Member Spotlight: Tai Mendenhall

By Membership

Could MFT have its own version of a superhero? All of our members juggle so many different responsibilities, sacrifice for the greater good, and work to make a difference. Is that not what a profile of a superhero truly is? These gracious acts are what makes our association such a strong entity, and what makes AAMFT stand out from all the rest.

Dr. Tai Mendenhall embodies this as he works his way through a niche unknown to many – Medical Family Therapy. As a longstanding member of AAMFT, he has deployed to work in environments that many others would run from. During his doctoral training, he responded on a team to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. Since then, he has responded to a myriad of large- and small-scale disasters, both human-caused and environmental, nationally and internationally. Alongside this, his baseline clinical work in medical settings requires him to collaborate with providers across a broad range of mental health and biomedical disciplines. It is safe to say, too, that Dr. Mendenhall loves the fast-paced nature of these contexts. Here is what he had to say about his MFT journey:

What attracted you to MFT?
“The first thing that attracted me to MFT was (is) its systems thinking. Human struggles (e.g., depression, anxiety, trauma) were not wholly framed as an individual problem in somebody’s head – nor were ways toward healing and growth framed as an individual journey of changing thought patterns and/or otherwise ‘snapping out of it.’ Many of the geneses of our struggles transpire in relationships, as do most (all?) of our solutions.”

What client population do you primarily work with and what drew you to that population?
As a Medical Family Therapist, Dr. Mendenhall stated that he enjoys working with “complex patients,” across a diversity of clinical presentations, ages, cultures/ethnicities, and social locations. The idea of an isolated private practice was one that never appealed to him, either. Dr. Mendenhall is consistently inspired by how the collaborative efforts of interdisciplinary teams translate into better care processes and outcomes that any single provider could do or facilitate on their own.

What has been your greatest challenge?
Dr. Mendenhall, a contributing author to AAMFT’s new ethics textbook, has found that “the intersections with medicine [are] complex… [and that] learning and integrating into different professional cultures” has many implications that many may not realize. This has served as one of his greater challenges. As he has maneuvered and overcome obstacles, such as when ethics codes across different professions go in different directions, Dr. Mendenhall hopes now to provide guidance to other MedFTs who are working in collaborative settings.

What advice have you received that you have found most helpful to your practice of MFT?
During his interview with AAMFT, Dr. Mendenhall laughed about how the more he has learned, the more he realizes that he does not know. This awareness is what has kept him going for years. Dr. Mendenhall said that the advice most helpful to him was (is) to “enjoy the journey, [continuously] learn, and stay humble.” All of these have served him well during his career. What part of your AAMFT membership have you found to be most valuable? To those who are AAMFT members, it would not come as a shock to hear that Dr. Mendenhall most loves the networking opportunities provided by his membership. Once as a student, and nowadays as a seasoned scholar, practitioner, teacher, and supervisor, he described our organization’s conferences as facilitating some of his best experiences in meeting students, mentors, colleagues, and friends. “All parts [of my membership] are valuable.”

Tai Mendenhall, PhD, LMFT, is a Professional member of AAMFT and holds the AAMFT Clinical Fellow and Approved Supervisor designations. He is a Medical Family Therapist and Associate Professor in the Couple and Family Therapy Program at the University of Minnesota (UMN) in the Department of Family Social Science. He is also the Associate Director of the UMN’s Citizen Professional Center and Director of the UMN’s Medical Reserve Corps’ Mental Health Disaster-Response Teams

Spotlight: A Member’s Journey is a series that showcases AAMFT members and the unique stories that shape them as people and as therapists. This profile appeared in the July 23, 2021 edition of AAMFT’s Family Therap-eNews. 

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