In my role as CEO of AAMFT, I’m often asked to have the association issue comment or offer a position on a wide variety of topics and issues. In the past, these requests have ranged from statements on popular television shows to court cases or op-eds. Historically, it has been clear when to respond: situations where the profession of marriage and family therapy is involved and issues related to legislation or policy changes.
But the environment Americans are living in today is much different. There is no doubt that the current White House administration operates beyond what is considered traditional communications processes for government. Creating even more unease and concern in our society, these actions seem to circumvent the established processes of policy development and implementation. It is difficult for even experienced advocacy professionals to determine the real priorities of this administration. Compounding this lack of clarity is our 24-hour news cycle and the increasing “competition” for unique insights and perspectives. Although there appears to be a greater volume of news than ever before, there is also much more clutter and noise that we must all sort through.
AAMFT is an association that primarily advocates for the profession of marriage and family therapy. That being said, AAMFT is also extremely sensitive to policies affecting individuals and families spanning a wide range of issues. Therefore, it is vital that when AAMFT offers comment it is definitive and heard.
AAMFT has an active and aggressive advocacy agenda that requires cooperative efforts between different parties, branches, and levels of governments and it is vital that the association remain non-partisan to foster these relationships. We also have a number of existing position statements and our Code of Ethics which provide definitive guidance as to where the association is positioned on some issues as well as an established process through which we develop new statements when necessary. Still, balancing AAMFT’s position in the behavioral health industry with our diverse membership (and diverse families served by our membership) and our established positions in our current environment can be like walking a tightrope.
In order to navigate these times, as an organization, we must set standards for when issues rise to a level at which AAMFT’s strong voice is needed. As demonstrated by our statement on the executive order enacting immigration policy change earlier this year, we are swift and responsive when our government takes action that has a substantial impact on the lives of our members, their clients, and their families.
AAMFT recently received a handful of member inquiries about our stance on the President’s tweets regarding transgender Americans in the military. AAMFT has been clear and vocal in its position for over a decade that as an association discrimination will not be tolerated (What is Marriage and Family Therapy?, and the AAMFT Code of Ethics). While President Trump’s statements raise a variety of concerns for those our members serve and certainly creates a situation that we are closely monitoring, at this time based on all feedback from the leaders of the armed forces and the Pentagon, there has been no formal policy change.
AAMFT’s goal is to ensure we are not just part of the noise that reacts to this administration’s unorthodox method of governing and communicating without delineating what is actual policy and what is political posturing. At times that may create a situation, understandably, where members ask, “Where is AAMFT?” Please do not interpret a lack of contribution as being unaware or insensitive. Instead, it is a deliberate attempt to not dilute our voice within the political cacophony and confusion of today’s climate. Sometimes our discernment might be spot on, other times, maybe not so much. Yet, we will always be attentive and mindful of our responses. Doing so ensures that when advocacy needs arise, AAMFT is able to act quickly, decisively and strategically thereby leveraging our voice to positively influence change.
Tracy Todd, PhD