Member Spotlight: Sharon Y. Ramsay

By Membership

It is no secret that there is strength in diversity. As we celebrate Black History Month, AAMFT is honored to spotlight accomplished former AAMFT Board Member, wife, mother of two, and MFT, Sharon Y. Ramsay, MDiv! Sharon, who also happens to be Canadian, has played an irreplaceable role in representing our Canadian counterparts, while heavily contributing to the field of marriage and family therapy at the provincial, national, and international level. Her contributions have not gone unnoticed and while sometimes feeling marginalized in the mental health industry because of race and profession, Sharon graciously shared her story with us. Here is a glimpse into Sharon’s journey as a Black-Canadian woman navigating this relatively small and new profession up North.

1. What attracted you to the field of Marriage and Family Therapy?
Like many, while in school Sharon knew she wanted to help others but was not sure what path was right for her. Though Sharon had never heard of the field of MFT until the “encouragement of [her] counselling professor during graduate studies,” she realized that MFT was the unique path she wanted to pursue.

2. What is your favorite client population and why?
“I enjoy working with couples a lot. However, from the beginning of my clinical journey, I have wanted to work with girls and women and the ways in which we agitate to find our voice and claim our place in the world.”

3. What is a piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you started?
“I think I knew as a Black woman that I needed to believe in myself first to withstand stereotypes and naysayers. However, I think that belief also needs to be extended to those who have a different type of degree or have made choices to work within specific communities. I started with communities of Christian faith. MFT does not have the familiarity of other mental health programs like social work or psychology, and so to embark on this journey requires a certain amount of self-advocacy. We need to put ourselves in places and spaces that are talking about mental health and encourage a systemic, relational view in addition to having a familiarity with how individual and/or pathology focused contexts frame mental and relational health.”

4. How have you seen the practice of MFT change and evolve over the years?
“I practice in Toronto, Canada and I have had the opportunity to be involved in provincial, national, and North American leadership positions. From that vantage point, I became a member when regulation began rolling out in the US, but in Canada in general and Ontario in particular, that rollout has been slow. MFT has had to come through other doors.”

5. What has been your favorite part of your AAMFT membership? The most useful?
“I like structure. The pathway to AAMFT membership emphasized particular knowledge and experience as markers of readiness for independent practice. For me, the most useful was involvement in leadership positions to really stretch and shape my knowledge and experience.”

6. What AAMFT resources do you find yourself using the most frequently?
Sharon finds “the JMFT, e-News, topical interest networks, Teneo and conferences” of most value when reflecting on her membership experience with AAMFT. Despite the challenges that 2020 offered, Sharon put her membership to good use and attended last year’s virtual AAMFT Annual Conference, MFTs Changing the World.

7. What are the major differences you have noticed between Canadian and American MFT practices?
“Canadian MFTs do not have the array of accredited training programs across the country as Americans do. Our pathways of necessity rely on grassroots support. As a result, we have had to leverage other training routes and rely on a network of Clinical Fellows and Approved Supervisors to build our numbers.”

Despite the challenges that Sharon Ramsay initially encountered, she has prospered and made a dent in the field of marriage and family therapy by putting her membership benefits to good use and getting actively involved to incite positive, collaborative change both internationally and right here in the United States. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “be the change you wish to see in the world…” or in this case, the world of MFT!

Spotlight: A Member’s Journey is a feature that showcases AAMFT members and their unique stories that shape them as people and as therapists. This profile appeared in the February 26, 2021 edition of AAMFT’s Family Therap-eNews. 

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