Benjamin E. Caldwell, PsyD
Being an MFT is expensive: Training is expensive, salaries (especially at the intern level) can be low, and we have to pay for insurance, license renewal, association membership, and more. And yet, one of the biggest problems holding the MFT field back from what it can and should be accomplishing is that most of us aren’t paying enough.
The Board of Behavioral Sciences gets a lot of criticism, some of it deserved and some of it not. They are what the state calls a “special fund” agency, which means they get no taxpayer support for their work – the BBS is fully funded by the fees we pay at licensure and renewal. But that also means that when they don’t have enough staff to respond to emails and phone calls, part of the problem is us: We simply aren’t paying enough in fees to support the level of staffing that would resolve many of our concerns about the BBS. They regularly re-evaluate the fees they charge, and next time they do, if you have ever been frustrated with unanswered phone calls or emails at the BBS, you should be first in line asking to pay more every time you renew your license or registration.
Similarly, professional associations often wrestle with how to plan budgets when the work they will need to do is not entirely predictable. Your membership dues support a great many things, but they specifically can’t be used to do some of the political work that any profession needs to survive and grow. If you’ve been frustrated by the difficulty MFTs have had fixing our flawed child abuse reporting system, getting into Medicare, or fighting a lawsuit in Texas over our ability to independently diagnose, you need to give more money to your professional association. Both CAMFT and AAMFT have Political Action Committees (PACs) that can spend money on political activities that the organizations, by law, cannot use your membership dues on. Simply put, your membership dues are not enough to solve these problems: You need to donate for these PACs to do the work we need done in the political arena. AAMFT also has a Practice Protection Fund used specifically to fight threats like the Texas lawsuit and a bill in North Carolina that would eliminate MFT licensure entirely there.
I hear a lot of concerns about all of these issues. Sharing a concern, though, doesn’t have much impact. Raising your voice – and more importantly, your wallet – does. I know many of us are on tight budgets, and that makes these donations even more important. Their impact helps all of us, and as I say at the end of every column, we’re all in this together. Thanks for all you do.
Benjamin E. Caldwell is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (#42723) in Los Angeles. He is the author of Saving Psychotherapy and Basics of California Law for LMFTs, LPCCs, and LCSWs.