There was a lot to talk about at the just-concluded 2010 AAMFT Annual Conference in Atlanta, where more than 1,700 clinicians and researchers from around the country gathered to share the latest ideas in treatment. This year’s theme was “Marriage: Social and Relational Perspectives,” and this year’s jump in conference attendance was well-deserved. Hitting some of the high points:* For my money, Stephanie Coontz should be a keynote speaker every year. Last year, she talked about time-use studies and the changing face of American families. This year she gave a lively summation of her great book, Marriage: A history, putting modern marriage into a larger context. Next year’s theme will be “The science of relationships,” and I hope there’s a way to bring her into that, too. The woman could make the history of the paper bag engaging. * The last plenary speaker, John Witte Jr., was not quite as advertised, but started great dinner-table conversation. He had promised a speech on “Marriage, Religion, and the Law,” which could have been wonderful — a more conservative counterpoint to the arguments others made in favor of same-sex marriage. Ultimately, he barely mentioned religion at all. Which was too bad — as I’ve argued before, there is a reasonable debate to be had about the role of religion in marriage (and specifically whether religious therapists should refer out same-sex couples they do not feel they can work with supportively). I really, really wish someone could put together a respectful dialogue on the topic. But for what it turned out to be, Witte’s speech was valuable. His proposals for legal-system remedies to the changes in family formation and dissolution in the US were far-fetched, but started some great conversations. We all want parents to be responsible for their choices, but how do you have a legal system that best balances supporting families in need with punishing those who are irresponsible? I loved the variety of ideas about that just at my own dinner table; I’m sure similar discussions were happening at plenty of others. * We’re making great strides in the effective treatment of military veterans and their families. MFTs are ideally trained to help keep military marriages and relationships strong (or to end them more peacefully when necessary), and there was a whole track at the conference dedicated to just this kind of work. The timing could not have been better: finally, after years of struggle with the implementation process, the Department of Veterans affairs has a job description specifically for marriage and family therapists. It’s always refreshing to renew old connections and make new ones at the conference, and I especially enjoyed the opportunity to present with some of my faculty colleagues from the Alliant MFT program. My heartfelt thanks to everyone who made the conference such a success. I can’t wait for next year!
For those of you familiar with VA hiring practices, MFTs now become part of the Title 38 Hybrid category, and entry-level MFTs will be brought in at salary grade GS-9. (While salaries vary by specific location, in California this is likely to mean starting salaries in the $50s/yr, judging by social worker positions at the same salary grade.) More experienced MFTs will be at GS-11 (mid- to upper-$60s and up), and supervisors at GS-12.Keep an eye on www.aamft.org for additional information, and the VA’s job search site for new openings as they arise.
My friends at AAMFT Government Affairs have great news: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has finally approved a new job category for marriage and family therapists (MFTs)! This has been a long time in the making, as the VA had dragged its heels since the law mandating such a job category was enacted in December 2006.
Partial text from the AAMFT letter to members follows.
Despite the uncertain timeframe for necessary next steps within the VA, the AAMFT will continue to advocate on behalf of the MFT profession to see that there is swift and fair resolution to final VA implementation. The AAMFT will be working alongside the VA Human Resources’ office to formalize the establishment of new qualification standards for these emerging VA positions. They have indicated that they will seek counsel with our professional organization moving forward as an MFT subject matter expert for the actual development of these classification standards.
Ever since Public Law 109-461 (the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act) was signed back in December of 2006, the AAMFT has been vigilant in pushing for its resolution and enactment, allowing veterans’ around the country access to the services of MFTs. Over the last few months, AAMFT joined forces with the American Counseling Association (ACA) and the American Mental Health Counselor’s Association (AMHCA). In recent weeks, the California Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (CAMFT) also signed onto the united front of AAMFT, ACA and AMHCA. These latest initiatives have been aimed at getting Congress to vocally express its desire for “the will of law” to be adhered through swift VA implementation of MFT and Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs).