Should the name of the license be changed?
Several MFT programs have changed the name of their degree or even their department to "Couple and family therapy." This is much more reflective of the broad scope of couples with whom we are trained to work. But there would be major tradeoffs involved in changing the name of the license:
Advocacy work for the profession relies on educating legislators and their staff about who MFTs are and what we do, building our reputation and their sense of MFTs' qualifications. Changing the name of the license would set back our name recognition among those legislators, and require us to start again on that process of educating them about what may seem to them to be a brand new profession. It also would mean that a massive number of state and federal laws and regulations would need to be updated with the new name, a process that would divert resources away from advancing the profession to focus instead on preserving it.
Educating the public would be equally challenging. Our current title does do a nice job of differentiating our history and philosophy from other mental health licenses. For tens of thousands of clients and referral sources, the confidence they have in seeing or referring to MFTs may be undermined if the license name were to change. (However, many within mental health are quick to say that clients do not care about a therapist's license type; they only care whether the therapist can help them in their particular circumstances.)
On the other side, there are two arguments to be made in favor of changing the name:
One is essentially the scope of practice argument I raised in the opening paragraph. MFTs do much more work with individuals, couples, and families of all kinds than the name implies. Changing the word "marriage" to "couple" does not fully resolve this, but it steps in the right direction.
The other argument ties in closely with the ongoing debate around same-sex marriage; no matter how clearly we state that all couples who commit to each other and their children deserve equal protection under the law, it can appear discriminatory to have the word "marriage" in our title when some couples are not allowed to legally marry.
While the marriage equality debate will likely be eventually resolved, the first point seems to me to be a fairly permanent one. And I must admit, given the strong arguments that can be rightly made on both sides here, I have not reached a point where I can confidently say either that we should, or should not, change the name of our license.
I'd welcome your thoughts.