AAMFT California Newsletter Fall 2012


Welcome Letter
It’s The Law…
National News, Local Impact
Surviving BBS Exams
Poverty Simulation, Real Situation
Prop. 30 Protects Mental Health Funding
Couples Therapy Workshop: Personality Dimensions, The Social Brain, and Couples Therapy
American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA) Invitation


From mailbox to inbox, AAMFT-CA has made efforts to provide you with relevant and cutting-edge information. As Chair of the AAMFT-CA Communications Committee and Editor of this newsletter I am proud of our professional organization and the collaborative effort of Steve Brown, PhD and Olivia Loewy, PhD. Together we worked to create a format that aims to provide all of our members and interested professionals with a collection of articles that address issues or offers information about our field on a quarterly basis.

You can expect to receive this newsletter during the first month of each quarter. Newsletters will contain articles written by or specifically written for clinicians, academics, pre-licensed and student members. Because legislative changes impact how we practice our profession, you will also find an article from the AAMFT-CA Advocacy Committee. National news will be reported by our AAMFT-CA Executive Director, Olivia Loewy, PhD.

In total, the Communications Committee believes we formulated a well-rounded newsletter. However, we also know there is much room for improvement; we are about change, right? If you wish to see a topic or subject published, we welcome your feedback. Better yet, if you would like to contribute an article, please contact the Editor.

In the interest of brevity, I thank the authors for contributing their work to the Newsletter and thank you, our members–you are our purpose.

Happy reading!

David Clark, MA
AAMFT-CA Communications Committee Chair & Editor
MFT Registered Intern


Steve Brown, Ph.D., J.D.
AAMFT-CA Communications Committee, Assoc. Editor
Professor – CFT Programs
Interim Systemwide Director of Academic Outcomes


Olivia Loewy, Ph.D.
AAMFT-CA Division, Executive Director
AAMFT-CA Communications Committee, Assoc. Editor

Back to the top

It’s The Law…



Benjamin E. Caldwell, PsyD

The regular legislative year has ended, and several of the bills signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown will impact marriage and family therapists. As usual, AAMFT-CA has been very active in Sacramento this year, taking positions on more than a dozen bills and working directly with legislators on many of these measures. In most cases, we achieved our desired results – bills we opposed failed, and bills we supported passed. We are an active and respected, sought-after voice in Sacramento on a wide variety of mental-health-related efforts.

The following bills were signed by the Governor and take effect January 1, 2013. Names in parentheses refer to the bills’ authors:

Ban on reparative therapy for minors. SB1172 (Lieu) prohibits licensed therapists from providing sexual orientation change efforts (otherwise known as reparative or conversion therapy) to minors, defining such therapy as unprofessional practice. AAMFT-CA made this bill a legislative priority for 2012, and joined NASW-CA as the first mental health professional associations to come on in support of the measure. This landmark legislation will protect lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth from a so-called therapy that all mental health associations, including AAMFT, already caution their members against using. Read the bill here.

Changes in elder abuse reporting. AB40 (Yamada) significantly alters the standards and timelines for reporting elder abuse that occurs in long-term care facilities. It makes those standards and timelines far more complex, and requires duplicate and even triplicate reporting, ostensibly to solve an information-sharing problem between the county ombudsperson and law enforcement. AAMFT-CA opposed this bill on the grounds that mandated reporters should not be burdened with filing multiple reports to fix such an information-sharing problem. While we were not successful in stopping this bill, we will work with the legislature next year on reducing needless and costly duplicative reporting. Read the bill here.

University employees added to mandated reporters of child abuse. AB1434 (Feuer) makes all university employees who regularly work with children or supervise those who work with children mandated reporters of child abuse if the abuse takes place on university premises or at university events. The bill is a response to the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State. Read the bill here.

Expedited licensure for military spouses. AB1904 (Block) will allow the BBS to expedite license applications from military spouses. The BBS has said it is unsure how it would go about implementing the law, but it may be as simple as a checkbox on the licensure application that would move an application farther “up in line.” Read the bill here.

Delay in licensing exam restructuring. SB1527 (Negrete McLeod) delays the implementation date for the new MFT license exam structure to January 1, 2014. Read the bill here.

Other bills signed into law this year prohibit therapists from including “no licensure complaint” clauses in civil settlements (AB2570, Hill); clarify the therapist immunity statute surrounding our duty to warn potential victims of imminent violence (SB1134, Yee); extend the existence of the BBS through 2016 (SB1236, Price); and continue “Laura’s Law,” which allows county courts to mandate outpatient mental health services in limited circumstances (AB1569, Allen).

Benjamin E. Caldwell chairs the AAMFT-California Legislative and Advocacy Committee. He can be reached by email at bcaldwell@alliant.edu

Image source: Courtesy of Ben Caldwell, PhD

Back to the top

National News, Local Impact


Olivia Loewy, PhD


The September AAMFT National Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina focused on Women: Evolving Roles in Society and Family. California Division Board President Norma Scarborough, President Elect Naveen Jonathan, Secretary Ben Caldwell, and Executive Director Olivia Loewy, PhD attended the Pre Conference Division Leaders Meeting during which updates of national interest were reported. Some of the items addressed included:

  • By-Laws: Because of changes that have been implemented at the national level including new and expanded membership categories, all Divisions have been directed to revise their By-Laws. The California Division has been led by Board member Angela Kahn in this process. Once the submissions are approved by our National office, the new By-Laws will be sent to our California Division membership for review, editing, and approval.
  • Legal Precedence: Texas Medical Association filed suit against the Texas Board of MFT Examiners, alleging that MFTs should not have the authority to make mental illness diagnoses. The case has the potential to set a dangerous precedent for mental health care nationwide. This case is still pending.
  • Veterans Administration Job Specifications: AAMFT continues to challenge the VA job specifications that require applicants to have graduated from a COAMFTE-accredited program. While AAMFT appreciates and acknowledges the value of a COAMFTE education, this requirement eliminates many qualified MFTs who may be interested in working for the VA. National office efforts include meeting with VA staff, meeting with members of congress, and a Freedom of Information Act request.
  • Executive Director Search: A Search Committee has been engaged by the AAMFT Board to assist in hiring a new national Executive Director. The job profile can be viewed on the AAMFT website.
  • Legal and Ethics Consult/Liability: AAMFT modified policy so that Pre Clinical Members may now obtain legal consult. All members are eligible for ethics consult. AAMFT Student Membership includes free liability insurance through CPH, which also offers legal consult to all CPH subscribers at: cphins.com/. For more information about the services available and numerous advantages to AAMFT membership click here.
  • Opportunity for involvement: AAMFT-CA Division members Naveen Jonathan and Loree Johnson will serve on the National Elections Council. They work diligently to ensure national representation for our state by encouraging CA Division members to run for an AAMFT Board position. If you are interested, please contact Naveen for more information: mftguy79@gmail.com

Ongoing national updates are emailed to you regularly from our AAMFT National office. Please don’t hesitate to contact AAMFT Member Services if you would like clarification or additional information about anything addressed above.

Back to the top

Surviving BBS Exams


Zoe Reyes, MS, LMFT


First of all, if you haven’t already, take time to congratulate yourself and reflect on your accomplishments. Looking back on my own path toward licensure, I recognize how difficult this entire process has been. Not many people make it to this point on their career path. It’s not easy to finish grad school and work 3,000 hours as an intern. But here you are; you’ve just received your BBS confirmation letter after a few months of anxiously waiting. Congratulations! “Now what?” you ask yourself.

Here are some suggestions and the schedule that worked for me:

Preparing for examination:

  • Schedule your time. Create a schedule and follow it. Schedule time to adequately investigate study programs or determine how you will best study for the exam. Consider giving yourself at least a couple of months to prepare for the exam. Set aside a specific amount of time each night to study. Don’t forget to schedule the exam and record the date on your calendar. And, definitely try to plan the test when you are not expecting a major change, like moving, new job, marriage, etc.
  • Studying. As mentioned, pick a study program or routine that fits your learning style. Once I made my decision, I reviewed all of the study material and took mock exams. When using the mock exams, don’t over think the question, sometimes simple is better. This also applies to taking the actual exam. Make no assumptions. When reading the questions or the clinical vignette, only use the information that was provided in the question.
  • Self-Care. Manage anxiety throughout the study process. Take breaks from studying, work out, spend time with family and friends (but stay committed!). Remember, self-doubt can creep in when we are tired or struggling with a subject area. Give yourself permission to have a grumpy, self-pity moment, and then visualize how you will feel with your confirmation letter. Imagine how much more you will earn and the happiness of your loved ones when you tell them you passed.

The day before examination:

  • Don’t worry, be happy. I was fortunate to hear a lot of advice while preparing for the exam. Many people recommend that you shouldn’t study the day before the exam. They were right. I made the mistake of studying the day before for my first exam. I took a mock exam the night before and achieved a low score, which significantly reduced my confidence in taking the actual exam. The numerous hours I spent studying for the last several weeks drained my body, and this unusually low score only increased my anxiety. While I passed the exam the first time, I wouldn’t recommend following in my footsteps. For the second exam, I chose to take everyone’s advice and not study the day before my scheduled test date. I felt a hundred times more confident going into the exam. Clarity of mind, confidence, and feeling happy are priceless.
  • Self-care. Relax, take a deep breath or take steps you know will ground you. Remember, if you don’t know it all by now, you likely won’t know it all within the next 24 hours. Don’t let your anxiety get the best of you. Think of how much you’ve book smarts and practical knowledge you gained during this process, and refined by your test prep efforts.

Examination day:

  • Self-care. When in the exam room, remember to breathe, keep track of time, and answer each question, even if you’re not sure it’s right. It’s better to have all the questions answered in case you run out of time. (But, don’t be afraid of revisiting a question, you can always go back and reconsider if time permits.)
  • Warning. Don’t keep changing answers! Yes, I said you could go back and revisit questions, but think of all the times when you were in school and you changed an answer only to find that you were right the first time.

Above all, the biggest test taking strategy I learned was to manage my anxiety well, hence the self-care tips in each section, and to not over think a question.

Remember, you are at this point in your career because you are a skilled therapist with a master’s degree and at least 3,000 hours to prove it. You’ve changed lives, now change yours by becoming licensed.

Good luck!

Zoe Reyes, M.S., LMFT

Zoe currently works in private practice and specializes in couples and parent/teen communication. For more information about her or her practice in Sacramento, CA visit www.zoereyeslmft.com or email her directly at zoe.reyes.lmft@gmail.com

Back to the top

Poverty Simulation, Real Situation


Liang-Ying Chou, PhD and Rajeswari Natrajan-Tyagi, PhD
Alliant International University, Irvine Campus

 Poverty is the reality facing millions of individuals in this nation. The nation’s current experience of recession has further revealed the challenges in the socio-economic, welfare, and mental health systems. According to DeNavas-Walt, Proctor and Smith (2012), the official national poverty rate for 2011 was 15 percent. The latest Census report discovered that the statewide poverty rate was up to 16.6 percent, and three areas in California’s Central Valley are among the top five U.S. regions with the highest percentage of residents living below the poverty line (Wozniacka, 2012). Living in poverty disturbs physical, emotional, and psychological well-being of people (Perese, 2007) as a result of which many enter mental health services voluntarily or involuntarily.

The California Business & Professions Code § 4980.43(d)(1) has set forth criteria for where family therapy trainees can get hours of experience, which includes nonprofit and charitable organizations, hospitals, government entities, schools, churches, state correctional treatment centers and community treatment centers, amongst others. These places are typically where people living in poverty seek mental health services. It would not be an exaggeration to conclude that in the mental health field, a significant portion of the population living in poverty is being serviced by Trainees and Interns. Therefore, the subject of poverty and its impact on families and relationships are significant and highly relevant to our work as trainers of Marriage and Family Therapists.

Training to Work with the Poor

Graduate programs are increasingly called upon to train their MFT Trainees and Interns to serve clients from diverse populations, especially the underserved populations, who are poor or near-poor, homeless, unemployed or underemployed and uninsured. They have had to wrestle with the question of how best to train their students in issues of poverty, social class, unemployment and disparities in access to health care. There is a growing body of literature that addresses the benefits of experiential learning, especially in the context of training students in aspects of diversity (Rich & Sampson, 1990; Rutledge, Barham, Wiles, Benjamin, Eaton & Palmer, 2008; Wilson & Leiand Donnelly, 2012). In this form of learning, students become active learners where they are connecting with the material, not only from a cognitive lens but also from an affective lens. Like the quote by Robert Vallet, “The eyes cannot see and the brain cannot understand what the heart does not feel.” Experiential learning has been offered as an answer to student apathy and disengagement in the learning process where students are “learning by doing” rather than “learning by hearing” (Bowen, 2005, p. 5). ‘Simulations’ provide students with this opportunity to gain experiential learning. The term ‘simulation’ is defined as something that replicates the real world (Ellington & Earl, 1998). Simulations can provide the much needed bridge between classroom learning and supervised practicums in family therapy training (Rich & Sampson, 1990). In simulations, students get an opportunity to recreate a social, cultural or family system that functions in some rule-bound way, which can closely replicate the lived realities of the diverse clients that they serve.

Poverty Simulation

The Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) was made available nationwide by the Missouri Association for Community Action. This simulation was designed to provide the context for participants to put themselves in the shoes of those in less privileged social economic status, and to help raise awareness about different aspects of poverty in order to understand the complexities and sufferings of living in poverty. Poverty simulation has been widely used by various organizations both nationally and internationally for educational and training purposes, including community action agencies, social services, universities, and faith-based organizations.

Each poverty simulation takes approximately three hours to run, including orientation, actual activity, and a debriefing period at the end. Poverty simulation is not a game. During the simulation, participants act out roles of lives of low-income families, and interact with various community resources to obtain basic necessities. For example, participants may be acting out the role of parents trying to care for their children or senior members trying to maintain their self-sufficiency. It creates an experience that enables participants to examine their perception and experience of poverty from hands-on involvement. Further, the experience provides participants contexts to understand systemically the structure and functioning of low-income families. It can be enlightening to participants and trainers to gain insight into the strengths of families living under low-income circumstances, in order to ensure a sensitive and affirmative standard of care.

The Experience of the Poverty Simulation

During spring 2012, two faculty members and one student from the Couple and Family Therapy (CFT) program at Alliant International University attended the poverty simulation conducted by Catholic Charities at Indio, California. Suzanne Stine, a doctoral student from the Couple and Family Therapy program at Alliant International University, who attended the poverty simulation at Indio, reflected:

“I was interested to see how real a poverty simulation game could actually be, as I was thinking that it wouldn’t even come close to reality. However, while it was not as serious as reality, I definitely felt the pressure. I was given the scenario of just being left by my husband who cleared out our bank account and left me with a teenager and no job. I had ten dollars and six bus tokens to my name. In the first week, I spent my time at the social services agency who kept me over the weekend, and as a result I lost custody of my child. Through the course of the simulation, I rushed around buying groceries, finding a job, pawning some home appliances, and ultimately not making enough money to pay my rent. My home was foreclosed on and after getting my child back, we spent the remainder of our time in the homeless shelter. I gained much more empathy for low SES clients and people in general that day, as it was extremely difficult to keep my head above water, even if it was only for a few hours.”

The four hour experience was so powerful that we, as faculty members of the CFT program, were determined to bring the simulation to the university where all the students can experience it. We plan to conduct this simulation during fall 2012 at our Irvine campus. By introducing this simulation to the students on our campus, we hope to bring emphasis to the lived experiences of people living in poverty, stimulate discussions that reorganize our approach to providing services to this population, and elicit changes within our local communities.

Can you survive a month in poverty? What does living in poverty really entail? Join our poverty simulation! For more information on poverty simulation, please contact Dr. Liang-Ying Chou at Lychou@alliant.edu

 (Taken at the poverty simulation hosted by Catholic Charities at Indio, CA, Spring 2012. Dr. Rajeswari Natrajan-Tyagi was getting the transportation pass during the simulation.)

 Back to the top



Bowen, G. A. (2005). Service learning in higher education: Giving life and depth to teaching and learning (booklet seven). In A. Altany (Ed.), Renaissance of teaching and learning booklet series (pp. 1-18). Cullowhee, NC: Buzzard’s Roost Road Press.

DeNavas-Walt, C., Proctor, B. D., & Smith, J. C. (2012, September). Income, poverty and health insurance in the United States: 2011. Current population reports. Retrieved from the U.S. Census Bureau website: http://www.census.gov/prod/2012pubs/p60-243.pdf

Ellington, H., & Earl, S. (1998). Using Games, Simulations and Interactive Case Studies, SEDA Paper 101. Staff and Educational Development Association, Birmingham, Alabama.

Perese, E. F. (2007). Stigma, Poverty, and Victimization: Roadblocks to Recovery for

Individuals with Severe Mental Illness. Journal of American Psychiatric Nurses

Association 13(5), 285-95.

Rich, R. O., & Sampson, D. T. (1990). Building intensive simulations in family-therapy training. Counselor Education & Supervision, 29(3), 187.

Rutledge, C., Barham, P., Wiles, L., Benjamin, R., Eaton, P. & Palmer, K. (2008). Integrative simulation: A novel approach to educating culturally competent nurses. Contemporary Nurse, 28, 119-128.

Wilson, L. R., & Leiand Donnelly, G. F. (2012). The future of human simulation. In L.R.. Wilson & G. F. Leiand Donnelly (Eds.), Human simulation for nursing and health professions (pp. 365-366). New York, NY: Springer Publishing.

Wozniacka, G. (2012, September 20). California poverty: Three metro areas in central valley rank among the poorest in the nation. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/20/california-poverty_n_1901642.html

Image source: Microsoft Word, Clip Art
Photo courtesy of the authors

Back to the top

Prop. 30 Protects Mental Health Funding

Protect funding for mental health and drug or alcohol services as well as schools, and safety programs, such as police and probation officers. Proposition 30 aims to stop the funding gap by insuring that funds are specifically directed to local governments for public safety programs, and prevents future realignment without adequate funding from the state. The proposition creates a time-limited 1% tax on those earning more than $250,000 or $500,000 annually (single or married, respectively) and ¼% sales tax.

What is not as well known is that the measure also provides constitutional protection to Mental Health realignment funding (as well as alcohol and drug and child welfare funding). This means that a future state legislature and governor cannot shift this money (and all of the other funding in the so-called Public Safety Realignment Fund) from counties to be used to balance the state budget (or for any other purpose).

Back to the top

Couples Therapy Workshop: Personality Dimensions, The Social Brain, and Couples Therapy

Roy Resnikoff, MD with guest live couples therapy consultation by Erving Polster, PhD, Saturday, November 10, 2012 from 9:00am to 5:00pm, La Jolla.  6CE. $160 ($125 if attending as part of an intimate couple). Call (858) 454-1650 for brochure.

Back to the top

American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA) Invitation

The American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA) cordially invites members of AAMFT to participate in its 35th Annual Meeting at the MEMBER rate and encourages you to present your work. The meeting will be June 5-8, 2013 in Chicago. Theme is “Coupling Today: Love, Parenting, Community.” Registration is limited to 350 attendees. Visit www.afta.org/afta2013 to submit an Abstract for a Brief Presentation, Interest group, or Poster. Deadline for submission is October 31, 2012.

Back to the top

The Communications Committee is interested in your feedback.  We encourage you to send us a note to let us know how we are doing, to share an article idea you’d like published, or to submit one of your own.  Want a greater stake in the publication process, join the editorial team.  Contact the Editor, David Clark, MA at dclark@cypressholistic.com