Call for Change group offers non-rebuttal rebuttal

MFT Call for Change group responds to my previous post, where I highlighted several of their erroneous statements about California.                                                                                                                                                                                     

The group calling themselves “MFTs Call for Change” (CFC) has posted a lengthy rebuttal to my earlier post criticizing CFC misstatements about California, specifically in areas related to the LPCC license and its development here.

Notably, they rarely, if ever, challenge my statements of fact. They claim that my post included “misinformation,” but their arguments are more often of the moving-the-target (“yes, but”) variety than they are factual disagreement. And they add at least one to the list of factual errors of their own.

  • CFC criticizes my statement that “When CAMFT was negotiating changes to various versions of the LPCC bill, they sought to make MFTs and LPCCs as indistinguishable as possible.” They would prefer I label this as my own belief, or an opinion of AAMFT-CA. But there’s no need. I saw, firsthand, CAMFT’s opposition to language supporting distinctiveness of professions during the negotiation process. Remember, CAMFT wanted grandparenting to be automatic for licensed MFTs based just on coursework (this version of the bill allowed exactly that), and indeed, CAMFT has continued to argue there are no meaningful differences in practice between the MFT and LPCC professions (as CAMFT themselves said, they believe “LMFTs and LCSWs may do in practice everything LPCCs may do“) — which would make the licenses effectively indistinguishable. That’s not my belief, that’s an argument CAMFT itself is continuing to make and act upon.
  • Along similar lines, CFC calls my discussion of CAMFT’s lawsuit against the BBS “patently irresponsible” because… well, I can’t tell why, exactly. I’m not even sure which part they’re taking issue with. CAMFT sued the BBS to try to make the “gap exam” for MFT grandparenting go away, based on their belief that the practices of the professions are indistinguishable. They have very clearly said so. That the lawsuit attempted to use technical means (like the BBS’s failure to consult with a state agency on exams, the one point of three in the lawsuit on which CAMFT won) to reach their desired ends (no gap exam) does not change those desired ends or the publicly-stated rationale behind them.
  • AAMFT-CA and AAMFT have not been “against the LPCC bill since its inception,” as CFC newly and falsely claims. Primary sources here tell the tale. California counselor legislation was first introduced in February 2005. In November 2005, nine months later, I first spoke to a legislative committee about AAMFT-CA’s concerns with bill language. Even then, AAMFT-CA took no formal position, as we understood the bill would be further amended. AAMFT-CA only formally opposed LPCC legislation in 2007 (this legislative committee analysis is the first mention of AAMFT-CA opposition), after it became clear that the legislation was moving in a direction that would hurt the MFT profession. Furthermore, in 2009, once we worked out the compromise language that became the LPCC law, AAMFT-CA’s opposition was removed [page 2], helping the bill pass. The larger AAMFT never took any formal position at all on the bill.
  • In discussing Kim Madsen, the BBS Executive Director, the CFC rebuttal suggests that in my post, “The reader has been lead [sic] to believe Ms. Madsen would be less than forthcoming” when discussing licensure issues. Nonsense. Ms. Madsen has been, in my experience, extremely professional, highly ethical, and very forthcoming, even when we have disagreed on policy. In my earlier post, what I suggested was that CFC, not Ms. Madsen, was being less than forthcoming by leaving out important details. This should have been evident in my preface “I suspect what Ms. Madsen said was…” Given my experiences with each of them, I trust her to be complete and forthcoming much more than I presently trust CFC to do so.

As I said previously, the CFC group seems to be well-meaning. I just don’t understand their dogged pursuit of this line of criticism. It is not supported by facts, and makes CFC look more interested in finding fault with AAMFT than actually supporting or developing the profession.

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If I did make any errors of fact — there or here — I would like to correct them. Email me at ben[at], post a comment, or call for a change to my Twitter feed.

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

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Blogging the AAMFT Conference: Thursday/Friday

Today was the first full day of the AAMFT Annual Conference, which is in my former hometown of Sacramento. It’s been great catching up with old friends, colleagues, and students — this event has become as much a reunion for me as an educational experience. Still, I’ve learned a lot. Here’s what I’ve learned last night and today:

  • We’ve come a long way. The opening plenary on Thursday night was an appreciation of the history of our field, and a celebration of finally accomplishing licensure in all 50 states. Bruce Kuehl did a great job with it, and I may be adding clips from this to the MFT Theories course next year.
  • I need to start a Facebook group. I’ll call it “MFTers for Changing MFTers for Change.” But then a subgroup would probably spring up to try to change my group, and I don’t want that kind of trouble.
  • Family systems and psychoanalytic principles are not mutually exclusive. Okay, to be fair I already knew that. But Richard Scwartz’s presentation of Internal Family Systems made me believe this more strongly than I had before.
  • COAMFTE accreditation matters. I already knew this too, but now I have more evidence to back it up. Jeff Larson was kind enough to fill in for Russ Crane, and Jeff joined Mary Moline and I in presenting a workshop on the things that set COAMFTE programs apart. Jeff handled curriculum, pointing out that MFTs are required by licensure laws to get far more education and experience in family therapy than any other profession. Mary took on public mental health, reviewing how the COAMFTE programs in California and around the country are uniquely positioned to integrate changes in public mental health approaches like the recovery orientation. And I took on licensure, pointing out that graduates of COAMFTE-accredited programs get further, faster in the licensure process and are more likely to pass their exams than graduates of non-COAMFTE programs.

Overall, the AAMFT Annual Conference has again earned its spot as the most valuable and rewarding continuing education event I attend during the year. More tomorrow.