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Despite AAMFT's portrayal of its critics as a tiny group of dissidents, many well-respected members of the organization echoed sentiments about the unwillingness of the national organization to tolerate criticism or listen to divergent views. For many years, according to Jim Thomas, former president of the Colorado division and a member of MFTers for Change, the organization's communication mode has been to "command, control, and contain" with "disagreement being seen as disloyalty." The AAMFT leadership, say its critics, has become a closed echo chamber that reflects and amplifies Bowers's management style. In addition, over the years, says Thomas, the number of AAMFT committees has shrunk dramatically, cutting off member input and further consolidating decision-making and information hoarding at the top. "When any association becomes top-down in centralized leadership and power, it's troubling," says Brier Miller, former president of the Minnesota division. "But it's particularly troubling in a profession that believes that truth is always contextual. We've become an organization that values structure over people."Refusing to comment for this article, as did other AAMFT officials, Board President Linda Schwallie said only that, "As it does in all matters, the AAMFT board will continue to operate and direct the association toward the future in a manner that is consistent with our bylaws, our policies, our values, and the law."
In early November, Bowers and executive board members traveled to meet with members of the New Jersey division, which had recently learned that AAMFT had cut off their funds without informing them. Hanging in the air was a threat to revoke New Jersey's charter. The two sides had become so polarized that the New Jersey board insisted upon having a legal transcriber present. New Jersey members attempted to discuss their grievances, but the executive board insisted that those discussions take place only within the usual channels. The meeting's purpose, the executive board said, was to learn whether New Jersey would agree to work within those channels.
That meeting may have been the last chance for the protesters and the executive board to draw upon their therapeutic and conflict-resolution skills to begin a more productive dialogue. Instead, New Jersey insisted that the executive board is more interested in maintaining control of the dialogue than promoting the MFT profession, and AAMFT insisted that their rules of governance do allow for dialogue and change to occur, and that such rules are necessary for the organization to best serve its more than 20,000 members. The dechartering of the New Jersey division and escalation of the battle now appears increasingly likely.