January 30, 2024
Robin Andersen, LMFT
President, CAMFT Board of Directors
I have been a practicing therapist for the last 45 years and a proud member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT). Today, I am writing to cancel my membership.
When I received the December 2022 issue of your magazine, The Therapist, the cover story gave me pause. It advocated for an aggressive approach to treating gender-questioning children, including some dangerous and permanently life-changing protocols. I read the article in full, and decided to write a letter to the editor in response.
The months following the submission of my letter have been a rollercoaster of pleasant surprises and sour disappointments. First, your magazine published my letter in March 2023, which filled me with hope that despite the left-of-center political values that dominate our line of work, our profession remained open to diverse viewpoints when delivered respectfully and with sound reasoning.
What occurred next also pleasantly surprised me. In today’s “cancel culture” social climate, I had expected a deluge of hate mail following my letter’s publication. This was not the case. Instead, I received many supportive emails from peers and colleagues who thanked me for my courage, and called me a voice of reason and common sense.
Can you believe we’ve deteriorated to the point in our profession where the simple act of writing a dissenting letter is considered an act of courage?
Nonetheless, given this onslaught of support, imagine my surprise when I opened the next issue of your magazine. Those expecting to see the letter to the editor section filled with responses and counter-points delivered by other professionals in the field were left disappointed to say the least.
I was very disappointed with the apology from CAMFT, which did not even attempt to address or debate the content of my letter. Instead, you attacked my character. You accused me of spreading misinformation. You accused me of causing vague “harm and pain” and profusely apologized for making such an editorial “mistake.”
“CAMFT is proud to be a diverse organization,” you wrote, while uprooting the seedlings of open dialogue surrounding one of the most critical issues facing our field today. “CAMFT does not wish to censor our members nor stifle discourse,” you wrote, on the page where my voice used to be.
Meanwhile, a small group of people were passively-aggressively organizing to have me removed from CAMFT, along with a litany of personal attacks online. This seems light years away from the “safe space for dialogue” that you claim to aspire to build.
We find ourselves at a dire and pivotal point, not only in our profession, but as a society. CAMFT can become a political activist organization, leaving professional minds to seek out information and varied clinical opinions elsewhere. Or it can use this experience as a teachable moment, to model for our industry at-large what respectful and open dialogue looks like.
Sadly, it appears CAMFT has chosen the former. Your responses to my concerns were delayed by weeks. I offered to revisit the letter word for word, and to reword any inadvertent inflammatory language before being reinstated into the magazine. I was not taken up on my offer. I also suggested three ways in which CAMFT can foster open dialogue and promote a greater diversity of perspectives at its next conference. These were met with no response.
Finally, weeks later, your organization confirmed it would be standing by its apology, including the attacks on me therein, and continue enforcing its DEI principles. Your position is clear, but I do not accept it.
Please know I am not alone in my disappointment. The professionals in your membership hold a range of viewpoints on the best ways to support gender-questioning youth, but fear retribution. This cannot remain and have our profession survive and thrive.
In fact, it is counter to our professional calling. How can we create brave spaces for our clients to speak freely, when we don’t offer the same dignity for ourselves?
CAMFT owes its membership an apology for printing such a letter, for dragging its feet toward a dialogue, and for its inability to engage with its members without them fearing retribution. We need an open atmosphere of free speech and scientific discussion and debate in order to do our jobs well, and in the professional and ethical manner that the public requires and expects.
It is with deep sadness that I write that CAMFT has lost its way, its integrity, as well as my respect.
And now it has lost my membership.
Rick McCarthy, MFT
PS: As you have erased my original letter to the editor, I am re-posting it here. It is my greatest hope that others in the field will find it helpful while considering all perspectives on this topic before forming their own ethical and professional opinions.
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