2018 Ballot Bios
Karen Cunningham, LMFT, Alaska
Karen Cunningham is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Alaska. She completed a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. She received her Master’s degree in Psychology from Saybrook. She began serving as a Marriage and Family Therapy Associate in The Couples Center of Alaska where she quickly became Associate Executive Director. Karen currently works as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) in private practice. She was appointed as a clinical member of the Alaska State Board of Marriage and Family Therapy in 2017. She is currently the Vice-Chair and has embraced the opportunities in this role, working with State Legislators as the Board’s legislative point of contact in working to change statutes to better serve and protect the public.
I believe the AMFTRB will face many challenges going forward. The most important task of the AMFTRB is to protect the public. It is the job of the AMFTRB to ensure educational and associate status competency, and appropriately challenge associates with great supervision and high standards regarding client and supervision hours. Further, the AMFTRB can work with states who might need to adjust some of their statutes and regulations. The AMFTRB can protect the public by educating potential MFTs, and the clients, about our ethical, moral, and value stances, and educating MFTs about being vigilant in our own states for violations which may require disciplinary action. When disciplinary action does occur, it is vital that the deciding members are fair and impartial. This coming year, I’d like to see the AMFTRB develop some method to get State Boards to agree to a portability compact.
In looking forward 2020, one responsibility of the AMFTRB is to stay current with the changing trends and technology, and to think creatively about how to integrate changes. I anticipate continuing the work of collaboration among member boards in developing a consistent standard for MFT’s across the country. Talks should continue in collaborating and working towards an international compact. As the health care system is constantly changing, and the Federal availabilities of medical care seems to be shifting, it will be vital to research and provide information to member boards on the language that would be recommended to be used in working to allow marital and family therapy services to be available to some very underserved populations around our country. There may be continuing work regarding teletherapy and tele-supervision, and as laws change, statutes may have to change to keep up
Jennifer Smothermon, LMFT, Texas
Jennifer Smothermon is a Texas Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Supervisor; a Texas Licensed Professional Counselor and Supervisor; a Registered Play Therapist and Supervisor; and an AAMFT Approved Supervisor, fully licensed since 2003. She has served on the Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists since 2008 and was appointed as chair in 2016. She has served as the Texas delegate to AMFTRB since 2015 and has served on the Teletherapy Committee, Mobility Committee and as the Member at Large. She believes her greatest personal asset as the Member at Large is her ability to listen empathically and to work collaboratively with others.
I see several current issues facing regulatory boards. One issue is responding to the legislative impact of the NC Dental Board v FTC case; as board structures and consistency are in flux, boards are challenged to balance public protection with professionals’ right to earn a living. The emphasis on less regulation from federal and state government is requiring boards to do more with less. Boards continue to face the need to address portability/mobility by creating common standards, removing unnecessary barriers to licensure, and creating rules and minimum standards for teletherapy that protect the public and promote access to care. Issues related to continued competency and re-entry to practice continue to be addressed in regulatory circles, and it is imperative that boards continue the conversation and identify minimum standards to assure public protection and quality practice.
In the coming years, I anticipate boards will be faced with the need for solid research supporting occupational regulation/licensing as the most effective means to promote public protection. Boards will need to strike an effective balance between occupational regulation and preserving professional practice free from nonessential governmental restrictions by removing unnecessary barriers to licensure. Boards will need to continue creating regulatory practices that promote both transparency and consistency while protecting the public, as consistency in rules and decisions promotes fairness and defensibility. Strategic frameworks for handling decisions and for strong board member training materials/programs will be needed. Boards will be faced with continued conversations about how to facilitate multi-state practice, whether by interstate agreements or common standards for licensure and application, understanding that promoting access to mental health care is promoting public protection. Boards will need to address best practices that support public protection when violations have occurred, taking into consideration remediation versus punishment. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve in this position and to continue working on these important issues that impact public protection.
Jeremy Blair, LMFT, Alabama
Jeremy Blair has been a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for 16 years. He graduated from Harding University with a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy. He will complete a Masters in Business Administration with a concentration in Healthcare Management from the University of North Alabama in December 2018. He currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of WellStone, a community mental health center located in Huntsville, AL. He has held both clinical and administrative positions through his eighteen-year career in two different non-profit organizations that provide mental health services. He has served on the Alabama Board of Examiners in Marriage and Family Therapy for the last five years, serving as Chair of the Board for the last four years. Before being appointed to the licensing board, he served for ten years on the board of the Alabama Association of Marriage and Family Therapy in the capacity of Secretary, President-Elect, President and Past President. He also currently serves as the Board President for a Federally Qualified Look-a-Like Health Center. He has a passion for the field of Marriage and Family Therapy and would love the opportunity to continue his service on the AMFTRB.
I believe that the top five current regulatory issues facing regulators are as follows: sexual misconduct by licensees, other ethical violations by licensees, falsifying or misleading information on license applications by the applicant, telehealth regulations including complaints by the public receiving telehealth services by out of state providers and how to resolve those conflicts, and licensees practicing outside the scope of their expertise.
There are several regulatory issues I believe that regulators will face in 2020. Unfortunately, sexual misconduct by licensees has the potential to become an issue. Another area is telehealth related issues. This mode of delivery will continue to increase as the technology and access to broadband increases across the country. Inappropriate online relationships between licensees and clients can become an issue as the lines continue to blur between professional and personal presence online. We need to reduce barriers to obtaining a license. There is a growing sentiment that we require too many certifications and occupational licenses. There is a real possibility that MFT and allied health providers could be included in this movement. Finally, we will need to consider opioid abuse and addictions by licensees and the impact on delivery of services that will create. The opioid epidemic knows no boundaries and could easily affect many of our boards and licensees.
Scott Cohen, LMFT, LICSW, Massachusetts
Scott Cohen is an LMFT and LICSW in MA, having been licensed for 34 years. He graduated from Case Western Reserve University’s Mandel School of Social Work with a specialization in Mental Health and Marriage and Family Therapy. He has been an AAMFT approved supervisor for 25 years. He is currently serving the second of two stints on the Massachusetts Board of Allied Mental Health. He has also served as a board member and President of the MA division of AAMFT. His accomplishments include receiving an AAMFT Divisional Contribution Award and twice being honored by MA with the Significant Contribution to the Organization Award. He is a clinical member of AAMFT, a member of NASW, and a Diplomate in ABECSW. He recently retired from managing Scott Cohen Associates where his responsibilities included managing the finances and doing the billing for 4 clinicians. He has been on the Board of Trustees of his local temple where his service included VP of Finance and Fundraising. He is currently VP of the Board of Trustees of Camp Young Judeae. He served AMFTRB on the committee to develop ESL/ELL guidelines and on the Angoff Panel in Denver. He believes his greatest strengths are being able to listen, to think critically, to offer possible solutions, to speak his mind, and to build consensus.
I believe the top issues for regulators today are as follows: facilitating reciprocity and portability which may include changing state regulations; developing a national telehealth certification; developing a national model for comprehensive multi modal disciplinary standards; recognizing the need for continued national connections including AMFTRB and the AAMFT national convention; providing money and opportunities for minorities and disadvantaged to access and pass the national exam; and keeping our exam as the best standard for validating the qualifications of licensees.
I believe there are several issues that will face regulators in 2020. AMFTRB has an extremely solid income stream resulting from the national exam. We must keep a sharp eye on how we handle our income over expenses. As a Not for Profit organization, we must find wise ways to spend excess income in promoting new and creative ways to help potential licensees, expand diversity, and uphold our charge to protect the public. In addition, the following issues will face us: dealing with increased telehealth; administering the exam; and redefining our relationship with AAMFT.