluate the licensing requirements and scope of practice for licensed professional
counselors, licensed clinical social workers, licensed educational psychologists, and marriage and family therapists. The evaluation shall include a recommendation on whether or not these licensed professions should become a general license category, and if such a recommendation is made, how it is proposed to occur.

CAMFT projected a one-license future, and that proposal found its way into proposed legislation. These are facts on the public record. They are indisputable. That legislation may have become law had AAMFT-CA and the California Psychological Association not worked diligently in opposition. For CFC to dismiss the threat to California MFT licensure as “unsubstantiated rumor” is clearly and demonstrably incorrect.

CFC goes on to question how CAMFT could possibly have any influence over license transitions, since it is the BBS and not any professional association that enforces licensure standards. This is shockingly naive. CAMFT does a tremendous amount of work (often very good and beneficial) on state legislation, and the licensure standards the BBS exists to enforce are written in state law; the BBS has no right or authority to refuse to enforce a law once it takes effect. Almost every major piece of state legislation that has impacted California MFTs in a generation has had CAMFT’s fingerprints on it. If CAMFT wanted MFTs to become LPCs, they wouldn’t politely ask the BBS to make it happen. They would seek to change the law, and they have the resources to do so. As you can see above, a change in the law is precisely what could have happened.

Even after the final version of the LPCC law passed in California, CAMFT has continued to work hard at making MFTs and LPCCs seem indistinguishable. When even the relatively minor barrier of a “gap exam” for MFTs seeking grandparenting into LPCC licensure arose, CAMFT not only fought it, they sued the BBS — a suit that could have, among other things, led to a court ruling that the professions are not distinct.

Thankfully, CAMFT largely lost that suit. There will be a gap exam, and the BBS is supporting distinctiveness between MFTs and LPCCs in other ways. But for CFC to suggest that there never was a threat to the MFT license in California — or indeed, to even suggest that threat has fully abated now — is simply out of line with reality.


Full disclosure: I have served as a consultant to AAMFT in the past (not currently), and still volunteer regularly for the California Division, though I hold no official role there. I was part of the AAMFT-CA negotiating team on California LPCC legislation. I’m a former CAMFT member; their lawsuit against the BBS led me out the door.


Updated 3-16-2011: The Call for Change folks have posted a rebuttal to my post here. See: CFC rebuttal // My response

# # #

The image above is the semaphore sign for “error.” Think I’m out of line with reality? Post a comment below or email ben[at] Follow my Twitter feed.