Los Angeles Chapter — California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
Voices — February 2021
Jenni J.V. Wilson, LMFT
Love Over Violence
I’m writing this the weekend of January 10th, understanding much will change over the next three weeks before it posts.
February primarily symbolizes two things for me: Love and Black History. I originally intended to write a celebration of the reimagining of LA-CAMFT’s LGBTQ+ Special Interest Group (for more info LGBTQsig@lacamft.org), musing on love and humanness through my experience of witnessing the longevity of true coupledom between my “Uncle Sean” and “Uncle Vaughn,” as hetero marriages around them crumbled.
I also considered writing on cultural humility, blind spots, and safe spaces, recognizing the importance of Black History Month and cheering on LA-CAMFT’s Diversity Committee’s latest offering of a specifically black therapist support group that will be led by Baaba Hawthorne, LMFT, Clinical Director at Two Chairs Therapy (for more info email@example.com).
But as the events of these recent days unfolded, my focus struggled to settle into these ideas. I was thrown off kilter, preoccupied with current events and the uncertainties we’re facing as a nation.
I couldn’t believe it when he won. Personally, no one I knew thought he would win; no channels or podcasts I consumed thought there was a chance our candidate could lose. Every conversation had on or off of social media convinced me that my worst fears would never manifest. And then they did.
My mind raced: It must have been rigged, those numbers couldn’t be right unless the election was stolen. It felt mighty convenient how it played out, as if each state was strategically targeted and infiltrated from the top down. People didn’t actually VOTE for that clown, did they? I wondered what world I was living in? “They hate us,” I said to my husband. And by “us” I didn’t mean him. I meant “women.” (In panicked moments I can view the world through the narrow myopic lenses that comprise the walls of my bubble.)
Unless you know my perspective starts with being a half-Mexican-American bisexual atheist aging hipster preppy rebel progressive cis-gender woman, who loves facts and science, art and individuality, from a Midwestern union family, raised on literature, theatre, and music more than sports and the outdoors—you might not know if I were talking about the 2016 or 2020 elections. Being gut-punched when Hilary lost in 2016, I repeatedly return to that feeling in order to connect with what nearly 47 percent of voters might have felt realizing the 2020 election had not gone their way.
As in 2016, some people today cannot, and will not believe they got it wrong—the only explanation their rigid beliefs will allow is that the election was stolen. With persecutory delusion, they believe all they’ve been told about a government of godless liberals hell-bent on causing suffering and destruction by taking their guns and their Merry Christmases, by forcing inclusion and tolerance upon them. They’ve religiously ingested the seditious lies repeated by the loud pretty people on TV for years, resulting in no delineation between reality and the reality show they tuned into.
For many in my bubble, organizing online around knitting pink hats, signing petitions, and marching peacefully on January 21st, 2017, temporarily alleviated feelings of impotence. Yet, however similar the depths of discontent over election outcomes may appear, all comparison ends between each party’s faithful when considering the grotesquely violent reactions of true MAGA believers we witnessed—e.g., constructing gallows, planting pipe bombs, and looting congressional offices.
These domestic terrorists organized online, too, meeting sans masks in churches, lodges, and red-hat rallies, boldly announcing plans across platforms. No doubt it felt good to be seen, heard, and needed in an important patriotic fight. With all cameras on them, filling their social media feeds, the rush of anger’s adrenaline finally gave meaning to this moment. Wrapping themselves in flags, picking up their guns and hardware in a performance of perceived strength, they stormed the polls on election night and throughout the weeks as votes were counted and recounted.
Frustrations built as they marched on courts, with case after case exposed as built on hot air, on dismissible arguments. They determinedly sent hard-earned dollars to defend their billionaire grifter saints, tweeting their “truth” and locations into smart phones, and screaming that Bill Gates cooked up this hoax to microchip us all. So while it was disturbing, it was hardly shocking when the bloodthirsty and riotous mob stormed our nation’s capitol on January 6th, 2021, committing acts of insurrection at their leader’s behest in maskless, spiteful glee. We all saw it. The loud pretty people saw it, denying their own seditious contribution to the inevitable. Even the rich cynics saw it, responding in wide-eyed incredulity that this was all a step too far for them.
When this posts, who knows what more will have happened, what literal or figurative fires will need putting out. Sadly, we’ll likely be nearing 400,000+ Covid deaths, with many more people losing jobs, homes, loved ones, and their ability to cope. Should the law and cooler heads prevail, with an average Joe sworn in on January 20th, we will still have a mess to contend with, but likely will be better resourced to help others—under a mask mandate, with a more organized vaccine roll-out, and better able to sleep at night.
Although legislative change may not come quickly, significant change does await us on the horizon, with the potential to lift all boats—no matter whom you voted for.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed,but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” James Baldwin
JJVW—Jenni June Villegas Wilson
Jenni J.V. Wilson, LMFT is a collaborative conversationalist, trained in narrative therapy and EMDR. She works with creative and anxious clients on improving, avoiding, and eliminating co-dependent and toxic relationships, while finding healthy ways to be unapologetically themselves. She is the primary therapist at Conclusions Treatment Center IOP in Mission Hills, and has a private practice in Sherman Oaks.
Mindful Intimacy:Accessing the Power of Vulnerability
Giselle L. Jones, LCSW, CMF, CSAT
Giselle L Jones will present a practical, brief exploration of the vast yet intricate world of intimacy through the lens of mindfulness. We all have training throughout the lifespan that can promote and inhibit our ability to access the power of vulnerability. This can affect how we engage at work, with family, in friendships, and is woven through our romantic and sexual connections. Engaging with somatic inquiry, curiosity and imagination, Giselle invites a safe study of ways we can support our clients in connecting more deeply with themselves and others when and if they choose. Her intention is to honor all inclusion.
Event Details: Friday, February 19, 2021, 9:00 am-11:00 am
Where: Online Via Zoom
After you register you will be emailed a Zoom link the Wednesday before the presentation.
Register today by clicking the Register Here button below.
Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT
Getting Paid: Local Networking—
The Best Way to Grow and Fill a Practice
Consistent, effective, and ongoing local networking is the best way to get known in your community—and the fastest way to grow your practice and keep it full. This is true not only for private practice but for mental health centers, agencies, and any type of program, center or service whether public or private.
What is local networking and how does it work? Local networking is raising awareness in your local community about what you do, who you work with, and the services you offer. It involves getting the word out on a consistent basis to those in the community around you—online, in person or in print—about who you are, the services you offer, and how you help people.
The key to successful local networking is regularly contacting and connecting with everyone in your local community—those you know or have met—and keeping them up-to-date with you and what’s going on in your practice/career/business/project.
Everyone in your local community? Yes, everyone. Relatives, friends, neighbors; your kid’s teacher, childcare person, dogwalker, plumber, gardener, housekeeper, mechanic, contractor, Uber/Lyft driver; social, business, and community contacts; nurses, doctors, lawyers, financial advisor; colleagues and other professionals; those attending church or temple as well as the minister, pastor, rabbi, deacon, cantor, choral director, and others; people you worked with previously or were in graduate school with or at a placement—and don’t forget your former professors and supervisors. The list is endless.
Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT, AAMFT Approved Supervisor, is in private practice in Santa Monica where she works with Couples and Gifted, Talented, and Creative Adults across the lifespan. Lynne’s been doing business and clinical coaching with mental health professionals for more than 15 years, helping them develop even more successful careers and practices. To learn more about her in-person and online services, workshops or monthly no-cost Online Networking & Practice Development Lunch visit www.Gifted-Adults.com or www.LAPracticeDevelopment.com.
Lucy Sladek, LMFT
It has come to our attention that the LA-CAMFT automatically-generated renewal and renewal-pending notifications sent to our members are not always arriving in their inboxes. This is generally due to an individual member's email service not recognizing an email as "legitimate," and redirects that email to either a Trash or Junk Mail folder, or in the case of a Gmail account, to the Social, Updates, Forums or Promotions tabs, if they are enabled.
In order to prevent this from happening we suggest you "whitelist" any of the LA-CAMFT email addresses, from which emails arrive in your inbox, in particular, firstname.lastname@example.org. Your email provider typically provides instructions on how to do this.
This is important as the LA-CAMFT membership process automatically marks as lapsed (and then suspended) any member failing to make payment within 90 days of scheduled renewal. If your account has been listed as renewal-pending, meaning payment has not been made, we urge you to visit your account to submit that payment.
If you have any questions, please reach out to me directly.
Lucy Sladek, LMFT
Membership Chair, LA-CAMFT
of Inclusion, Diversity, and Anti-Racism
Psychotherapy can be transformative in a democratic society, and can open intellectual inquiry that, at its best, influences and results in lasting positive change. In recognition of our shared humanity and concern for our community and world, LA-CAMFT loudly and overtly disavows all racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, classism, ableism, ageism, and hate speech or actions that attempt to silence, threaten, and degrade others. We in LA-CAMFT leadership hereby affirm our solidarity with those individuals and groups most at risk and further declare that embracing diversity and fostering inclusivity are central to the mission of our organization.
As mental health professionals, we value critical reasoning, evidence-based arguments, self-reflection, and the imagination. We hope to inspire empathy, advocate for social and environmental justice, and provide an ethical framework for our clients, our community, and ourselves.
We in LA-CAMFT leadership are committed to:
(1) the recognition, respect, and affirmation of differences among peoples
(2) challenging oppression and structural and procedural inequities that exist in society, generally, and in local therapeutic, agency, and academic settings
(3) offering diverse programming content and presenters throughout our networking event calendar, as well as in our workshops, trainings, and special events
While we traverse the turbulent seas of the important and necessary changes taking place in our country, in order to form a “more perfect union.” we wish to convey our belief that within our community exists an immense capacity for hope. We believe in and have seen how psychotherapy, therapeutic relationships, and mental health professions can be agents of positive change, without ignoring or denying that the practice and business of psychiatry, psychology, and psychotherapy have historically been the cause of great harm, trauma, and emotional toll, particularly for people of color and other marginalized groups. We are committed to doing our part to help remedy that which we have the position, privilege, and/or resources to do so.
At LA-CAMFT events, all members are welcome regardless of race/ethnicity, gender identities, gender expressions, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, disabilities, religion, regional background, Veteran status, citizenship, status, nationality and other diverse identities that we each bring to our professions. We expect that leadership and members will promote an atmosphere of respect for all members of our community.
In a diverse community, the goal of inclusiveness encourages and appreciates expressions of different ideas, opinions, and beliefs, so that potentially divisive conversations and interactions become opportunities for intellectual and personal growth. LA-CAMFT leadership wants to embrace this opportunity to create and maintain inclusive and safe spaces for all of our members, free of bias, discrimination, and harassment, where people will be treated with respect and dignity and where all individuals are provided equitable opportunity to participate, contribute, and succeed.
We value your voice in this process. If you feel that our leadership or programming falls short of this commitment, we encourage you to get involved, and to begin a dialogue with those in leadership. It is undeniable that the success of LA-CAMFT relies on the participation, support, and understanding of all its members.
Standing together,The LA-CAMFT Board of Directors and Diversity Committee
LMFT, NMP, CGP
Deciding How When If You Want
to Return to In-Person Sessions
My friends and I have been talking about what it might be like to return to seeing clients in person. We have been discussing this topic throughout the pandemic and there are so many factors to consider. Each of us has our own preferences and there is no one-size-fits-all decision; I am aware of the fact that many therapists have continued to see their clients in person. I am hoping this brief article may help you to explore your choices.
Let’s start with space. Do you have enough room in your home to comfortably work from home? If you don’t have a dedicated office, can you create a separate workspace by moving some furniture or buying a desk that you can slide in an out of your living room? One of my friends uses a decorative screen to divide her space and protect her privacy.
I don’t have a separate office area at home, so I prefer to leave the house and work virtually from an office. My preference might change based on how things unfold with the virus. If you do plan to continue working from home, I recommend you look closely at all your equipment and make sure you have a proper desk, good size monitor, ergonomic chair and comfortable keyboard setup. I will talk more about ergonomics in next month’s article.
The next question to consider is your own health. Do you have any chronic health issues? Are you caring for an elderly parent or family member? I answered yes to both of those questions and had a long conversation about how to see clients in-person with my doctor. I came up with more logistical concerns after speaking with her.
I am also concerned about how to help my clients feel safe in returning to my office, should I decide to see them in person. I’m a group therapist and do not have space for eight people to sit six feet apart for my women’s group. One of my groups is a hybrid, meaning people can choose to attend in person or online and the third group is completely online. The hybrid group would work fine in-person. I can certainly sit six feet apart from my individual clients, but I am not sure if either one of us will feel comfortable sitting indoors together. Then there is the issue of masks, will they still be necessary?
My women’s group members have mentioned how in the past they enjoyed their time together in the waiting room, before I came out to fetch them for group. I doubt my clients will feel comfortable sitting in a room with strangers. They could text me when they arrive, and I could respond when I am ready for them to come in.
There is also the issue of liability. According to my liability carrier, it is possible for a client to pursue legal action if they believe they contracted COVID-19 in my office. AAMFT suggests creating a specific informed consent document to use if you decide to return to seeing clients in-person, here is the link — https://www.aamft.org/Events/Coronavirus-Reopening-Guidelines.aspx,.
Many therapists are considering a blended approach of a few days in the office and a few days at home. Some therapists have decided to work online permanently. I have been seeing clients online since before the pandemic and I think it is highly effective, but I like seeing people in person and so a blended approach sounds good to me.
I know we may have a while to wait before we need to make these decisions, but I’ve found great relief in talking about this issue with my colleagues. I would love to hear what you think, and I hope you will reach out to me on social media or via email.
Maria Gray, LMFT, NMP, CGP, is a psychotherapist in private practice in Century City, she is a Brainspotting Specialist who specializes in trauma and addictions. Maria is a Certified Group Therapist and currently offers three online groups in her practice. She enjoys working with adults who grew up around mentally ill or addictive family members. To learn more, go to www.mariagray.net.
LA-CAMFT Diversity Committee
Therapists of Color Support Group
Second Sunday of Every Month
A safe place to receive peer support and process experiences of racism (systemic, social, and internalized), discrimination, implicit bias, racist injury, aggression, and micro-aggressions, along with additional experiences that therapists of color encounter in the field of mental health.
Open to LA-CAMFT Members and Non-Members
Second Sunday of Each Month
Location: Zoom Meeting
For more information, contact Niparpon Johansen, LMFT at email@example.com.
Licensed Therapists, Associates, and Students
Event Details: Sunday, February 14, 2021, 11:00 am-1:00 pm (PT)
Time of Check-In: 10:50 am
Where: Online Via Zoom
Once you have registered for the presentation, we will email you a link to Zoom a few days before the presentation.
Online Registration CLOSES Sunday, February 14th at 1 pm.
Questions about Registration? Contact Christina Cacho Sakai, LMFT at DiversityCommittee@lacamft.org.
In diversity there is beauty
and there is strength.
10 Archetypal Film Stories That Sell: Part 4
“The ten genre’s that Blake Snyder identified in the 'Save the Cat' books . . .These are my single favorite tool for screenwriters, and I strongly recommend writers know these types, and seek to write squarely within one of them.” Erik Bork: Screenwriter “Band of Brothers.”
As we noted in Parts 1 through 3, as far as the studios are concerned, they seem to have dropped the word "original" from their vocabulary. You can plainly see by the numbers of prequels, sequels, remakes, reboots, novel and comic book adaptations, that studio films are risk-averse.
For those who still want to try selling a screenplay to the studios (and have a good shot at independent sales, too), here are the next two sub-genres, of archetypal film stories identified in Snyder’s Save the Cat.
According to research by Bork, the trend since 2012 has been that the studios are only buying original spec scripts in these (and Snyder's other 8) genres.
7. Dude with A ProblemThe way Snyder describes it, this archetypal storyline features a male or female protagonist who’s faced with an immediate conflict, which is generally life-threatening and requires that he or she take action (usually physical ) now or people will die.
Let’s look at Die Hard, which pits LA Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) against what appears to be an army of terrorists who take over a Los Angeles skyscraper. Gruber (Alan Rickman) poses as the leader of this group of terrorists who start taking hostages (including McClane’s wife, Holly).
Outnumbered and out-gunned, McClane fights a series of increasingly violent battles with Gruber’s army of machine-gun-toting henchmen. The stakes keep getting raised as more hostages are taken and more people are endangered.
Guber plants C4 on the roof and plans to blow the entire building apart killing everybody and escaping in a helicopter with hundreds of millions in bearer bonds, when McClane single-handedly overcomes overwhelming odds to prevail over Guber’s army, saving the building full of people, the hostages and his wife, Holly. As McClane so aptly puts it, “Yipee-ki-yay-motherf#*ker!!”
These stories generally feature one character (often an everyman) who finds himself in a fight-or-die situation and instantly decides to be the "hero," and take on the onslaught of violence. The films often feature a series of increasingly difficult battles, building to an action climax.
To demonstrated how varied screenplays in this genre can be, here are a few more examples; Open Water, The Perfect Storm, Cape Fear, Misery, The Fugitive, The Bourne Identity, North By Northwest, Shooter, Flightplan, Outbreak and The Day After Tomorrow.
8. Rites of PassageThe Rites of Passage archetypal storylines are real life transitions like coming of age, getting over a breakup, grieving for a loved one, recovery from addiction, or struggling with a mid-life crisis. These transitions resonate with us at some level because we all go though them or know someone who has.
Let’s take a look at Kramer vs. Kramer. Ted Kramer (played by Dustin Hoffman) is a rising star at his advertising firm and, when he has time, a loving father. The story starts when his wife, Joanna (Meryl Streep) decides to leave Ted and their son, Billy, to pursue her own career aspirations.
Kramer is left to juggle his lucrative advertising career with being a full-time father. It doesn’t go well at first, especially with Billy, who's resentful over the breakup, and constantly acts out to get attention.
Kramer finds a friend and confidant in his neighbor, Margaret (Jane Alexander). While they sit in the park watching Billy play on the monkey bars, he slips and is badly injured.
Ted rushes the boy to the hospital where he finally realizes the most important priority in his life is raising Billy. After quitting his high-profile advertising job, he finds one that allows him to spend more time at home with his son.
Over two years pass when Joanna returns to fight for custody of her son. Both Kramer’s lawyers pull out the stops to win this hard fought court battle. Evidence of the injury is brought in to hurt Ted. In the end Joanna wins custody of Billy, but realized now that he is better off with his father.
These stories feel like real-life situations any of us could experience. They are often psychological in nature, and sometimes don't have clear antagonists. Sometimes they end with acceptance or loss instead of victory.
To demonstrate how varied scripts in this genre can be, here are some more examples; Ordinary People, Trainspotting, American Beauty, 10, Lost In Translation, Leaving Las Vegas, Casablanca, Risky Business, 28 Days, Permanent Midnight and All That Jazz.
You will need to come up with lots of your own original characters, storylines, subplots and plot twists, but these 10 sub-genres will guide you in a more commercial direction—and increase your odds of selling an original screenplay.
So far, we've discussed Out of the Bottle, Monster in the House, Superhero, The Golden Fleece, Institutionalized, The Fool Triumphant, and now, Dude With A Problem and Rites of Passage. Next time, Buddy Love and Whydunnit.
David Silverman, LMFT, treats anxiety and depression, especially in highly sensitive individuals in his LA practice. Having experienced the rejection, stress, creative blocks, paralyzing perfectionism, and career reversals over a 25 year career as a Film/TV writer, he’s uniquely suited to work with gifted, creative, and sensitive clients experiencing anxiety, depression, and addiction. David received training at Stanford and Antioch, is fully EMDR certified, and works with programs treating Victims of Crime and Problem Gamblers. Visit www.DavidSilvermanLMFT.com.
It’s Groundhog Day All Over Again . . .
When the clock struck midnight on December 31, 2020, the streets where I live in Venice Beach resounded with joy! Despite (or perhaps because of!) months of collective situational depression, people were hooting and hollering at the advent of the new year.
Now it’s February, and, well, it’s going to be longer than we thought before we hit the “new normal.” Surprise.
It’s Groundhog Day.
It’s terribly disappointing to be knocked down once more by a virus that mutates to keep us in “pandemic mode.” 2021 was supposed to be different. Clients are falling back into the depression and anxiety that plagued them last year. (As are we!)
It can help to look back at 2020 and remind ourselves of some of the positive things that happened, too. Certainly, there are a few victories and some positive lessons we learned.
Remind your clients that things are not black and white, and even a terrible year has its bright points. (CBT anyone?)
Here Are 5 Things We Should Remember About 2020:First of all, even in the middle of a Reign of Terror at the hands of Old White Guys, there has been a significant movement toward diversity in our government. This should be a reason for everyone to feel better! (As a therapist—and a human—I work hard to be tolerant of differences of opinion, but I do not feel obligated to be tolerant of intolerance.)
1. Leadership Becoming More Diverse, Just Like Americans AreOur First Woman Vice PresidentAlso, of course, the first African American Vice President and first Asian-American Vice President. A huge victory for women and diversity. Finally.
A Move Toward Gender EqualityThe Supreme Court ruling that no one can be fired for being gay or transgender. Long overdue.
Our Government Starts to Look More Like UsWith record numbers of voters turning out this November, many new faces are beginning to reflect the cultural and racial diversity that is an important feature of our country. 2020 saw the greatest number of Native Americans ever elected to Congress. More trans people were elected to state legislatures, and there was a sizable increase in the number of women elected to Congress—Democrats and Republicans alike.
2. Americans Are Engaged and AwarePolitics and Social Reform Become Household DiscussionsMore people than ever voted this year! More people know what is going on, more people care, and more people want to help make positive changes. A clear move toward a government that is of the people, by the people, and for the people. Again, much overdue—it’s been a long time since The Gettysburg Address.
The BLM Movement Shook AmericaProtests after the murder of George Floyd led to discussions, understanding, and changes all across America. Many cities and state capitals instituted reforms that will hopefully bring some much-needed diversity to our businesses and institutions.
And on a More Personal Level . . .For most of us, this year has hovered somewhere between extremely inconvenient and totally devastating, yet there are things that we have learned about ourselves in this unique situation.
3. Values Re-assessmentOver and over, I saw people learn new things about themselves—about what was actually important in their lives. People who were surrounded by their “things” all day long began to realize how important their relationships with others really are. That, and toilet paper.
The Importance of FriendsMy clients frequently expressed sadness about not being able to spend time with friends. Pre-Covid-19, it was so easy to get caught up in the daily grind—commute, work, commute, gym, eat, crash—and forget to keep in touch with friends.
As time went on and we became more and more isolated, Zoom and Facetime with friends became a lifeline. Many people reconnected with old friends—across the street or around the world, it’s all the same on video—and realized how much they missed having time with those special people in their lives.
There are many studies that show the benefits of having a strong social network—not only for your mental health, but also for your physical health and longevity.
”Talking” to StrangersOf course, mingling with strangers is the last thing anyone wants to do these days. But I did hear over and over, and experience for myself, how happy you could feel from seeing smiling eyes over a mask, or a wave, or a friendly nod from a stranger, when access to other humans IRL is so limited. This is knowledge I hope everyone carries with them into life-after-Covid-19.
4. GratitudeNow, more than ever, we appreciate when we have the freedom to travel, to go to a restaurant, and to meet up with friends. Hell, we are grateful for finding toilet paper in stock at the grocery store!
We know that gratitude has a positive effect on mental health, so encourage your clients to keep gratitude journals this year, or even just practice feeling grateful for 3-5 minutes at the end of every day. It will make a difference!
5. Taking Care of OurselvesPre-2020, taking care of ourselves meant eating healthy, going to the gym, and getting enough sleep. That’s all changed.
This year we learned that one of the healthiest things we could do was cut ourselves some slack. In the middle of all the worry about jobs, Covid-19, politics, the economy, etc., sometimes the best we could do was climb into bed with beer and a pizza and watch Netflix. Never mind that it was 10 am on a Tuesday.
In 2020 it became obvious that self-compassion was the best kind of self-care. This is arguably one of the most important lessons of all for mental health.
Amy McManus, LMFT, helps anxious young adults build healthy new relationships with themselves and others after a breakup. Amy’s blog, “Life Hacks,” offers practical tips for thriving in today’s crazy plugged-in world. Learn more about Amy from her website www.thrivetherapyla.com.
Attention LA-CAMFT Members!
2021 LA-CAMFT Board Meeting Dates
Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at a LA-CAMFT Full Board Meeting? LA-CAMFT members are invited to attend monthly Full Board Meetings hosted at Factor’s Deli in West Los Angeles.
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