Monty Knight – Passionate Protector of the Profession

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. 

Passion and Identity

My recent interviews have stirred in me some questions and ponderings.  When I see the passion and lifelong contributions of our SC Masters I am in awe.  And still, I know that I have only spoken with a small number of our MFTs. From those interviews, I have only heard a mere fraction of the meaningful stories that mark the journeys of those who have changed the lives of countless individuals, couples, and families.  The passion in these people is undiluted and palpable.  It causes me to step back and question myself.

If you don’t work for something or search for something can you ever truly appreciate it as much as those that did fight and search?  Has our relatively easy access to an MFT education and license made us just a little more complacent about it than our predecessors?  Have we become consumers more than pursuers and cultivators? How deep can my connection be to this profession – something more than an academic appreciation – if I don’t learn and remember what it took to establish its validity and its place?  How prepared would I be to fight for it? Fight, not only because it is my way of earning a living but because it is what I truly believe in.

I have hope, though, because while I didn’t fight the battles for licensure there are still battles to fight. Whether it is for inclusion with Medicare, portability, a place in the schools, or just maintaining our professional identity, we, MFTs, still fight for our place/recognition. Even now, the road to your license as an MFT seems to be a bit harder than those other helping professions in the state. LMFTs still feel the pride of those extra hours, extensive training, and specific requirements that earn us the right to call ourselves MFTs.  So maybe we must embrace the long, hard journey that earns us the right to call ourselves by that name. Those letters that I write beside my name mean a lot to me – not in a prideful way, but in a way that shows my heart. This is a profession, a career, a philosophy that matters so much to me.  When I think about those MFTs in other states whose licensure is threatened, I shudder. Not because it means the hassle of getting some other license, taking additional classes, or being grandfathered in, but because it threatens to rob me of my identity. I am an MFT and that means so much.

Kellie N. Buckner, Ed.S., LMFT

“Help! I Need Somebody!”

As you may have taken from my previous blog, I have a tendency to take on too much.  I want to be a part of the things that I am passionate about.  I like to see progress and growth. I want to learn and do it all. Writing it down it sounds kind of greedy or “hoarder-y,” but I like to reframe it as “passionate.” This blog post has two intentions. First, to remind you all to ask for help when you need it, and second, to remind you to thank those people who have helped you along the way often even when you’ve not asked for it.

 This “passion” of mine has led to me spending the last year or so quite over my head.  There have been moments when I have wanted to throw in the towel – or the 2-3 towels I have been waving around frantically to “get stuff done.”  Aware that I was pushing my limits but unwilling to shirk my responsibilities, I have trudged along.  My inner therapist was putting in a lot of hours with my inner resistant client. I’ve made adjustments along the way though and have started to give myself more margin.

One of the ways that I created margin was by learning to delegate.  I believe that I was blessed to find some really talented people to work with me.  Their skills are greater than my own, and they share my passions.  Honestly, they are really amazing people – you should meet them, likely you already have. More and more I have learned to ask for their help. When I do, great things happen.  But why has it been so hard? Why has it taken me so long?  We are helping professionals, but I wonder if some of you have also sometimes struggled with asking for help.  There are many areas of my life where I do ask for help, share my weaknesses, seek collaboration and guidance, but there are still those areas where it just seems easier to “do it myself.” What I am remembering is – that shared work can mean stronger connections, more progress, and shared joy.  If I get to the top of the mountain by myself it may be lonely, but to scramble to the top, helping others and being helped by them, allows for a group celebration.

Which leads me to another important part of asking for help – acknowledging the people who’ve helped. Thank you to the amazing people who’ve helped me these last few years.  Whether I asked for it or not, you have done things to help me to take a breath, stay encouraged, and get perspective. Thank you to the board members of SCAMFT, the board members and staff of the West Gate Family Therapy Institute, my friends, and my co-workers. A special thanks to my family who has pulled together to help me raise my kids, clean my house, and to allow time for play in my life. Most importantly, because I am a person of faith, thank you to my God who gave me strength when I had none and who helps me any time I ask.

And here, because I love them and it fits, are the Beatles …

Help!
Help! I need somebody,
Help! Not just anybody,
Help! You know I need someone, help.

When I was younger, so much younger than today,
I never needed anybody’s help in any way.
But now these days are gone, I’m not so self-assured,
Now I find I’ve changed my mind I’ve opened up the doors.

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being around.
Help me get my feet back on the ground,
Won’t you please, please help me?

And now my life has changed in oh so many ways,
My independence seems to vanish in the haze.
But ev’ry now and then I feel so insecure,
I know that I just need you like I’ve never done before.

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being around.
Help me get my feet back on the ground,
Won’t you please, please help me?

When I was younger, so much younger than today,
I never needed anybody’s help in any way.
But now these days are gone, I’m not so self-assured,
Now I find I’ve changed my mind I’ve opened up the doors.

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being round.
Help me, get my feet back on the ground,
Won’t you please,
Please help me,
Help me,
Help me, oh.

 

~Kellie

 

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 and 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.


Narrow Margins

See below for a blog post from our very own President of SCAMFT, Kellie Buckner. 

I’m a narrow margins kind of girl. Right now, I am writing this piece on a Word document with half-inch margins all around (single spaced).  I try to fit as much as I can onto each piece of paper. I look at pages with one-inch margins and think, “There’s more space that can be used on this page.”  One and a half inch margins—those are just ridiculous.  Look at all that wasted space.  However, this tendency transcends Word documents. I am currently reading a book about this concept of margins, “Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives” by Richard Swenson.  The funny thing is I bought this book years ago knowing that it is something that I struggle with, but there hasn’t been any time to read it.  I have been too busy filling up the space in my life all the way to the edges.  Of course, when I don’t leave room in the margins, life decides to fill up any other possible space that is left on the page for me.  So this is where I sometimes find myself, living by cramming itty, bitty words into any space that I can find. Breathless – having left almost no space for breathing physically, mentally, or spiritually.  This is how I have been living life lately.  I don’t always say yes to every opportunity or request, but I leave very narrow margins.

As a therapist, I know better.  I preach this message very hypocritically to my clients.  (Of course, I don’t preach. I’m a therapist.  I, with gentleness and patience, help clients find their way to this conclusion. “Take time. Do less. There is time to achieve what you want. It doesn’t have to be done all at once.” That doesn’t sound preachy- does it?)  I have tremendous empathy for these people because I am well aware of the internal struggle that comes with making more space in life to do nothing (or what feels like nothing).  It also requires fighting against the demands of our culture that call us to do more and more. Living with narrow margins isn’t effortless. It is full of worry, doubt, and stress.  Yes, sometimes you have a lot of good stuff on that page, but can anyone read it? Can I even bear to look at it again after I’ve spewed all my words on it?

Sometimes we need the space – the margins – to bring clarity to what we’ve done.  Space – blank space — can help the words on the page stand out and be seen clearly.  The use of space can bring depth and beauty to works of art filling up each sheet of paper.  So, I now begin this process daily of trying to broaden the margins in my life. I may never be an inch and a half girl, but I can keep trying to reclaim some space on those edges.  Space to be left blank or maybe even mindlessly doodled in.  Space that allows for breath.  Space that allows for people to see other parts of me and not just the things I’ve written down on paper.  With that in mind, I am beginning with this piece—1 inch margins are now in place, and that will be my first step but certainly not my last.

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 and 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.

 

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Typologies of Violence & The Duluth Model

Domestic violence has traditionally been conceptualized as primarily one type of violence–a violence that involves power, control, and psychological manipulation in addition to physical acts of violence. Johnson (2008) presents four typologies of domestic violence: intimate terrorism, violent resistance, situational couple violence, and mutual violent control. Intimate terrorism falls in line with what most professionals and laypersons identify as domestic violence–the abuser is violent and coercively controlling. Intimate terrorism unlike most other violence happens over an extended period of time and in the context of a committed, ongoing relationship (Johnson, 2008, p. 37). If violent resistance is present, it is often in conjunction with intimate terrorism. The partner who is being abused by an intimate terrorist (violent & controlling) responds with violence but is not controlling like her partner. You may have seen this exhibited in movies like “The Burning Bed” or “Sleeping with the Enemy,” and this is also where the “battered woman defense” has become a viable option in a court of law. In situational couple violence, the violence is provoked by an emotionally escalated circumstance but does not involve a pattern of power and control. This is probably the most common type of violence and typically does not involve a motivation for control; however, this typology can still be life-threatening, especially if it becomes a chronic problem that continues to intensify over time. The last typology of violence is mutual violent control. This type is more rare and involves both partners engaging in violent and controlling behaviors. See the graphic below for more information about what power and control looks like in a domestic violence relationship.

duluth-model

If you’d like to read more about the effects of power and control and the typologies of violence, check out “A Typology of Domestic Violence: Intimate Terrorism, Violence Resistance, and Situational Couple Violence” by Michael P. Johnson (2008). Hopefully, knowing more about the different types of violence can help clinicians (and others) identify issues as soon as possible and create a safety plan to support clients as they are ready to move forward.

johnson-text

Domestic Violence Awareness Month Continues

See below for a new post from our featured blogger this month, Elizabeth Pratt. 

This is a poem about the insidious dynamics of power and control.  It relates how subtly what seems romantic and protective can become imprisonment.  Listen for stories like this, and minimizing, from our clients.

The Window – by Terry Q. Autrey

First he wanted me to stop working.  He was making plenty of money, and if I wasn’t working, we could travel.  This way we wouldn’t have to pay for two separate bank accounts, either.  He’d just give me any money I needed.

Then he just wished I’d stop inviting my mother over.  She always ended up criticizing me and getting me upset.  Besides, she never really liked him and he knew it.

Then he really didn’t approve of my best friend.  After all, she’s divorced and kind of wild.  It’s like she’s trying to make trouble for us.  Every time she visits, he says I have a bad attitude for a few days.

Then he decided he would sell my car.  After all, I wasn’t working or anything, so where would I be going that he couldn’t go with me?

And then, he began to unplug the phone and take it with him every day.  I don’t know why he didn’t trust me enough to leave me with a phone.  What if something happened to me?  But he said I was just being paranoid.

Finally, it got to where I never saw or spoke to anyone anymore.  But I can look out the window and see the house across the pasture.

The kids there wave at me sometimes.  But then this week he took a hammer and nails and boarded it up.  He said I was spending all my time just looking out that window.

Elizabeth Pratt received an Ed.S. in Marriage & Family Therapy from Converse College in 1999. She has been an adjunct professor for the Converse College M.MFT program since 2002. Currently, she is the  Clinical Director at SAFE Homes-Rape Crisis Coalition in Spartanburg, South Carolina where she has worked with domestic violence survivors for 14 years.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

This month SCAMFT board member, Elizabeth Pratt, is taking over the blog to help us be better informed clinicians around the issue of domestic violence. We hope you’ll follow and share as we go along.

From Elizabeth:

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I will post several items throughout the month. Some may be statistical, some socio-political, some clinical, and some literary. All, I hope, will help us think about one of the most serious issues in Marriage and Family Therapy. Our clients cannot afford for us to be ignorant of the dynamics of Intimate Partner Violence (Domestic Violence, Family Violence, Dating Violence).

Let me start by sharing some Myths and Facts about Domestic Violence:
Myth #1: The problem of domestic violence is greatly exaggerated.
Fact: More than 12 million Americans per year are victims of Intimate Partner Violence. Nearly 3 in 10 women and 1 in 10 men will experience IPV in their lifetime. (http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/IPV-FactSheet.pdf) In 2014, South Carolina had 43 women murdered by their male intimate partner, ranking South Carolina #5 in the US for domestic violence homicides. (Violence Policy Center, When men murder women, 2016)
Myth #2: Couples fight; it is natural.
Fact: All couples have conflict and disagreement. However, anger is a feeling, and violence is a behavior. Anger does not have to be expressed violently. Domestic violence is a crime of power and control.
Myth #3: Domestic violence only happens among the poor and uneducated.
Fact: Domestic violence occurs in families of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds, of all socioeconomic levels, of all educational and religious backgrounds, and in urban, suburban, and rural settings.
Myth #4: If someone is really being abused, they will leave.
Fact: There are many reasons victims do not leave, including: love, economic dependence, isolation, low self-esteem, religious beliefs, fear of worse violence, and/or concerns about their children.
Myth #5: Domestic violence does not really affect children since they are not usually aware of the abuse.
Fact: 80-90% of children in homes where there is domestic violence can give detailed descriptions of the violence in their families. Children exposed to domestic violence have higher rates of developmental, cognitive, and language problems; asthma, allergies, headaches, digestive problems; shame, guilt, low self-esteem; depression, anxiety, etc. (http://www.vawnet.org/advanced-search/summary.php?doc_id=731&find_type=web_desc_NRCDV).

Elizabeth Pratt received an Ed.S. in Marriage & Family Therapy from Converse College in 1999. She has been an adjunct professor for the Converse College M.MFT program since 2002. Currently, she is the  Clinical Director at SAFE Homes-Rape Crisis Coalition in Spartanburg, South Carolina where she has worked with domestic violence survivors for 14 years.

AAMFT Leadership Symposium 2016

It was a fun and exciting trip to Santa Fe for the annual Leadership Symposium. Amanda Szarzinksi and I were happy to represent the South Carolina division.   Although preceded by Leadership Conferences in years past, the 2016 Symposium focused on professional development and leadership training for all interested MFTs.  Previous Leadership Conferences were geared towards Division Leaders. The 2015 Leadership Conference was a hybrid or transitional year, which had both Division and Emerging Leaders attending. The big topic in 2015 was restructuring. The focus this year was  more on the individual clinician – their goals and how they also might get more involved in the field or the association.

Attendees ranged from graduate students still pursuing their degrees to experienced division leaders.  There were several keynote speakers and breakout sessions.  This year also marked the first cohort of the Leadership Certificate program.  One notable difference this year was the increased time devoted to networking .  Networking had been a component in the past, but it seemed as though there were even more settings to meet with colleagues. Attendees were given a “bingo sheet” to help them track them networking interactions.  It was a fun way to encourage networking, while also recognizing the different personalities and networking styles.

If you are a MFT interested in developing your leadership skills or learning more about how to pursue your career path as a MFT this would be a great conference to attend.  The ability to network with colleagues from around the country while learning relevant skills may prove to be a great use of your resources.

Most Sincerely,

Kellie

To learn more about the Leadership Certificate program please visit http://www.aamft.org/imis15/AAMFT/Content/Events/Leadership_Certificate.aspx

 

My Santa Fe Story (by Kellie Buckner)

Sometimes we just have to do things.  Pick up in the midst of a busy season of life and go somewhere we’ve never been.  Encounter new people, places, and customs.  To be honest, I wasn’t as prepared or excited to attend this year’s Leadership Symposium.  A busy schedule at work had worn me down and sleep seemed preferable to travel and socializing.  I knew that I would have a great time when I arrived, but I didn’t feel the nervous anticipation I had in the past.

This year’s experience in Santa Fe was different and in a good way.  It was probably just what I needed.  Rather than jumping into the hustle and bustle of DC with its Metro, winter weather, and abundance of people and places I was allowed the opportunity to stroll through the streets of Santa Fe soaking in the different landscapes, architecture, and vibe of those around me.  The people were different – the buildings were different – it was quiet. My eyes feasted on the differences.  Johnathan, an MFT from Alabama, remarked on how all the color in New Mexico is on the inside.  Outside the buildings melt into the landscape, the colors mimicking the surrounding nature, but inside are bright pops of color and art that depicted birds, animals, people, landscapes in the brightest possible ways.  While I didn’t get to visit the many galleries and museums I was surrounded by, I think that in a lot of ways I got to enjoy Santa Fe as if the entire city was a museum.

I’ve felt a calm here that was hard to put my finger on.  I didn’t get the bursts of adrenaline or nervousness here like I have at past conferences – even when we witnessed a mugging (but that is a different story!).  Perhaps that is because I relied on my awesome, extroverted traveling companion to initiate connections and represent our state.  In the past, I ‘d pushed myself to overcome my shy and introverted ways in order to “get the most” out of the trip.  (It may have also been due to the 7,000+ ft elevation of Santa Fe that caused my body to work harder for that precious oxygen). This trip I found myself taking less notes and different notes.  I slowed my pace and often arrived at sessions on time instead of super early.  I enjoyed good food and great company.  Rather than focusing on quantity of people met, I felt content to have repeated conversations with some new people. I reflected on what I wanted next and realized that I didn’t really know.  A great conversation with Amanda during one of the breakouts helped me to acknowledge that I am achieving the goals that I had set for myself a long time ago.

When I complete my term as president of SCAMFT, life may take a different turn for me. I may stop achieving the next big goal just to enjoy where I am.  Time goes by so quickly. As a kid the time between Halloween and Christmas was forever, and now those months fly by in the blink of an eye.  My hope is that I will take this experience in Santa Fe to slow things down and enjoy what is around me. I will take comfort in knowing that I don’t have to do more or be more, I can just be.  Sometimes that is leadership – taking control of your own life, setting your pace, and allowing people to come along on that journey if they want to.

Here’s wishing you the opportunity to find your Santa Fe moment!

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Welcome

Welcome to the new SCAMFT blog.  This site will be a way for our members to share their thoughts with other members.  Please keep in mind this is a blog – not a private forum or professional journal.  It will be a casual way for us to share the thoughts that we as professionals have about our field and profession.  It will also be a way for SCAMFT board members to keep you updated on the things that we are doing for you.

You, as an SCAMFT member, may submit articles for posting.  Please do so by sending your piece to scamftmarketing@gmail.com .  Submissions will be reviewed to ensure that they are appropriate and you will be notified when they are posted.

If you have any questions, please contact Kellie Buckner at kellienbucknerlmft@gmail.com or our Marketing Chair, Susan Tankersley.

We hope that you enjoy this new feature!