AAMFT Social Policies

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2015 Policy on Social and Family Policies

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Family policy issues are defined as those issues fundamentally concerned about families as the basic institution of our society.  Society depends upon families to perform certain essential tasks throughout the life cycle that no other institution of our society is able to carry out as well.  As defined in the growing literature that is shaping and defining the domain of family policy issues, family policy generally includes four basic areas of family functioning that directly and explicitly concern:

  • Family Composition:  Those issues and policies that affect families.
  • Economic Support:  Those issues and policies that affect families’ responsibility and ability to provide for their dependents’ basic needs.
  • Child-Rearing:  Those issues and policies that concern families’ responsibility and ability to nurture and rear their children.
  • Family Care: Those issues and policies that concern families’ responsibility and ability to care for, and related to, relatives of all ages.

Family policies are those issues and policies that either reinforce or interfere with the four basic major categories of family functioning identified above.

Goals for actions concerning family relevant issues by the Board of Directors and the Association:

  • Educate Members
  • Contribute to the Public Discourse
  • Protect and Enhance the Ability of the Profession to Serve Families
  • Influence Public Policy

Criteria for identifying and selecting relevant social and family issues:

  • Commanding Issues that Make a Significant Difference for the Practice of Marriage and Family Therapy and/or
  • Commanding Issues that Make a Significant Difference for the Well-Being of Families

Elements of this perspective on policy:

  • A primary emphasis on familial/relational aspects
  • Role of the Larger Context (e.g., Community, Political-Ideological, Socio-cultural, Legal, and Historical)
  • Consideration of the effect of policy options on the practice of marriage and family therapy, on the client families of marriage and family therapists, and on the context that is directly pertinent to the well-being of families.
  • Explicit consideration of ethics and values.

Process for identification, selection, and study of family policy issues:

  • Issues are identified through a variety of initiating sources. These sources include members of the AAMFT Board of Directors, the membership of the AAMFT staff, and the general AAMFT membership.
  • When potential issues are identified, the President of the AAMFT Board of Directors shall appoint a Task Force to conduct an initial review of each of the issues that are identified. This Task Force shall recommend to the Board which issues merit further study and consideration by the AAMFT.
  • For each selected issue, the Task Force shall recommend the process for review and study and, in consultation with the Executive Director, the fiscal and human resources necessary to complete such a review and study. This Task Force also shall coordinate the processes established to study issues.
  • If a decision is made that further study is required, the President, in consultation with the Board, may ask staff, appoint a broadly representative Task Force, or make use of another mechanism to study the issue with reference to the consideration of the elements listed above.
  • The study process may include, but is not limited to, the following: a review of the relevant literature and other available information, input from and dialogue with AAMFT members, information presented and discussions held in conjunction with the AAMFT Annual Conference and other public conversations and communications.
  • The completed study shall be reviewed by the Task Force, then forwarded to the Board of Directors along with recommendations for the Board to consider.

Process for decision-making by the Board of Directors:

  • Recommendations may include, but are not limited to, the following:
    1. No further action by the Board of Directors;
    2. Further study;
    3. Dissemination of information to the membership;
    4. Creating mechanisms for continued dialogue;
    5. Possible collaboration with other organizations or entities;
    6. Dissemination of information to the public and/or media;
    7. Adoption of a formal position and a rationale for that position; and
    8. Adoption of a formal position and a rationale for that position, with associated advocacy activities.
  • Recommendations must be accompanied by analysis of the fiscal and human resources necessary to implement the recommendations.
  • Approval of a plan of action related to social policies shall be by a majority vote of the voting members of the AAMFT Board of Directors.  The minority opinion also may be reported by the AAMFT Board of Directors.

Positions on Couples and Families

Amicus Briefs filed in Same-Sex Marriage Cases

Over the last two years, AAMFT has joined with the American Psychological Association and other mental health associations in filing briefs in federal courts that support the right of same-sex couples to marry under state law. For example, on March 6, 2015, AAMFT, along with the Michigan Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, joined in a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court that is in support of parties who are challenging laws in four states that deny the status of marriage to same-sex couples. The Supreme Court is expected to issue its decision in this matter in June 2015.

The purpose of these briefs, known as amicus briefs, is alert a court to issues relevant to the lawsuit that the parties to the lawsuit might not adequately address.  Many professional membership associations file such briefs concerning issues of importance to their members. 

Reparative/Conversion Therapy

Adopted by the Board of Directors at its March 25, 2009 Meeting in Alexandria, VA

From time to time AAMFT receives questions about a practice known as reparative or conversion therapy, which is aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation. As stated in previous AAMFT policy, the association does not consider homosexuality a disorder that requires treatment, and as such, we see no basis for such therapy. AAMFT expects its members to practice based on the best research and clinical evidence available. For a review of research on these therapies, please click here.

AAMFT Position on Couples and Families

Adopted by the Board of Directors at its October 17, 2005 meeting in Kansas City, MO

AAMFT believes that all couples who willingly commit themselves to each other, and their children, have a right to expect equal support and benefits in civil society. Thus, we affirm the right of all committed couples and their families to legally equal benefits, protection, and responsibility.

As opportunities arise, AAMFT will support public policy initiatives that strengthen marriages, couples, civil unions, and families through the provision of technical assistance.

What is Marriage and Family Therapy?

Approved by the Board of Directors at its July 31, 2005 meeting in Santa Rosa, CA

Marriage and Family Therapy has long been defined as an intervention aimed at ameliorating not only relationship problems but also mental and emotional disorders within the context of family and larger social systems.

Today, as many in the United States are debating issues of marriage and family composition, it is of primary importance that the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and marriage and family therapists make clear what we mean and wish to imply in the use of the words “marriage” and “family” as we use them in our core values, teaching, treatment, research, and code of ethics.

We assert the value and positive impact of stable, long-term, emotionally enriching relationships. We believe that society is better off when social groupings are created that allow for and support these qualities. We recognize that all family forms have inherent strengths and challenges. As marriage and family therapists we focus our study and skills on how individuals in our society couple – choosing partners and establishing households – and form family groups.

We study and intervene to assist in these relationships whether that means a marriage has occurred in the legal sense, whether there is co-habitation, or other forms of family. We invite members of heterosexual, same-sex, culturally similar, intercultural/interracial and other forms of family composition to engage with marriage and family therapists for relational development and problem solving within their cultural contexts. We welcome all who would seek out our services in order to build strength and health in their lives, relationships, and in society. Our code of ethics states that “Marriage and family therapists provide professional assistance to persons without discrimination on the basis of race, age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, gender, health status, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation.” We are an open and inclusive profession and organization.

Statement on Nonpathologizing Sexual Orientation

Adopted by the Board of Directors at its September 7, 2004 meeting in Atlanta, GA

The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy takes the position that same sex orientation is not a mental disorder. Therefore, we do not believe that sexual orientation in and of itself requires treatment or intervention.

Rationale: The development of the field of marriage and family therapy has included a tradition and perspective that eschewed the medical model. Historically, pathology or the diagnosis of an individual was not part of our field's heritage or practice. In light of this historical context, AAMFT never considered the possibility of making a statement that defined "pathology," or in the case of sexual orientation "non-pathology." At the same time, we have had a history of stating that discrimination based on sexual orientation (and other personal characteristics such as gender, physical ability, religion, creed, ethnicity, for example) is unethical. At this time, in our society, the debate over the health or legitimacy of same sex orientation is once again a topic of political debate. Therefore, it is time for us to clarify our own record and speak to the issue. We support that same sex orientation is a normal variant of human sexuality that takes a variety of forms and expression.

Future Considerations: We do recognize that treatment of those clients who present feeling confused about or wanting to change their sexual orientation should be undertaken with great care, knowledge, and openness. Therefore, it is our intent as an association to provide information to our members, through clinical care guidelines or other methods, regarding these issues.

Amicus Brief

California Same-Sex Marriage Case. On November 4, 2008, California voters approved Proposition 8. This measure amended the California Constitution to state that only a marriage between a man and woman will be recognized in California. Proposition 8 prohibits the State of California from recognizing same-sex marriages performed after November 4, 2008.

AAMFT Board

Meet the current AAMFT Board of Directors.

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
112 South Alfred Street Alexandria, VA 22314-3061
Phone: (703) 838-9808 | Fax: (703) 838-9805

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