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Dec 16, 2019

Curt and Katie talk about the advocacy efforts to make paying prelicensed individuals a best practice. We talk about a statement recently approved by CAMFT, looking at the process, the implications, and a call to action.

It’s time to reimagine therapy and what it means to be a therapist. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy talk about how to approach the role of therapist in the modern age.

In this episode we talk about:

  • A public statement approved at the most recent meeting of California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
  • The supporting information that suggests that paying prelicensed individuals is a best practice of supervision
  • The importance of a living wage, benefits, and meaningful work
  • Curt’s journey in support of this statement
  • The ability (and the challenge) for each of us in these types of advocacy efforts.
  • The call to action to take this statement to your own professional organization
  • The type of push back to expect and how to address it
  • Laws and best practices versus implementation and accountability
  • Addressing bad actors and the goal of keeping good actors good
  • How a single voice can be silenced, but a movement can make a difference
  • The mission of the #therapymovement to leave our profession better
  • A second call to action for you to stand up and advocate for the necessary changes you see

Resources mentioned:

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links.

California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists

The Public Board book from the December CAMFT board meeting (statement on pg. 204-206)

The CAMFT Task Force who crafted the statement: Curt Widhalm, Lisa Romain, LMFT, Jeff Kashou, LMFT, and Katie Vernoy

The statement approved by the CAMFT Board:

Statement on Paying Associates as a Best Practice of Supervision

In alignment with CAMFT’s mission, this organization works to anticipate and address the professional needs of its members and to advance the Marriage and Family Therapist profession, with a foundational value of inclusion. The current employment model for Associate Marriage and Family Therapists makes it difficult for them to support themselves financially during the time period when they are accruing required supervised experience. The lack of pay can also create barriers to entry into the workforce based on socio-economic status, decreasing the potential diversity in our profession (Hoge, Morris, Daniels, Stuart, Huey, & Adams, 2007, pg 272).

When organizations offer competitive wage and benefits packages, meaningful work, and appropriate infrastructure, they are able to hire and retain qualified professionals who can provide high quality mental health services (Hoge et al., 2007, pg 18). Staff turnover is costly to employers (Hoge et al., 2007, pg 16), has negative effects on clients, and undermines quality of care (Knudsen, Johnson, & Roman, 2003; Eby, Burnk, & Maher, 2010)

There are concerns related to the rights of therapists who take unpaid or volunteer work. These workers often are not extended the legal rights afforded to employees. In truth, the Civil Rights Act, FMLA, and EEOC do not apply to unpaid positions, leaving our prelicensees at risk for discriminatory abuses (Hickman, 2014). Further, many unpaid positions are actually displacing work that other paid employees could perform, further impacting the wages of others in the field (Crain, 2016). Low wages are shown to increase turnover and burnout, leading to inconsistency in the workforce and a decrease in the quality of mental health services (SAMHSA, 2014, pg 157, Hoge 16, pp. 105-109).

Lack of pay for Associate MFTs has a longer term effect on employment for Associates. Associate MFTs may take longer to earn their MFT license, directly affecting their salary. In addition, workers who obtain unpaid internships are often required to work additional jobs or seek additional financial support. This is considered “underemployment,” which impacts up to 56% of our workforce (Abel, Deitz, & Su, 2014). Finally, when entering the job market for a paid position, these workers are often at a disadvantage to their peers who have either had a paid internship or who have had no internship experience at all (Crain, 2016, pp. 6-7). Workers who have come from unpaid internships receive fewer job offers and work for lower wages (Crain, 2016, pp. 6-7).

CAMFT calls on employers to pay Associates as a best practice in valuing equality, inclusion, and diversity in the MFT profession. CAMFT affirms that workplaces that recruit Associate Marriage and Family Therapists to provide mental health services shall, as a best practice, provide a living wage (commensurate with cost of living, education, experience, and responsibility), benefits, clear roles, appropriate caseloads, administrative support, and appropriate training and supervision.


Abel, J. R., Deitz, R., & Su, Y. (2014) Are recent college graduates finding good jobs? Current Issues in Economics and Finance, 20(1). Available at SSRN:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2014). Trauma Informed Care in Behavioral Health Service: Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series 57. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD.

Crain, A. (2016). Understanding the impact of unpaid internships on college student career development and employment outcomes. NACE Journal. Available at

Eby, L. T., Burk, H., & Maher, C. P. (2010). How serious of a problem is staff turnover in substance abuse treatment? A longitudinal study of actual turnover. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 39, 264–271.

Hickman, B. (2014, July 23). What we learned exploring unpaid internships. Retrieved from

Hoge, M. A., Morris, J. A., Daniels, A. S., Stuart, G. W., Huey, L. Y., & Adams, N. (2007). An action plan for behavioral health workforce development. Annapolis Coalition on the Behavioral Health Workforce: Cincinnati, OH.

Knudsen, H. K., Johnson, J. A., & Roman, P. M. (2003). Retaining counseling staff at substance abuse treatment centers: Effects of management practices. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 24(2), 129- 135.


Relevant Episodes:

Defining the Therapy Movement

Trauma Informed Work Place

Joining Your Association

Modern Therapists Strike Back

Let’s Get Political

Building Hope for the Next Generation of Therapists

The Fight to Save Psychotherapy

Getting Personal to Advocate for Compassion, Understanding, and Social Justice


Connect with us!

Our Facebook Group – The Modern Therapists Group

Get Notified About Therapy Reimagined 2020 (and TR2019 Virtual Conference)


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Who we are:

Curt Widhalm is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is a Board Member at Large for the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, a Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, Adjunct Faculty at Pepperdine University, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making "dad jokes" and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at:

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant. As a helping professional for two decades, she’s navigated the ups and downs of our unique line of work. She’s run her own solo therapy practice, designed innovative clinical programs, built and managed large, thriving teams of service providers, and consulted hundreds of helping professionals on how to build meaningful AND sustainable practices. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt's youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at:

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.


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Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano