After having an amazing presentation by some of SC Master MFTs this past weekend, we wanted to share a few more stories and bits of wisdom with you. Stay tuned as we share stories from more of our SC Master MFTs.
At 73 years old, Monty Knight has been around for a while and has seen a lot of things. It doesn’t take long to feel the energy and passion that Monty has for systemic therapy. His journey began when he read Satir’s, Conjoint Family Therapy, while in seminary. While he doesn’t quite remember what it was about the book that sparked his attention, he knows that spark was fanned into a glowing fire by the likes of Dr. Kay Sharpe and Dr. Oliver Bjorksten when he began working at Summerville Mental Health in 1975. Kay and Oliver pulled him into to learning about systems. Monty considers himself a 3rd generation MFT – with the likes of Whitaker and Minuchin being 1st generation and his mentor, Oliver Bjorksten, as a 2nd generation MFT. Also, integral participants in Monty’s clinical formation were Dr. Gerry Donovan and the Rev. Dr. A.C. Holler. From working with sociopaths in federal penitentiaries to training new clinicians, a systemic viewpoint has guided his path.
In 1976 he became a clinical member of AAMFT, which was significant to him because at the time it was the only way to affiliate oneself as a marriage and family therapist. It wouldn’t be until the 80’s that one could be licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist in South Carolina. Trained in Transactional Analysis, Gestalt, and Jungian approaches, Monty had a lot of exposure to different counseling modalities, but once he learned about systems, he couldn’t go back. He says now that it’s hard to comprehend being a therapist without thinking about systems. “Everything fits under it”! This includes faith and spirituality. Monty and I spent time discussing how many people of faith and those who have studied theology seem to be drawn to systemic therapy. He points out how Jesus often used family metaphors to describe the relationship with God. Once again – it just makes sense.
As he describes Bowen Theory – integration, self-differentiation, and the impact of anxiety in a system his excitement grows. Monty has spent years teaching systemic therapy and supervising clinicians (LPC and LMFT). Somewhere in there he also found time to write a book, contribute columns to a newspaper, and pastor a church for six years. Accompanying his excitement about the topic is a deep knowledge. I couldn’t help but think how lucky those LPCs being supervised by him were to get such systemic training.
Which brings me to another topic that Monty is passionate about – our professional identity. This passion is woven throughout our conversation. It appears as he talks about how “therapy is creating the safe space to face what is most threatening.” When he talks about the theology of culture and describes the move from polytheism to monotheism as the move from the fragmented self to the emphasis of wholeness. When he talks about personal and professional ethics as being the representation of who you really are. So this emphasis on being authentic and ethical stirs a passion up in him when he sees clinicians who advertise as “family therapists” without the credentials. As he points out, it doesn’t matter how many people are in the therapy room; it is the systemic perspective of the therapist that determines whether family therapy is occurring. If someone hasn’t been trained in systems how can they be doing that kind of therapy? This is a topic that is both deep and wide. I can assure you that, if you ask, Monty will dive into it with you and go swimming. In fact, I encourage you to ask about it, think about it, and if inspired – to join him in finding a way to do something about it.
Snapshot of Monty’s MFT Contributions
- Wrote a weekly newspaper column (Summerville Journal – Scene) for 20 years
- Pastored First Christian Church in Charleston for 16 years
- Director of Dorchester County Mental Health (1975-1990)
- Private Practice with Summerville Family Physicians (1975-1994)
- Taught systems theory at The Citadel and Webster University – Charleston graduate programs as an adjunct professor for 30 years
Monty’s Advice to New Therapists
“The best therapists think outside the box.”
When asked how new therapists should balance the external pressures of insurance company requirements with the somewhat intangible, hard to describe dynamics of what can go on in the therapy room, he says, “you’ve got to play the game.” He brings up the example of when he pastored a church; other pastors would ask “how’s the church doing?”. He points out this was not a question about the spiritual aspects of the parishioners but rather a business question – does the church have money? Are people attending?. Insurance companies are asking business questions. We, as therapists, must be able to answer those business questions as well as “tend to our flocks.”
To learn more from Monty, consider reading his blog at https://drmontyknight.wordpress.com/about/
Kellie Buckner received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Wofford College and her Educational Specialist Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Converse College. Kellie has worked in various counseling settings including private, school, mental health, and group homes. She specializes in working with depression, anxiety, and relationship issues. She likes to focus on exploring meaning, purpose, and connectedness. Currently, she works with college students at the Wofford College Wellness Center. Kellie currently serves as President for SCAMFT.