Member Spotlight: Dale Bertram

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Dr. Dale Bertram, AAMFT member since 1996, always found thinking in a systemic way valuable. His story started at Eastern New Mexico University where he majored in communication and religion. After obtaining his Master’s in Counseling, Dr. Bertram decided to return back to academia as a student to obtain his Doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy in 1989. Since graduating with his doctorate, he has been involved in various industry settings. From being a dean, to having a fully online practice, an MFT advocate and an AAMFT Approved Supervisor, Dr. Bertram embodies what an AAMFT membership can do for one’s professional journey.

What obstacles did you face while becoming an MFT?
“The biggest obstacle I faced was [with] significant people who have not understood the scope of [MFT] practice. I believe the name of our profession has created a perception that we just work with couples and that we can’t work with more severe issues. I did community mental health and one of the things I was proudest of was, I did quite a bit of systemic work with people who had schizophrenia, bringing their partners and families in and in doing that, many of these clients had greater supports than people often do when they’re diagnosed with schizophrenia as young adults.”

While Dr. Bertram served as the President of the Kentucky Association for MFT, he made sure that more efforts were made to include MFTs in the insurance panels. “Educating [others] that we did more than couples therapy” was important so that MFTs were able to get on the insurance panels. “By far, educating people about our scope of practice has been the greatest obstacle.”

How has MFT changed throughout the years?
“I don’t think there’s much of a stigma now as there was. I think that MFT is thought of quite a bit differently than it was when I came into the field. We have licensure in all 50 states now and we can diagnose and treat. In the states I have lived in, I have experienced quite a bit of respect for the profession and now that we prove to do great clinical work, our rigor in our training shows.” Dr. Bertram also thinks the online universities creating more accessibility to MFT training has helped increase the number of MFTs than in the past.

What is your favorite population to work with?
“I love working with couples, mostly since I’ve pivoted to an online practice, I’ve worked with couples in distress, those who have experienced infidelity or sexual issues in a relationship.” Dr. Bertram says that he also likes to work with individuals experiencing chronic pain, helping them cope with their pain management, depression and anxiety using the Ericksonian hypnotherapy treatment, bringing in systemic components as well.

What is one piece of advice you have for students?
“One, absolutely pick the best clinical supervisor you can as you begin pursuing licensure after graduation. Two, is [in regard to] continuing education hours. Do not find the cheapest or what is free… Pick continuing education that fits the [trajectory] of the next 20, 30 years of your career. Stay up to date with what is happening in the field. Staying current within the field is extremely important and of course a huge part of this is becoming a part of your Association.”

What are your contributions to the new Ethics textbook?
“I am co-authoring and working on chapter six which is on technology assisted services. I was on the task force that developed the current ethics book and we worked very diligently to have a strong code of ethics around technology. Since having had an online practice, this is very relevant to my MFT journey.”

What have you found to be the most valuable part of your membership with AAMFT?
“I find great value to my membership for many reasons, a major one being advocacy for the profession.” Dr. Bertram noted that new graduates sometimes have the tendency to think that they don’t need this association because the boards protect them, but “licensure boards advocate to protect the public not the profession. The association, the GINS and the Family Team are really the people who advocate for us as MFTs. Personally, what is most satisfying to me is serving AAMFT committees. You build good relationships and make contributions to the future of MFT and more!”

Dale Bertram, PhD, is an AAMFT Clinical Fellow and Approved Supervisor and is currently a professor of Marriage and Family Therapy at the Campbellsville University in Louisville, Kentucky. He was also Department Chair of Abilene Christian University from 2012 to 2018 and Dean of Human Services at Amridge University from 2003 to 2011 where he ran the MFT doctoral program.

Spotlight: A Member’s Journey is a series that showcases AAMFT members and their unique stories that shape them as people and as therapists. This profile appeared in the June 25, 2021 edition of AAMFT’s Family Therap-eNews. 

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