News Items

News and Commentary For The Mental Health Professional
  • Tue, April 04, 2017 5:57 PM | Deleted user

    A warm Spring Welcome in the San Gabriel Valley to you all!

    Thank you to John Sovec for coming in and presenting a wonderfully informative and engaging workshop in March! His advocacy and education enhanced our cultural competance and grew my empathy and humanity.

    At the end of February, SGV-CAMFT sent two board members (Casey Meinster and yours truly)  to CAMFT's Chapter Leadership Conference where we were able to share best practices with other chapters, get updates on the state of CAMFT and get re-energized in the work of our boards. We brought that energy back to the San Gabriel Valley and are hoping to incorporate some ideas into our chapter's workings.

    Most relevant to our members may be the updates to the Supervision requirements that are being put together by the BBS and affect many of us. We hope to move together through this transition and hope that it will have the intended effect of raising the bar of professionalism in our field.

    Looking forward to seeing you all in the upcoming workshops and networking events.

    Natasha Morisawa, President

  • Fri, March 10, 2017 12:32 PM | Deleted user

    Article by Steven D. Unruh, MDiv., LMFT

    No one likes to lose and for good reason.  We live in a culture focused on winning, and we are not taught how to negotiate or how to yield.  As individuals, many of us have not learned the art of losing. However, there is a way to transform losing into a "win", and lead us to experience a freedom within us. I say this because I believe this notion captures something that may present for us both a professional and personal struggle. This is a story about how losing can help us win.
    Steven D. UnruhI always had a desire to resolve conflict, pursue justice and create peace. Growing up in Minnesota within a German Mennonite Minister's family, I saw early on how conflict was avoided, denied and then escalated without resolution. Everyone was trying to win; to get their needs met, but no one was willing to negotiate, to bend, to lose.

    This all unraveled when we learned that my mother, recently the victim of pancreatic cancer, had left my brother and sister co-executors of her will. Besides the fact that they hated each other, my brother and sister threatened to sue each other over how to handle her property which had zero-equity, as well as an $18,000 bank account.

     I was in graduate school at the time. Summoning all my new training as a counselor and mediator I sought to resolve this issue. I called my dad, who had been divorced from my mother, and I offered the following solution: "Dad, here's the deal...I suggest we turn the house over to you, and in exchange you pay my sister $25,000 to stop her lawsuit and walk away from the rest of the will." My dad agreed, and so did my sister.  What a relief!  We all moved on with our lives.
    Paradoxically, when conflict is resolved well it seems everybody loses something.  Sometimes you feel that somebody got a bigger piece than you. But winning and "living in peace" requires losing. The simple resolution described here required each person give up something. It also allowed each of us to move towards the grieving process. This is the basis for all healthy mediation. It speeds up the process, allowing every family member to be in control of their lives again and focus on the future, rather than being mired in the past. 
    To win, you need to be willing to lose.

    This is what I tell my divorce mediation clients when they are becoming overwhelmed by the process and are thinking about getting attorneys and battling it out in court. I remind them that "to win, you need to be willing to lose." I point out to them that the courthouse will add another 2 1/2 years to the process, not to mention tens of thousands of dollars in cost, and often adding years of anger, resentment and sleeplessness. This drawn out process of constant fighting isn't winning, nor does it lead to "living in peace." As therapists, our role is similar.

    Even in counseling, our role is similar to that of a mediator. We seek to empower our clients to become more whole, more adult and take responsibility for their own lives, moving away from blaming others and shaming themselves. 

    While listening to clients attentively and with curiosity, we have to listen for what is not making sense what they're not telling us, and what pieces do not fit together.  Then we have to ask more probing and challenging questions in order to get a clear sense of reality. For me, psychotherapy is not imposing my sophisticated reality upon the client. Nor is it my fully accepting the reality that a client presents to me.  Our client's reality may be distorted and that may hold the key as to why they are seeking counseling.

    The dance between therapist and patient is complicated. Together we challenge each other's perspectives and forge a new reality in order to bring about deeper insight and understanding into their problems. In so doing, the goal of emotional healing, restitution and resolution can be reached.

    From my viewpoint, that is how I define "winning." Winning requires the hard work of your client losing hold of some parts of their "reality." This is my process in divorce mediation. Being a psychotherapist and a mediator, I find the clearest solution happens when I balance the multiple realities present in the divorce. That's the hard work. It means no one is "right;" everyone "loses," but this is the process required for them to win and find resolution.

    Taking this a step further, where in your life, in your intimate relationships is there a place where you may need to surrender or yield?   This is neither about being exploited nor being taken advantage of. Instead, where in your personal life, family life, with your spouse or kids, can you cease always being correct, unbending or unyielding? Where might we see the need to `let go', to lose a little, to unbend? For each one of us, there is certainly a place in our intimate relationships where we fear losing.  However, if we look carefully and honestly within, we know that a certain loss can bring peace and reconciliation.

    Therefore (that's always a nice word to use when you're ending), when things don't quite add up with your patient, we have to manage and balance multiple realities in order to help patients win.

    1. Listen for what is not being said.  Ask more challenging, thought provoking questions.

    2. Call it out.  Communicate that you are confused, and it seems that something is missing in the equation. Watch for the shift that happens in your client when this is made explicit. 

    3. Know when mediation is required.  No matter how resentful or angry your client is, if it involves a lawsuit of any kind whether a contested will, a conflict with a family member over Eldercare, divorcee or a Family Business squabble, refer them to mediation so you can continue to move forward in the work you are doing with your client.

    ~In your Counseling and in your Mediation, I wish for you "Courage and Grace."

    About the Author

    Steven D. Unruh is a divorce mediation counselor and psychotherapist practicing in Pasadena and Los Angeles, California and a member of San Gabriel Valley CAMFT. Read more about Steven online at

  • Wed, August 31, 2016 11:05 PM | Deleted user

    According to the Gregorian calendar, January is the beginning of our new year. Preparations from the end of one year to the next are often times of reflection and renewal. For your SGV-CAMFT Board, January has come in September this year.

    Steve, as you make your transition to your new adventures up north, on behalf of the board and the members we serve, we wish you and your family wellness and thanks for the last few years of service to our profession!

    Having served on the Programs Committee for the last couple of years, I have gained a deeper appreciation for our members and the jobs they choose to do. I've met many of you who continue to work under challenging conditions, with people who suffer greatly, and still strive to learn, grow and gain new tools to do the work we do. This is the inspiration that I take with me into this new position as your Board President.

    Thank you to the Board for all of the work you're doing to bring relevant programing and support to our members. As we enter our 4th quarter of the year, we're looking ahead to what our 2017 year will look like. Our annual survey will be an opportunity for members to voice their interests and provide us with feedback on what we're getting right and how we might improve our services to you. You may also reach me directly at I look forward to hearing your ideas and what inspires you to do what you do.

    Natasha Morisawa, MFT

  • Wed, August 31, 2016 10:57 PM | Deleted user

    Dear San Gabriel Valley Therapists,

    Apparently a popular thing for "Millennials" to do now is "ghost" from parties, or relationships: leaving without saying goodbye or thanking the host verbally in any way. The bloggers who justify it come across as huge narcissists! Their reasons are an affront to us therapists. See

    It is not my intention to ghost in our SGV off-month of August, hence this letter. Extending the metaphor of a party to "chapter activities" generally, and the Chapter Board as a select group of guests, then the board knows what you do not, that I am "leaving the party" early, and moving back to the SF Bay Area at the end of August! Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your President (2015-16), Co-President (2014) and Committee member (2013).

    The literal and metaphorical crucible of the San Gabriel Valley (I won't miss this heat!) has been a personal and professional proving ground. My volunteerism helped our chapter, but as for many of us, my private practice never quite picked up steam. I did get on three panels, and I enjoyed seeing the clients I had, but marketing to a niche in this saturated market proved tough. I was honored to receive an "Outstanding Chapter Leader" award in February 2016 at the CAMFT Chapter Leadership Conference, and I believe I leave this chapter stronger than when I arrived in 2013.

    Broadly speaking, the "stage of life" issue, aging parents, is taking me back home. I grew up in Berkeley, but I've been managing various medical crises Since January, moved my parents into assisted living in April, and with help, cleared out their home of 46 years in preparation for its sale. All great stage of life transitions with their lessons! As you've no doubt noticed, I have been at almost none of our Chapter meetings in 2016, and they've been capably run by Natasha Morisawa, Rudy Hayek, Casey Meinster, Rachel Ward and other capable board volunteers.

    Their excellent stewardship will continue for the remainder of 2016 and beyond. I hope you'll fill the vacuum I leave with your own participation and the effort to make the SGV great again!


    Steve Keightley, LMFT

  • Tue, April 05, 2016 10:44 AM | Deleted user

    President's Message by Steven Keightley, LMFT

    Dear Chapter Members, Regional CAMFT Members and other allied professionals,

    I cast my salutation widely because this newsletter is sent to 1,500 regional CAMFT members and 230 Chapter members. That's a 15.3% chapter participation rate, just a tick better than the state-wide average of 14% of us in chapters. Thus 86% of us state-wide members only belong to CAMFT, versus also being a member of the  local chapter. (Yet when we send these newsletters out, they sometimes get opened by as many as 500 people, so there's a set of peers out there who are "listening", so a thank you to them for paying attention to our chapter affairs)!

    I am surprised to see that it has been since September 2015 that we have published a SGV Chapter Newsletter! I knew it had been a while, as I am effectively Editor in Chief. Your SGV Chapter has been having a busy 2016 so far, starting with a Member Social in January, and a Board Election on February 27. Via both an online and in-person vote, 21% of us elected a new Board of Directors for 2016. We had an engaging psycho-pharmacology presentation that same day. We had a successful 3000 Club social, and recently Gerry Grossman spoke to nearly 50 Pre-Licensed members about the changes to the licensing exams. Our Law & Ethics Presentation with David Jensen, CAMFT Attorney is coming at the end of the week. (There is still time to register!)

    From January to now I have been preoccupied with a family stage-of-life issue, and as of a few days ago the loss of two cats in two months. The stage-of-life element of my distraction has getting to know Interstate 5 much better. I've almost been too self-involved to see the amazing board we now have and the brighter future our Chapter faces!

    Speaking of recognition, one of my trips north was a two-fer. I got to visit an old colleague from my MFT Intern days (also a past board member of a different chapter) and attend the Chapter Leadership Conference in San Mateo, California (north of San Jose, east of Palo Alto). There I was one of 14 recipients of an Outstanding Chapter Leadership Award, plus I got to pick up some best practices and generally great ideas on how to better run a chapter.

    We now have even more peers on our board, and a few additional committees. We're intending to jump-start the newsletter and get it back to its former "bi-monthly level of functioning". Thank you for your patience and support!

    Presidentially yours,

    Steve Keightley, LMFT

  • Tue, April 05, 2016 10:23 AM | Deleted user

    By Casey Meinster

    The long road to MFT licensure can sometimes seem like it will never end. Getting through graduate school, finding and acculturating to a practicum site, getting an internship (hopefully paid), and completing 3,000 hours of clinical work all lead up to the grueling licensure exams. With all that, it is no wonder the recent exam changes have created anxiety and frustration.

    I invite you to take a deep breath and remember why you are doing all of this. Thinking back to the moment you decided to go to graduate school in the first place, and why you chose Marriage and Family Therapy as the degree, will likely bring up thoughts and feelings you had about wanting to help others and your community.

    The children, families, couples, and individuals we see are coming to us because we are the professionals with the education and expertise to help them get through difficulties and challenges of their experience. They come to us trusting we have the skills and knowledge that will help them feel better, become more authentically themselves, and have quality relationships with their loved ones.

    Consider reframing how you think about studying for the exams. Reviewing the study materials is an opportunity to refresh your knowledge on the foundational principles that will ultimately help you to best serve those who come to you for help. Also, remember that you are not in this alone and should reach out to the MFT community for support.

  • Tue, April 05, 2016 10:00 AM | Deleted user

    By Casey Meinster

    1.  Become familiar with Board of Behavioral Science (BBS) website. There are three different brief videos, as well as many other resources outlining how the changes in exams will impact you.  Visit

    2. If you are not getting answers from the BBS around whether or not you are approved to take one or both of the exams, bypass the BBS and call the PSI test center directly and ask "am I eligible to take the exam". (Make sure your check was cashed first) Call PSI at 877-392-6422.

    3. Utilize test prep companies that offer a variety of services, including study materials, courses, and access to professionals who can help interpret the changes as they relate to your situation. Consider Gerry Grossman Seminars, Association for Advanced Training in the Behavioral Sciences, or The Therapist Development Center.    

    4.  Visit this website and download a FREE printable PDF outlining the new 2016 California laws impacting MFTs including information on the exam restructure and experience restructure.  Visit

    5. Utilize CAMFT resources to ask questions and network with others who are navigating the same process as you. Visit for the calendar of events and contact information for board members.

  • Mon, March 14, 2016 1:51 PM | Deleted user

    Volunteerism is on the rise at SGV-CAMFT! The Board of Directors has gained five new members, including Almog Shanun, Anne Wullschlager, Casey Meinster, Vanessa Fierstadt and Katie Telser. Along with the returning directors, the size of the board is a healthy 12 members.

  • Tue, December 22, 2015 10:15 PM | Deleted user

    On September 15, 2015 the CAMFT Board of Directors approved a Chapter Affiliation Agreement that defines the relationship between the statewide organization (CAMFT) and each of the individual chapters, one of which is the San Gabriel Valley Chapter. SGV-CAMFT has been asked to sign the agreement no later than March 1, 2016. The SGV-CAMFT Board of Directors will consider the matter at its January and/or February meetings. Members are invited to read the agreement and submit any questions or comments to the Board.

    The document is available here by PDF download.

  • Tue, April 14, 2015 3:54 PM | Deleted user

    by Gerry Fagoaga, MFT, past president

    SGV-CAMFT members and members from other local chapters have fought hard in the past two years to have more of a say in the decisions CAMFT makes at the state level that affect all members. Emerging from that effort are some first opportunities to do so! Here is a brief summary to keep you abreast of the action and encourage your active participation in the ongoing process. Join us to ensure that San Gabriel Valley Chapter continues to play a leading role.

    Parity For LMFTs

    CAMFT has been involved in an extensive campaign to remove the onerous requirement that an LMFT hired by the VA must be a graduate of a COAMFTE-accredited school. 95% of California LMFTs are not graduates of COAMFTE; consequently few LMFTs are eligible for employment in California Veterans Affairs facilities.

    CAMFT has prepared an email calling on Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary McDonald to remove the onerous requirement. You can add your name to the effort and send a customized version of that email using tools on the CAMFT Website. Hurry - emails must be sent by April 17!

    CAMFT Seeks Your Opinion On Legislative Matters

    The CAMFT Board of Directors would like your input as they discuss two controversial pieces of legislation:

    Please take a few moments to answer the four questions about these bills on Survey Monkey.

    CAMFT: A Conversation About The Future

    The CAMFT Board of Directors would like your input on several issues relating to organizational governance:

    • Dually Licensed Board Members
    • Electronic Voting
    • Pre-Licensed Board Representation
    • Pre-Licensed Voting Rights

    Read A Conversation About the Future in the January/February issue of The Therapist. Then, share your thoughts online in the CAMFT Community by April 30.

    Become Part of the CAMFT Community

    The CAMFT Community is a private, online, networking tool available to all members. It enables you to connect and communicate about current issues through various groups and forums. Those unfamiliar with the CAMFT Community may obtain assistance by contacting CAMFT at 888 892-2638.

San Gabriel Valley CAMFT
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