On Wednesday, John Glenn passed away at 95. His most memorable accomplishments involve journeying to and orbiting the moon, but he was also an incredibly successful fighter pilot in World War II and the Korean War and a four-term senator in the state of Ohio.
Dale Butland dubbed him the “Last American Hero” in the New York Times on Wednesday, writing, “When John passed away, we lost a man who many say is the last genuine American hero. Not because others won’t do heroic things, but because national heroes aren’t easily crowned or even acknowledged in this more cynical age.”
2016 has been a particularly cynical year. There were celebrity deaths. All the celebrity deaths. Entertainers, such as David Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman, and Gene Wilder. Policy shapers, including Antonin Scalia and Janet Reno. Policy shapers with incredibly complicated legacies, including Fidel Castro. Heroes, such as Muhammad Ali, Elie Wiesel, and Harper Lee.
It’s become more challenging to unconditionally acknowledge the heroic, the courageous amongst the larger cynicism. Our presidential campaigns were mired in mudslinging, strong-arming, and the development of fake news. The peaceful transition of power from administration to administration has never seemed so tenuous and threatened in many of our lifetimes.
We find some cynicism surrounding our professional efforts as well. Insurance companies continue to reduce their rates of reimbursement, making it more difficult for many to provide quality services to a diverse population while also maintaining a living. We struggle to make Massachusetts an academic/professional home for young professionals, as the future of UMass-Boston’s COAMFTE graduate program remains unresolved and as we struggle to sell the value of systems therapists to in-home therapy agencies. Our professional identity carries a level of uncertainty, particularly as AAMFT determines its ideal organizational structure for the next decade.
January 1 has always seemed a peculiar time to identify the start of a new year. First of all, it’s really cold. And second, my calendar has always been synchronized around the school calendar, where the first week of September brings annual emotions of hope and excitement around a new year.
I’m not sure that I’ve ever needed a New Year, a symbolic representation of turning into a new chapter, as I have this December. The ability to shed the darkness and cynicism of 2016 and move into a more anticipatory, exciting season seems awfully appealing and needed, and I’m incredibly hopeful that the start of 2017 can provide that.
We’re excited to host our Couples Conference at the end of January in Northampton. The brilliant Mike Lew, author of Victims No More, The Classic Guide for Men Recovering from Sexual Child Abuse, headlines a group of thoughtful, talented couples and sex therapists in Tangled Truths: Helping Couples Live with the Aftermath of Sexual Trauma. We’re hopeful that you can join us on Friday, January 27, at Smith College in Northampton. Our conferences continue their tradition of extreme affordability; admission for MAMFT members is a mere $69.
We’re also looking forward to March 10, where Dan Hughes will share provide a systemic approach to working with families and trauma. We haven’t announced prices for the Annual Conference, but we’re excited to gather again in Marlborough as Dr. Hughes introduces us to Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy and his experiences with Attachment Focused Family Therapy.
I’m extremely encouraged by the response that we received from you, our membership, regarding afternoon workshop presentations at the Annual Conference. We’ll announce these presentations in the new year, but even if these workshops don’t tickle your fancy, we have hundreds of talented, innovative systems therapists in Massachusetts that provide a diverse set of skills.
So please join me in making 2017 a year of integrating imagination with possibility. Test yourself professionally, and consider learning a new therapeutic perspective to add to your toolkit. Help Massachusetts become a more welcoming, thriving place to practice systems therapies. Reach out to our board members and get connected with one of our committees, including membership, public relations, student/young professional, and advocacy. Make new professional friends; MAMFT can provide a space with our conferences and Networking Events. Specifically, start the New Year with MAMFT in Quincy at our inaugural MAMFT New Years Kickoff on Friday, January 6.
We hope that you have a happy, restful holiday with family and friends, and an injection of hope, optimism, and energy as you transition into 2017. Have a hopeful new year!
Jeremiah Gibson, LMFT, is the President-Elect of MAMFT. He also works with couples and families at South Shore Family Health Collaborative in Quincy and co-hosts the podcast Under the Covers: The Music of Relationships.