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Bylaw Revision Updates and Member Feedback- September 2021

September 02, 2021 1:17 PM | Anonymous

MAMFT’s board received lots of feedback from members on the proposed revisions to MAMFT’s bylaws, as well as the proposed mission and vision statements.

While many members expressed support for the proposed changes, we also received constructive feedback. There were seven themes in the feedback. Below are the responses to each theme, the changes we are making based on feedback, and additional information we have, or will be providing to address specific concerns.

You can view the full proposed bylaws with changes, as well as mission and vision statements here:

Theme 1-Why are we making these changes? How do they benefit our organization?

Responses: The current MAMFT board structure was created when MAMFT was a part of AAMFT. Since becoming a standalone organization, we found the set structure was no longer conducive to meeting the needs of our organization and members. We are changing the bylaws to address the following issues in the structure:

  1. There were too many committees. This often means the functioning of the board is broken up into small, separated silos. This structure leaves board members feeling isolated, makes operations inefficient,, and limits what the board can accomplish for members.

  2. Too many of the responsibilities and powers of the organization were assigned to the President. This meant that one person had too much influence on the direction of the organization. 

  3. There was no defined way of addressing issues within the board, which limited the ability to hold board members accountable. 

Given that the bylaw review and voting process is a significant undertaking, we wanted to look for other potential changes that would benefit our organization and members. The board has taken feedback from members, staff, and prior leadership to address these other limiting factors. 

  1. We are getting rid of an outdated and cumbersome decision making process and replacing it with a more collaborative process.

  2. We are ensuring that issues of diversity, equity and social justice are considered in all board functions.

  3. We are creating mechanisms for better feedback and accountability within the board, while also having a more optimized and cohesive approach to individual board member responsibilities.

Theme 2- How do we ensure all MFTs feel welcome within MAMFT given these changes? Does language in the bylaws about social justice make MAMFT too “partisan” or “politically divisive” as an organization?

Responses: This process was designed to make more relational therapists feel welcome and supported within MAMFT. We heard from members who felt the current board was not effective in meeting their needs, and that our statements/intentions were not translating into clear actions. The changes we are proposing are designed to make the board more nimble, inclusive, and accountable, which will make MAMFT a safe professional home for all relational therapists.

We believe that while supporting the practice of systemic therapy is often political, it doesn’t have to be partisan. For example, MAMFT responds to challenges in our community, advocates for legislation that supports the needs of relational therapists, and works to increase client access to therapy; these efforts are often political. Conversely, MAMFT does NOT endorse individual political candidates or parties, thus avoiding partisanship. 

We understand that in this current political climate and media culture, phrases like social-justice can be seen as polarizing. However, for MAMFT purposes, we do not view social-justice from a partisan lens. Instead, we view social-justice as a long established part of MAMFT’s mission, vision, and ethical practice. By including more specific language and processes around social justice, the board hopes to become more accountable for that vision and embodiment of our mission when making decisions for the organization as a whole. 

We invite those who see words like social justice as “divisive” to remember that our entire field was formed from the “divisive” idea that the mental health of an individual was impacted by the people and systems around them. Founders in the field of relational therapy recognized that to treat an individual, and/or their family, we must acknowledge and be competent in addressing the issues created by the systems around that individual or family. 

In addition, there are many other mental health professions that advocate for systemic thinking and social justice in the work of being a mental health professional. We believe these bylaw changes and the corresponding commitment to social justice aligns well with the tradition of viewing therapy through a systemic lens and is in alignment with the overall direction of the mental health profession. 

Theme 3- Concerns about various language: Does the phrase “relational healer” negatively impact how we are viewed as professionals? What does “social justice” and “equity” mean in this setting? 

Responses: Based on member feedback, we will be adding a definitions section to the bylaws, and we will use the phrase “relational therapist” in order to display the professional credibility of our field.

Definitions:  Relational Therapist: With regards to MAMFT and its functions, a relational therapist is defined as an individual currently practicing therapy as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) or a Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (LAMFT); an individual training in the field of relational therapy; an individual who has completed their training in relational therapy but are not yet licensed; an individual who has retired from practicing relational therapy; or any other professional who utilizes a systemic or relational lens in their work of supporting the mental health of others. 

Relational Therapy: is the process of providing therapeutic services to an individual, relational unit, or group, where the provider has specialized training to assess and support the mental health concerns and relational issues that arise in the context of both intrapersonal and interpersonal dynamics. Relational therapy includes but isn’t limited to providing therapeutic services to the following:

  • Platonic relationships (friendships, roommates, group therapy) 

  • Romantic relationships (committed partnerships, premarital, marital, divorce, couples counseling)

  • Family relationships (siblings, intergenerational relationships, in-laws)

  • Professional and/or peer relationships (coworker, employer/employee, cohort members, academic peers)

  • Other relational systems counseling

Social-justice: MAMFT’s board will commit to being empathetic, responsive, and accountable to the needs of marginalized and non-minoritized groups within our organization’s efforts to support and forward the profession of relational therapy. This commitment is based in the following principles:

  • We acknowledge there are groups of people who have historically been, and often still are marginalized and/or experience injustice in our society. 

  • We acknowledge marginalization in any form can have lasting negative impacts on individual and relational mental health. 

  • We acknowledge historically marginalized groups are both part of our membership, and the communities our members serve. 

  • We understand that there is a shifting landscape around marginalization and minoritization, and are committed to meeting the evolving needs of our members and community. 

Equity: Recognizing that each person has different circumstances, equity is the designing and allocation of resources and opportunities to ensure all people have the same level of access to outcomes.

For example- there are groups of people that have historically and currently lack access to health care. Promoting access to health care, and thus access to relational therapists, is an equity issue important to MAMFT.

Theme 4- What is the role of the new committees and panel? Is there too much power in one place?

Responses: The board has worked with multiple consultants in the past two years to help define ways to effectively and efficiently run a non-profit professional organization. This new structure is being proposed to ensure a healthy balance of power, accountability, and responsibilities within the board. 

We wanted to streamline committees, so we no longer have the issue of one person being responsible for (or having all the power in) a committee and its associated tasks. Most non-profits have a governance committee that is responsible for ensuring the board is functioning well, knowing that multiple board members will collaborate on those tasks. Based on the other responsibilities of our board, we decided there was a need for an internal affairs committee, and an external affairs committee.

We wanted to set up our board to make good on the commitment to social-justice. However, we don’t want to risk one person, or one committee, being overly responsible for addressing equity issues or concerns. To mitigate these concerns, we added a separate panel made up of standing committee members, as well as members of the association. This design ensures a healthy feedback loop between the panel, the board committees, and our members. 

Please see the attached PowerPoint for a more detailed description of the various committees responsibilities, and feedback loop between committees and panel.

Board Structure PDF

A reminder that MAMFT members are welcome to join ANY of the standing committees, and participate in ALL board meetings. We welcome those interested in joining a committee to visit our website and connect with a committee that they are interested in joining. https://www.mamft.net/Committees

Theme 5- Why do we have restrictions on the number of Pre-Clinical and Students on the board?

Response: MAMFT’s board has greatly benefited from the input and energy of Student and Pre-Clinical members. We hope that more Pre-Clinical and Student members of the organization will participate on MAMFT’s committees and the social justice panel.

While taking into consideration the equity issues that Pre-Clinical and Student members face, we also had to look at the potential impact of more than one pre-clinical person having a voting position on the board. The rationale for this limit came down to three overlapping variables: 

  1. The importance of clinical experience in making decisions for members; MAMFT is a professional organization. Thus we want to be sure the majority of voting board members are well versed in the needs of relational therapists. This knowledge can only come from time working in our field. 

  2. The demands of being a board member: We acknowledge that Student and Pre-Clinical members have a great deal of responsibilities. Schooling, practicum, adapting to work in the field, securing supervision, and preparation for licensure exams are all stacked on top of other responsibilities in these members’ lives. Pre-Clinical and Student board members may not always have the time or ability to commit to the rigorous needs of serving on a board given these responsibilities. 

  3. The flexible size of our board: Since our Board of Directors is no longer a set size, and non-officer positions may flex from 3-9 members, we wanted to ensure that the majority of the Board of Directors, even at the board’s smallest size, is comprised of experienced, clinical members who will be able to fully commit to responsibilities of the board. 

Theme 6- Why was the line about maintaining professional standards removed from the purpose section?

Response: That should be a key purpose of the board. It has been added back into the bylaw purpose section. We will also be developing a best practices statement to better define professional standards. 

Theme 7- Supporting documents need to be made available to members: How does the new decision making model work? Why isn’t there a code of conduct defining professional standards? How do we decide who gets a reduced rate? 

Response: The board already has developed some of these supporting documents. Some are still a work in progress. 

  • Here is a link to the documentation on the consensus minus 1 decision making model.

Decision Making Model Overview

Decision Making Model Details

  • There is a group of board members currently working on the best practices statement to better define professional standards.

  • We are also working on the implementation of reduced rate options for folks who need assistance with dues. 

If you are interested in participating in the process of developing any of these items, we encourage you to reach out to Lucas Volini at President@mamft.net

Minnesota Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

Relationships Matter

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