The problem with life coaching

wooden-chestBecoming a therapist isn’t the only way you can put a psychology or counseling degree to work. You can also become a “life coach,” a growing profession that involves helping people come closer to reaching their life goals. Some clients who would resist going to therapy will happily visit with a life coach, as receiving coaching does not carry the same implications that going to therapy might. And some therapists see coaching as a way to diversify their practice, allowing them to market to clients who simply wouldn’t attend counseling or therapy.

Life coaching is a perfectly respectable and well-defined profession. The problem with life coaching isn’t the work itself, for which there clearly is a market. It’s with the people providing it.

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A therapists’ union is not the answer

USCurrency_Federal_ReserveFirst thing, to be clear: I am pro-union. If there is any possible way that employees at your workplace can unionize, you probably should. Union workers have significantly better pay and working conditions than their non-union counterparts, and the notion that union dues will outweigh the gains you make as part of a union is typically false. Unions are good.

Psychotherapists often decry the current state of the field. Education and training costs continue to rise. Reimbursement rates are not rising. Salaries aren’t keeping up with inflation. The list goes on. (I discuss each of these issues at some length in Saving Psychotherapy.) It makes sense to wonder why there isn’t something like a therapists’ union to protect the interests of psychotherapy professionals.

However, the idea that a union of therapists will fix the problems in the field is largely wrong. A union for psychotherapists is not the solution we’re looking for. Here’s why.

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California looks to change MFT and PCC interns to associates

California flagAt its November 2015 meeting, the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) voted to pursue legislation in 2016 that would change the titles of post-degree, pre-license professional clinical counselors (PCCs) and marriage and family therapists (MFTs) from “interns” to “associates.”

There are a lot of “ifs” here, but if they are able to find an author, and if the bill gets through the Legislature and if it is then signed by the Governor, it would not take effect until 2018. This would give individuals and employers ample time during 2017 to plan changes to their marketing materials.

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Why you should read Saving Psychotherapy, in two charts

Saving psychotherapy cover image (c) Copyright 2015 Benjamin E. Caldwell.My new book, Saving Psychotherapy, will be officially released September 22 [Update: Here it is!]. An edited excerpt about licensing exams is available here. Another excerpt focused on student debt appeared in the January/February 2015 issue of AAMFT’s Family Therapy Magazine (it starts on page 26).

I could spend a lot of time convincing you why you should read the book, but I think these two charts will be sufficient.

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How to seek back pay from an unpaid internship

USCurrency_Federal_ReserveI’ll be presenting to the California Board of Behavioral Sciences tomorrow on the possibility of changing the title for a post-degree, pre-license MFT from “intern” to “associate.” [Update: That change is going to happen. It takes effect in 2018.] The current intern title is confusing for interns and employers alike, and is likely one reason (albeit certainly not the only one) why so many prelicensed MFTs in California work in unpaid internship settings.

The licensing board meeting will be webcast, and you can get to the webcast through the BBS meeting calendar. But for those who have been through a post-degree unpaid internship in mental health, there are ways of seeking — and sometimes getting — back pay that don’t require a change in professional title.

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No one really knows what supervisors should pay for

California flagCalifornia law — with apologies to folks in other states, this post is pretty California-specific — says that any master’s level therapist who is not fully licensed cannot “lease or rent space, pay for furnishings, equipment, or supplies, or in any other way pay for the obligations of their employers.”

Fair enough. But what reasonably is an “obligation of their employer?” What should you expect to see as supervisor expenses, and what should you expect to pay for yourself as an intern? I surveyed MFT interns in the state to find out.

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