By: Megan Oudekerk, PsyD, LMFT, RPT-S, MAMFT President & Lucas Volini, DMFT, LMFT, MAMFT At-Large Board Member

Megan: It is with great humility and respect that I step into the position as President of MAMFT.  Now, as MAMFT has separated from AAMFT to form an independent association, the symbolism of returning to our roots has become very apparent.  I fully understand that these are big shoes to fill and I cannot forget that many Presidents that came before me did not have it easy during their presidencies.  On the contrary, they faced issues like threats to licensure, invalidation of our profession, financial hardship, and many other challenges.

Over the past three Presidents, we have faced a growing disconnect from our national parent company, AAMFT.  It became increasingly obvious that while we were focused on our relationships with each other and the communities we serve, they became more focused on the business of AAMFT which strained our commitment to MN’s membership and the communities we serve.  They recently presented members with a new contract of sorts that created the dissolution of state divisions as we know them.  While this move might benefit some states, Minnesota has a thriving community of MFTs and a change like this would threaten our very existence.   In many conversations had at board members as well as with our members, one thing was clear….we need to get back to relationships.

This association was built on relationships and that will always be very important to us.  Relationships help us get through graduate school by allowing us to connect with others.  Relationships help provide mentorship as we go through the supervision process.  Relationships help us to connect with clients.  Relationships are what brought many of us to this field and we feel that is where our roots are planted. As we thought more about returning to relationships, the MFT community was faced with the passing of a legend and founder in the field, Salvador Minuchin.

Lucas: In the spirit of relationship, Megan and I had discussed co-authoring an article given our shared vision and message we hoped to send during such a critical time of our association’s evolution. When Megan then turned that into an invitation to share in her inaugural president’s column, I had reservations. I didn’t want to intrude on another’s special moment. After years of dedicated service to our professional association, it was now Megan’s time to settle into a well-earned term as our president…so what business did I have stepping into her spotlight? Just as I sat to share my thoughts with Megan and respectfully decline the offer, I reflected on the original intention of our article along with the theme of conversation throughout board meetings over this past year—that we need to get back to our roots, to get back to relationships…

When we reflect upon where we have been, particularly in the wake of losing a most beloved leader and colleague, two traits stand out to me: courage and generativity. 60-years-ago, as our field was pioneered into its own distinct identify as a mental health discipline, there was no solitary leader—and there wasn’t a map. But there were individuals with a shared vision and mutual, but distinct, courage—and within that mutuality, there was a destination. It took the generativity of several leaders and their shared actualization of courage to bring marriage and family therapy to our world. Whitaker walked away from his role as tenured Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Emory University when they wouldn’t support his blossoming approach to what we now know as symbolic-experiential family therapy. Refusing to remain constricted by the sterile linearity of traditional psychoanalysis that then dominated the medical field, he resigned, and majority of his faculty left with him! Bateson too embraced an academic death in his dedication to multidisciplinary studies in hopes of better understanding human communication processes, paving way for the Mental Research Institute and resulting development of the first formal systemic approach to family therapy. Satir tolerated the “Boy’s Club” at MRI prior to leaving the comforts of their grant-funded research in pursuit of her humanistic approach to healing families, gradually evolving her endeavors of the heart into being recognized as a global humanitarian. Adler strayed from the good graces of Freud and Jung to look beyond instinctual drives and instead into the relationships that more deeply influence who we are as individuals. As Bowen was on track for a lucrative career in surgery, his military experiences at war shifted his concentration toward psychiatry. And Minuchin, a true embodiment of generativity, spent a lifetime serving underprivileged youth and families—not only in his direct clinical practice, but in his commitment to training and mentoring generations of family therapists. This is just to mention a few of so many more…

So as we embark on this journey of independence and take advantage of the possibilities ahead, let’s evolve in a way that conserves the foundation of who we are and honors the courageous generativity of our pioneers by keeping those very traits alive. I look forward to serving this profession alongside all of our membership, in gratitude to the past, and in progress toward the future. And thank you to Megan, for sharing your first president’s column and the years of service ahead.

Megan: Lucas, as eloquent as ever, perhaps is being too generous with his kind words but I would like to point out that the excitement of embarking on this new journey is that it is our shared journey.  I truly feel that MAMFT (the whole organization) is more deserving of the spotlight right now because MAMFT deserves a time to shine.  Bravo to the many leaders that have served on the board in previous years for it is your hard work and dedication that have gotten us this far.  MAMFT is now able to offer guidance and leadership to others in the field of Marriage and Family Therapy and that is not a role that will be taken lightly.  Relationships and vision are what helped to create this field and we intend to honor that with our new independent association.