Regarding the AAMFT Restructure – and Scotland

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 3.32.01 PMI find myself with a bit of a bee in my bonnet. And interestingly, the Scotland vote for nationalism versus separatism today is an unusually apt metaphor.

I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I belong to AAMFT which in turn gives me membership in my state to CTAMFT. I love being a part of this state’s leaders, I love the information I glean and the ability to help serve MFTs and other mental health professionals. I’m one of those “insider” kind of gals.

Today, AAMFT is proposing a national structural change which will potentially take away everything that I love so much about CTAMFT. It is proposing to dissolve state affiliations and pull all funds to the national pool, presumably to better distribute them across some states which have a smaller membership or smaller pool of resources. As a member in a well-funded state, I have some real concerns about what this will mean to my actual experience here. AAMFT does not seem to want to hear this even though they have asked us for our input. I put my personal feelings out there recently only to be met with a disconnected response by Michael Chafin, the current president of AAMFT. (see below)


AAMFT - Chafin reply pt.1

AAMFT – Chafin reply pt.1

AAMFT - Chafin reply pt.2

AAMFT – Chafin reply pt.2

His comments to me were inaccurate and incomplete, meant only to reinforce the reality distortion field AAFMT has attempted to establish.

Remember New Coke? A few people in a board room thought up the great idea of introducing an improved Coca-Cola… remember how that fared? It bombed. Coca-Cola Inc. didn’t consider the totality of their action: they were motivated by the statistical reinforcement of select focus groups’ opinions. AAMFT is blundering into this same territory.

To be specific…

  • Mr. Chafin is in error. He does not acknowledge that I have a personal feeling about this proposal. He continues in his attempt punish me and CTAMFT by citing numbers that are intended to make us look invalid and unengaged. One of Connecticut’s members is on the AAMFT board and another co-developed AAMFT’s Code of Ethics. We know what we’re talking about.
  • Mr. Chafin dissembles. While he appears to be forthcoming by reposting the letter sent to CTAMFT (does he truly not see how condescending it is?), he failed to post our original request for collaboration and clarification. This “disregard first telegram” approach to debate is exactly the type of dismissiveness that I have been feeling since this process has begun.Connecticut is a small state in population and our raw numbers cannot sway any vote. But we are savvy and we are smart. We have many tools for sharing information with our colleagues locally and nationally. I am posting this response on my own blog because it is completely public. I invite Mr. Chafin to respond in kind in a similarly open space, rather than the walled garden of

Seeing how this failed attempt at a reasoned conversation is going, I will rely on the tools of my beloved MFT profession to appeal for understanding from AAMFT.

If I am the client in this matter and I am letting you know that regardless of how you intend to have the information heard, I do not hear it that way, then it is your responsibility to meet the client where the client is. Slow down and try again, please stop re-trumping the party line and dismissing how I feel. I don’t trust this process and you keep telling me I need to. Do better. Sell it to me differently.

I think I understand, just a teensy bit better, how Scotland feels today. And I hope all of our results are healthy and productive.

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Domestic Violence and Power in the NFL – Again

I was disappointed (yet unsurprised) to learn of yet another case of serious abuse being perpetrated by a professional sports player against his fiancee Janay Palmer. The tape that is being circulated of NFL player Ray Rice punching then dragging Janay’s body out of an elevator, stepping over her, using his foot to move her legs, is sickening. Unfortunately it’s more prevalent than anyone would like to think. This kind of behavior is not a “first offense”. This is indicative of someone who is extremely comfortable using physical and financial power over another. Just because it’s the first time we see it doesn’t mean it’s the first time this has happened between them.

Domestic Violence is always about power and control. Period. It’s not an “anger problem” or because of too many steroids, although steroids can exacerbate anyone’s aggressiveness.

As a former facilitator of male repeat offender programs, I have sat before hundreds of men who think and act exactly like Ray Rice, and their partners more often than not keep taking them back, too.

Put yourself in her shoes. He’s famous. He’s rich. He has a lot of power. That can be very alluring, it comes with luxuries and perks, but at what cost? There is an excellent book titled “Not to People Like Us” by Susan Weitzman. She deftly explains the hidden “upscale” abuse that happens behind some very fancy and expensive doors. I would imagine that Ray Rice’s story is much the same. We call it the slot machine principle. Expensive things are prized in American society and many people use access to them as their power and control. You like designer clothes? 5-star hotels? Luxury cars? Well pay the price. Victims feel that they have subjugated themselves so much for these things that they better stay, because if they don’t, then how do they reconcile having sold their values and morals, their self-esteem, for just a bunch of things? So they make it OK by thinking that it will get better, that it was the booze or the stress or -something-, and they stay. That’s the slot machine principle. If I leave now, look at what I have put into this, what I have paid. What if it does pay off? What if he does change? If I leave then I won’t benefit, it will all be for naught. And the cycle deepens and perpetuates.

We need to acknowledge that this happens vastly more often than we like to think. Yes, physical abuse is the most obvious, but it doesn’t usually start there. It usually starts with verbal or emotional abuse, then financial, then sexual, physical and even psychological. All are real, all count. Unfortunately our law enforcement and court system can only deal with the physical, it needs “proof” to prosecute. I see emotional, verbal and financial in my office every day, and I see a lot of it. And no, I am not a hammer that only sees the world as nails. If you get the proper education and eschew the mythology, you can’t help but to see it.

Victims oftentimes are deeply ashamed of their (ill defined) apparent collusion in the cycle. They don’t want to admit to the full picture of what they have accepted and lived with, for shiny things. So they don’t call, they don’t ask for help. They might get a really nice apology gift and pretend that it was a one-time, isolated event, rather than seeing it as an escalation in a deadly pattern.

Please, get educated as to how DV works, for real, and stop allowing myths to create shame and blame experiences for the victims. It’s never easy to admit that the person you have given your heart to is abusing you, it’s extremely difficult for victims to leave, and it’s because our society in part blames the victim too. We must change that misperception.

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Robin Williams and the Gift He Has Left

rwilliamsI fear the news of Robin Williams’ suicide is following suit with so many other teachable moments, and I will try to not have the lesson get lost in the fray.

He left us the gift of a teachable moment: the opportunity to clarify and discuss mental illness.

A battle with bipolar disorder is a very different story than one of just depression. (if someone has ever been given an accurate diagnosis of bipolar disorder, then they will always have it, they cannot NOT have it) Unfortunately, bipolar is a brain chemistry deficiency and is incurable, and those with the diagnosis must take medications the rest of their lives, similar to Type 1 diabetics. Unfortunately, there is still so much stigma around mental illness in our society that those with bipolar often try to convince themselves, and others, that it’s something else. This all too often results in tragic outcomes.

We must remember that those suffering with bipolar did not bring this on themselves, they have done nothing to earn this punishment. It is not about lifestyle or behavior choices or willpower. To borrow a phrase from Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, “It’s not your fault”.

Suicide is the number one side effect of bipolar sufferers who don’t comply with their medication regimes. The highs (manic periods) are usually so much fun, so productive, the person has so much energy and so many ideas, they don’t want to lose them or have them end. Unfortunately they are followed oftentimes by severe downs (depressive periods) in which the person is difficult to reach. The severity of the difference between these high and low points creates a very difficult cycle for the bipolar sufferer, and for those who love them.

And then we wonder about creativity and genius, as in our beloved Robin Williams. There is no debate over his range, his quick wit, his razor sharp mind, but at what cost? I fear that the addiction and the depression, both of which are more socially palatable to discuss or “own” than bipolar disorder, were scapegoats for the larger story. Everyone loved Robin when he was up, I hope he loved himself too, but what about the dark times? How much fun is it to be around someone who could potentially go so low? So often I have new clients come in who are self-medicating with drugs and alcohol to manage (mask?) an underlying bipolar diagnosis. Getting the substances out of the way clears our ability to make more accurate diagnoses and get the person the right kind of help.

Please don’t let depression alone take the hit for this tragic event. Depression, even severe depression, is treatable with therapy and medication, even ECT, and can end. But bipolar is a brain chemistry deficiency and must be treated with medication – forever. It does not just go away. Sometimes clients feel so good when they are on their medication they convince themselves that they don’t need the meds anymore. They really just don’t want the diagnosis.

We have to change the way we discuss mental illness, mental health, and be extremely conscious and careful as to how we use the terms. The colloquial misuse of these terms has diluted their true definitions, and therefore the road to those with them getting accurate help and support.

And if you or someone you know is in a crisis, contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).

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Scott Miller, #EVO2013

I was at this presentation last December, and I am thrilled to share it here. Scott Miller is a very astute, energetic and engaging presenter. Enjoy!

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Our Mysterious Brains


As we now know, I am fascinated by the brain. I am an avid Brainspotter, my clients are getting amazing results with the technique. It seems as if this is the new cutting edge of research and understanding. There has been a ton of information lately about the brain, what it can do, and what it can’t. I am particularly energized by these two bits.

First is WNYC’s Radiolab show on “Memory”. It reminds us that what we focus upon expands.

The second is a TedTalk about the adolescent brain, brain development in general, and the reward center circuitry.


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If only!

feeling great!

I often wish that this were true, that it was this easy to ease the suffering of others.

In the words of Charlie Brown, “sigh.”

But don’t let that stop you from coming in to therapy! Sometimes just the mere act of stepping through the door can have true calming and positive rewards. The act of self-care is healing in and of itself, the desire for “other” is powerful in stating the journey towards a new tomorrow.

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Loving Kindness

We had our amazing 2014 CTAMFT Annual Conference this past Thursday and Friday and it was chock full of great people, ideas and tools. Kelly McGonigal was mesmerizing, Lou Cozolino was funny and humble while being masterful in presenting complicated information.

cardinal courtship feeding

Cardinal courtship feeding

I was particularly drawn to the Metta Meditation presented by Dr. Ingeborg Haug. Her presence is so calming and soothing and then added to that this peaceful, healing loving meditation, it has lingered with me.

I was thinking about it on Sunday morning, looking out over the pond where I live, and I was watching first a heron land, look around, and then take off, followed by a cardinal couple hopping about. As I was watching the cardinals, I was also reflecting on the horrible tragedy in the Jonathan Law High School in Milford to which many of my colleagues were called away as assistants in grief counseling.

As I am watching the cardinals, I see the male discover a piece of bread we had thrown out. He nips off a piece and (seemingly) excitedly he hops over to the female and beak-to-beak gives her the bread. He then hops back to the bread, nibbles some more, and again gives it to the female. He does this 4 times before they fly away to another space. I was then thinking about the stabbing, how it is the exact opposite of the roles that Mother Nature intends for us to take. The male cardinal gave his treasure to the female as a courtship ritual, eventually presumably because she needs the extra nutrition to lay eggs or nest, etc. The female cardinal didn’t snub this male, but I imagine she had snubbed many other suitors before selecting this male as her mate for the season. How did humans get this dance so wrong?

So I then found myself reflecting on Ingeborg’s gift of the Metta Meditation to all of us. I am now giving it to you. (this isn’t Ingeborg, but a very parallel take on the Metta Meditation) The five phrases given are: “May I be happy. May I be at ease. May I be safe. May I be healthy. May I be strong.”

Metta means “loving kindness”. Please let’s all practice loving kindness more, and selfish possessiveness less.

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Good News

Sometimes all we really need to do is to hear those 2 words, “good news” to brighten our moods and let go of, perhaps, some negative stuck thinking.

I have 2 things today that I believe are good news, and that I want to share.

model brain

model brain

The first is: my brain arrived! I know, all jokes aside, (yes, I know how terribly funny and ironic it is that I had to order a brain from the internet. ha. ha.) I am so happy to have it here! It is such a useful tool in physically and visually demonstrating where in our brains memories, feelings and sensations are located.

It is also so very helpful in supporting the Brainspotting therapy that I do, too.

Speaking of which, make sure you register for the CTAMFT Annual Conference by this Friday! It’s all about the cool things our brains can do!

Secondly, I received the below infographic regarding social connection and its importance and I just love it! I am at the core a visual person, so these things really assist me in visualizing concepts. I hope it helps you, too.

Connect to Thrive INFOGRAPHIC - An Infographic from Emma Seppälä, Ph.D.

Embedded from Emma Seppälä, Ph.D.

Here’s to good news!

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Join Me at the Trumbull Marriott!


This April 24 and 25, 2014 I would be thrilled if you would join me and the rest of the Board of Directors at the 2014 CTAMFT Annual Conference. This year’s topic is near and dear to my heart, it’s called “The New Science of Brain Connection” and we will be at the Trumbull Marriott. We have amazing speakers! (I kind of can’t believe we attracted such rock stars!)

image_kelly-mcgonigalThursday at 1 we will have Kelly McGonigal, of recent TEDGlobal fame, speak about the latest scientific thinking on compassion, including the psychology, biology and neuroscience of empathy, compassion and altruism called “The Neuroscience of Compassion”. I saw Paul Ekman speak on compassion and altruism at the Evolution of Psychotherapy conference, and you definitely DON’T want to miss this!

Afterwards there will be a presentation on Mindfulness and Self-Care by Dr. Ingeborg Haug as well as a “Shake Your Soul” yoga dance session by Jayne Dean. The Student Committee has put together a special “Professional Showcase” for students to network with professionals looking to hire MFT grads, and for grads to speak with professionals to learn what their jobs are really all about. (there’s a reduced registration fee for all of Thursday if you sign up to participate – hint hint – free food and drinks – ahem). Then you can’t miss the Networking event where we have drinks, dessert, and unstructured time to mix and mingle with your colleagues from near and far, meet new colleagues, and let your hair down to have some fun!

Rooms are at a discount and will sell out, so register NOW! Registration closes in 10 days!!

cozolino_lou2Friday April 25 starts out bright and early with Dr. Lou Cozolino, Psychologist and Professor of Psychology at Pepperdine University, giving a keynote presentation in the morning titled, “Psychotherapy and Science,” as well as an afternoon workshop featuring “The Social Brain.”

We then have the biggest Poster Session yet, 12 posters, for education and learning, and then we have Jeff Schutz giving a workshop on Neurofeedback and Karl Speirs highlighting the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) Model, on which EMDR therapy is based.


We are all so very proud of this Conference, we really think we have put together something special for CT therapists of all persuasions.

Please spread the word and come gather CEUs, connections, knowledge, friends and memories.

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Celebrate With Us!

MFT3 5th Anniversary

MFT3 5th Anniversary

Today is a big day in my life, and in the lives of our clients.

Today marks MFT3′s 5th Anniversary. 5 years ago today we opened for business and have been going strong ever since. We continue to be thrilled and energized in helping those who are stuck get un-stuck – both in the local community here in Trumbull as well as our clients who come from as far away as Middlefield, New Canaan, Branford, Oxford and other towns. Thank you again for allowing us into your most difficult moments, and to witness your amazing strength, resilience and accomplishments.

It is also the 7th birthday of our little cat, Sallie Mae. She is a skittish, sweet little thing who makes us happy every day. Happy Birthday Sallie Mae!

Take time to mark your own milestones and celebrations. Enjoy!

And thank you from Katherine, Audrey, and Lisa, your MFT3 team. We are looking forward to the next 5 years!

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