You’re Not In AMHCA Alone!
A Challenge to Members: Be Proactive and Informed
By Karen Langer, LMHC
AMHCA President, 2012–2013
At a recent state chapter meeting, a discussion took place about why members join their state chapter association: What does it do for members, what is its most important role, and what do chapter dues pay for?
Although I’ve heard the question, “Why join?” asked before, what made this discussion different were the answers—and how much they paralleled what I have been noticing on a national level.
What struck me most was that the answer to the question depends on who is asking it. Which means that the answers are varied and diverse, just like our members. One person summed it up well for everyone by saying members look to their association for “answers.”
Here are some of the answers that members look to their association for:
- Legislative updates and action
- Practice issues related to income such as insurance, reimbursement, and livelihood
- Continuing education and other learning opportunities
- Validation of their credentials through systems such as the Diplomate and/or accreditation
- Professional issues such as licensing
- Public awareness of the profession and mental-health-related issues
- Research and best practices
Do you notice that these issues directly mirror AMHCA’s standing committees? For comparison, here’s the list of our AMHCA committees:
- Conference Planning
- Member Services
- Professional Issues
- Professional Development
- Public Awareness, Advocacy, and Marketing
- Public Policy and Legislation
- Graduate Student
- Publications (JMHC and The Advocate)
As I listened to the chapter discussion, I also thought about all the calls and emails I get on a daily basis about everything from what qualifies for continuing education, to membership and practice issues, legislative issues, supervision, and licensure. As I search for the answers or consider the issue raised by a member, I often wonder how it is that I know where to go to find the answer and others don’t. I am not more knowledgeable or capable, so at first I thought it must be that my involvement on the boards of both my state chapter and the national organization made me more informed.
But that raised another question for me: How can AMHCA’s general members be better informed, and more proactive? How does one become an “insider” in his or her own professional association?
Considering this question caused me to think about the role of the board and the role of the member.
The board of an association is not unlike the board of a corporation. AMHCA is a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation that must follow not only its rules or bylaws—which are based on the mission and goals of the organization—but it must also follow the rules for nonprofits.
When making a decision or acting on behalf of the organization, the board must look back to these bylaws for guidance. The board roles are fairly clear, and leaders are responsible for being informed on all the different issues and concerns of members. Also, the board has the advantage of access to AMHCA staff for help and support.
So, what is the role of a member?
You pay your dues and expect a return on that investment. Yet the member is also a partner with the association. AMHCA puts out information, but it can’t do any good if it isn’t read or heard. This isn’t to say that the leadership doesn’t need to continue to find more and better ways to inform—just that it is a two-way street.
Each member has the responsibility to stay informed by:
- Regularly checking AMHCA’s website at
- Reading the Advocate and AMHCA’s legislative and practice bulletins
- Following social media (Twitter/Facebook)
- Answering the call to action—a call to action is only as good as the number of people who respond
- Staying informed on licensure, practice, and legal issues in their state and nationally (think dual membership, state and national organizations),
- Attending meetings, networking, and getting involved
- Asking questions of your leaders—this is very important, too!
My challenge to you, as members, is to be an active partner in your association: Read, follow, answer the call to act, to be involved. See if it isn’t true that you get more out of your involvement than you put into it. You might be pleasantly surprised.