Most recent edition: November 2016



Letter from the President
Angela Kahn, LMFT

Autumn marks a change in seasons, a slowing down; a “chilling out” if you will. I come to you now, a changed woman: I have a deeper understanding of the importance of family than ever before.

Read More: Letter from the President


Clinical Corner: A Glimpse into Jennifer’s World
Jennifer Walker, LMFT

Many creative types and less conventional people tend to feel misunderstood and judged. Societal norms severely influence people, and the pressures can be painful or overwhelming.

Read More: Clinical Corner


The Good Fight: Big Legislative Wins for MFTs
Benjamin E. Caldwell, PsyD

MFT services are now reimbursable at FQHCs and RHCs. MFTs who passed state licensing will be eligible to work at the VA. And, trainees can treat minors who independently consent for treatment.

Read More: The Good Fight


Fall Gala a Success
Olivia Loewy, Ph.D.

The AAMFT-CA Annual Gala supports our efforts to provide quality training, influence state legislative and regulatory decisions and collaborate with exceptional colleagues,including this year’s remarkable honorees.

Read More: Fall Gala


Annual Conference Coming Up Fast
Save the Date

Theme: “WORKING WITH COUPLES IN THE 21st CENTURY.” MFTs will can gain critical insight & resources that help clients navigate increased demands on relationships within a rapidly changing world.

Read More: Division Conference


Land the Job!
Get Started Today

Current and soon-to-be MFT interns, get the inside track to securing a job in this highly competitive MFT market!

Read More: Land the Job


Note from the Editor
Melanie Carlton, LMFT

Hello Members!

While for some change might feel uncomfortable, I urge you to embrace what lies ahead because in doing so you can help shift our membership into something much greater.

Read More: Note from the Editor


Angela F, Kahn, LMFT

As many of you know, I was elected to the position of President-Elect last year. When we lost our beloved leader and President at the time, Norma Scarborough, only three weeks into her term, I was thrust into a whirlwind of sudden leadership. While I grieved alongside my fellow board members over the passing of our mentor, I had to whip myself into shape to take over as quickly and fluidly as possible. This meant weeks of poring over our organizing documents, learning the ropes, and planning for a year of twists and turns.

You see, on top of everything, I was seven months pregnant!

In addition to having to quickly reorganize ourselves, we had to put together a special election to fill the position of President-Elect, who would have to take over for me almost immediately after being elected, because I was taking a maternity leave in March. (After some speed bumps, that happened, and I am so pleased to have the esteemed Katheryn Whittaker join our board!) I gave birth to the love of my life, Layla Caldwell, on March 12, and disappeared for the summer to manage the newest challenge in my world—a newborn blob of humanness that doesn’t speak English.


In reflecting on the events of the year so far, I think this letter to you comes at an appropriate time of year. Autumn marks a change in seasons, a slowing down; a “chilling out” if you will. I come to you now, a changed woman: I have a deeper understanding of the importance of family than ever before. My work has taken on a completely different slant, and I move around the world now with a new perspective on parents, couples, children, and families, and the complex systems that govern each of those orbits. I have never been prouder, nor have I been more honored, to be a Marriage and Family Therapist.

Our profession continues to evolve and change, as it should, and our association shifts with it, against it, ahead of it, and through it. Like the presidents before me, I have inherited a living organism with many moving parts. I am excited to see if I can steer our ship toward a vision of service and community and would like to share some of those ideas here with you.

When I came into this position, I paid careful attention to how much of our efforts were driven toward our members and how much were driven toward the public. We are, and always have been, a Division devoted to excellence in training and fierce advocacy, and many of our events and products reflect this mission. That said, I felt we had some room to expand our reach. My brother had called me not long after my term started, asking where he could go to find resources for his family. His son was facing a major surgery, his daughter had developed some OCD, and he and his wife were distraught over how they could pull their family through this difficult time. My first thought was, “Why didn’t he go to the AAMFT website?”

I realized that there is more—a whole lot more—we could be doing to directly interface with the couples and families we serve. We need articles on our websites that speak directly to my brother and other families like his about health scares and hospital stays. We need a resource page that families can use when, God forbid, their children experience a school shooting. We need a social media presence that creates an ongoing discourse with California couples and families, so we can offer them tools for conflict resolution, guidelines for digital limits, and tips for getting through Thanksgiving with the in-laws. This is how MFTs become relevant to Californians. This is how we make our skills and talents known.

I have devoted my presidency to exactly that: A shift in our focus toward the average California family. You may have already seen this shift taking shape on our Facebook page, and will begin to see more evidence of it as we move forward. You’ll be receiving emails from us soon about how you can help us develop a more personal relationship with our fellow Californians. You’ll be asked to donate a service of your own, be it an article, some tweets, or content for our website. We have so much to give our communities, so much to give to the families around us who suffer. It’s time to start giving it.

We’ve got some challenges ahead. You’ll read my recap on this year’s AAMFT Annual Conference where we learned more about the proposed restructure that will appear on next year’s ballot. I was optimistic to learn that no matter what happens, we don’t have to stop doing what we’re doing—our contributions to the larger systems around us will have a home, no matter what shape the association takes in the future. I look forward to standing by your side as we open a conversation with the public. They need to hear from us as a unified profession. Let’s start talking.

A glimpse into the professional world
of AAMFT-CA clinical members

Jennifer Walker, LMFT


I’ve had clients tell me of their experiences feeling judged in the therapy room. Whenever I hear these stories I always feel sad because the therapy room is the one place someone should not ever have to feel judged. However, I completely understand as it has happened to me in the past with my own therapist. I’ve always had bright, non-traditionally colored hair, and my therapist told me that this is a “conservative field, not like cosmetology or something like that.” She discouraged my personal style (among a few other things), which she said made me look very young and I began to feel self-conscious. I dyed my hair dark, took out my piercings and hid my tattoos. I was afraid I wouldn’t find a job or that people wouldn’t take me seriously enough to see me for therapy.

Eventually, I was hired at a community setting that was primarily field-based and the environment was much more casual. So I reverted back to my own style. I began to see that it actually became a connection with my clients. Many of them said they felt more comfortable opening up to someone who seemed more casual. I began to embrace it, and it has become an important part of building my private practice.

I find that many creative types and people who are less traditional tend to fall into this belief of being misunderstood and judged. Societal expectations severely influence people, and the pressure of those expectations can be painful and overwhelming. My treatment philosophy is simply to be authentic and nonjudgmental. Without these, it’s difficult to build trust, and without trust there won’t be much progression in the therapy room. I start by meeting the client where they are at, always. I allow them to tell me who they are and who they think people want them to be. This can take some time as there are a lot of feelings of sadness, rejection and shame that come out of these beliefs that others have about the client. Young adults and teens often have a difficult time with figuring out who they are especially if other people in their lives are not as supportive. I see a lot of young adult women who feel insecure about being “shy” or “less social.” I often work with these clients on learning about introversion and how it relates to their energy levels rather than seeing it as a flaw they need to change.

I offer a nonjudgmental, accepting approach and allow the person to feel comfortable enough to express and process these vulnerabilities. Overtime, I work with clients on understanding and realizing that their “flaws” or things that make them different or unique are, in actuality, their strengths. But because expectations from others can be harsh clients often hide these strengths rather than nurture them. Together, we collaboratively work to nurture the client’s unique qualities and over time it is amazing to see how comfortable and at ease with themselves they become once they no longer have to hide away their strengths. The client’s authenticity comes out; they begin to thrive; and that’s a beautiful thing to witness.

I offer therapy for the misunderstood because I know what it is like to feel misunderstood. I bring my authentic self into the room because I want to model to clients that it is okay to be themselves and feel safe enough to do so. My journey and life experiences have inspired me to provide a safe and supportive space for fellow misfits to embrace their individuality and finally show the world who they truly are.

Jennifer R. Walker, LMFT has a private practice in Huntington Beach. She often works with LGBTQ+, teen and young adult populations. She specializes in trauma, depression and anxiety. She is also a trained EMDR therapist. Jennifer is a self-identified “misfit” and welcomes clients with “nontraditional” relationships and other individuals who often feel misunderstood. Jennifer can be reached at, maintains a blog at and is a current contributor for

Big legislative wins for MFTs:
Intern title, VA jobs, and more

Benjamin E. Caldwell, PsyD


Family therapists in California have a lot to celebrate this year. Changes in law at the state and federal levels will improve the job market and professional standing of MFTs around the state.

For prelicensed MFTs, the biggest change comes to professional titles. As of January 1, 2018, the title of “intern” becomes “associate” for both MFTs and professional clinical counselors. I’m proud to have pushed for this change. With the support of AAMFT-CA, CAMFT, and CALPCC, the BBS chose to sponsor the change themselves through omnibus legislation. The law passed as part of Senate Bill 1478. The one-year implementation delay allows time for individuals and employers to develop new marketing material reflecting the new title.

For licensed MFTs, two new avenues of employment will open up significantly. The first is in Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics. These settings use federal money to treat patients who otherwise may not be able to access services. Assembly Bill 1863 makes the services of MFTs reimbursable at FQHCs and RHCs in California as of January 1, 2017. There is high demand for mental health services in these settings, which will be eager to hire MFTs as soon as they can. This bill was co-sponsored by CAMFT and strongly supported by AAMFT-CA.

The second major employment avenue to open to California MFTs is in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Under previous law, MFTs had a job description within the VA and could be hired into MFT-specific VA jobs – but these jobs were limited to those with COAMFTE-accredited degrees. While we believe strongly in the value of COAMFTE accreditation, we also recognize that the overwhelming majority of currently-licensed California MFTs did not graduate from programs with COAMFTE accreditation. Under HR5325, a package of legislation signed by President Obama in September, that accreditation requirement is dropped, and all MFTs who have passed their state licensing exam will be eligible to work in MFT jobs at the VA. The implementation timeline for this change is unclear, but once it is firmly in place, many more MFTs will be employable there. That’s a major change for service members and their families who need mental health support.

Among other legislative successes this year, MFT trainees are now more clearly allowed to treat minors who independently consent for treatment (AB1808), the state will be pursuing a federal grant for additional mental health funding (AB847), and problematic proposals to create licensure for drug and alcohol counselors and applied behavior analysts were stopped (AB1715 and SB1101). In the case of those licensure bills, we are not opposed in principle to licensure for other mental health professions, but are concerned that licensure is created in a way that protects public safety and does not interfere with MFTs’ ability to perform work within our scope of practice.

In addition to these successes, we also have helped shape major changes to state supervision requirements that will be proposed in legislation next year that would take effect in 2018. We are proud of the work of our Legislative and Advocacy Committee and the impact the committee has had this year. Be on the lookout for a survey coming soon where you can provide your input to shape our priorities for a successful 2017.

Benjamin E. Caldwell, PsyD is Chair of the AAMFT-CA Legislative and Advocacy Committee. He can be reached at

Fall Gala A Success!

The AAMFT-CA 4th Annual Fundraising Gala and Fundraiser was held on Sunday, November 6 at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art.  The event was highly entertaining and informative, the venue was inspiring, and most importantly, we were privileged to honor three outstanding individuals who have provided extraordinary service to our professional community:

  • Mentor Award:  Marianna Thomas, whose open heart and open “home” have simultaneously provided quality supervision for emerging MFT professionals and mental health treatment for anyone and everyone in need
  • Educator Award: Gerry Grossman, whose dynamic training courses have assisted literally thousands of MFTs to become and remain licensed
  • Ally Award:  The incomparable Rusty Selix, co-author of Proposition 63 (Mental Health Services Act), groundbreaking legislation which has established a “millionaire’s tax” to fund the transformation of the public mental health system in California

The AAMFT-CA Annual Gala supports our efforts to provide quality training, influence state legislative and regulatory decisions and collaborate with exceptional colleagues, such as today’s honorees, to achieve our mutual goals.  The Division has been able to make a quantifiable difference in the lives of thousands of MFTs. Perhaps most importantly, however, this progress ultimately nurtures families and communities statewide.

The CA Division is grateful for all of the hard work by Board members and Division leaders that made this event possible.  Special thanks to Gala Chair Chis Hoff and his Committee:  Naveen Jonathan; Amanda Hanna; Alejandra Trujillo; Melani Kovarkizi; Dana Stone; Sahar Martinez; Vived Gonzales; Bryan Doster and Nicola Lippetti.

Melanie Carlton, LMFT

Hello Members!

As you’ve read throughout this edition of the eNews there is change upon us. While for some change might feel uncomfortable, I urge you to embrace what lies ahead, because in doing so you can help shift our membership into something much greater. As the editor of this publication it is my duty to reach out to our membership and help give a platform for your voice to be heard. Now here’s the thing: I want YOU to reach out to me. I want YOU to tell me what topics interest you and what you see happening in our profession. I want YOU to tell me what you’re experiencing with your clients, what issues you find clients are facing and how we can help them, together, as MFTs. With all the different vantage points of our awesome profession – we need more voices to share their experiences, to create conversation and to give insight for those seeking mental health services.

I invite you to submit articles for our newsletter and future blog, to be a part of the conversation and to contribute your voice. We ask that your articles be 500 words maximum and in a format we can edit (Word or Pages preferred). Your feedback and support ensures the newsletter and blog are exceptional tools for not only mental health professionals but for our clients as well.

Should you like to contribute to the future success of our newsletter and blog please forward your comments, ideas and articles to me at the email address below. I look forward to seeing what you have to share!

Melanie Carlton, M.A., is a licensed marriage and family therapist and serves as a mental health clinician for Family Service Counseling Center in San Leandro, CA as well as the mental health evaluator for recipients of General Assistance through Alameda County. Melanie can be reached at for all inquiries including contributing articles for the AAMFT-CA E-newsletter and blog.