What’s going on with California’s MFT Clinical Exam? [Updated]

California flagIt is certainly debatable what an ideal pass rate for licensing exams should be. If the pass rate is high, that means almost everyone gets through. Then the tests don’t serve a meaningful function. (That’s pretty much the status quo.) If the pass rate is low, it raises questions about the validity of the exam, given how much time most examinees spend preparing for it. But what makes a pass rate too high or too low? Given that the exams don’t do much of anything anyway, it’s hard to say for sure.

But it does raise eyebrows when pass rates for a single exam fall off a cliff, as seems to have happened for California MFTs over the past year.

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Studying for MFT licensing exams

If you are soon to be taking your state’s MFT licensing exams, congratulations! Here are five tips on how to study and prepare.

[Ed. note: This post initially published October 27, 2010. Updated in November 2016 to update the list of companies offering test prep products and services.]

Licensing exams are a major milestone in the professional development of a marriage and family therapist (MFT). While there are differences from state to state, every state except California uses the National MFT Exam, and most states require that exams be taken at the completion of at least two years of full-time, post-masters experience in supervised practice. (California uses exclusively its own exams.) As you approach completion of the supervised experience necessary to take the exams, how can you best prepare? Here are five things that can help:

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Are licensing exam prep courses a good value?

Several exam prep companies offer products and services to help counselors and therapists prepare for their licensing exams. These offerings may cost hundreds of dollars. Are they worth your money?

[Ed. note – This post was originally published November 1, 2010. Minor update in November 2016. It’s worth acknowledging that I offer prep material for the California MFT Law & Ethics Exam, as described elsewhere on this site.]

Last week, I posted a few tips for preparing for MFT licensing exams, including a list of providers of study courses and materials. I purposefully sidestepped the question of whether such products are worth the cost, which easily can add up to several hundred dollars. It’s hard to know for sure.

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Texas Supreme Court to hear appeal on MFT diagnosis

Texas CapitolEarlier this year, the Texas Supreme Court refused to hear a case about marriage and family therapists’ (MFTs’) ability to independently diagnose mental illness. While MFTs are trained in diagnosis, a lower court ruled that the state’s licensing board overstepped its authority in an attempt to add the word “diagnosis” to the MFT scope of practice. Going further, the court ruling determined that MFTs should not have been independently diagnosing in the first place. (Though the word “diagnose” was not previously in the scope language, MFTs diagnosing mental illness was common practice, as it is around the country.) The state Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case meant that the lower ruling stood, and MFTs could not diagnose.

Court procedures in Texas allow for one final appeal of the court’s decision not to hear a case. The AAMFT filed an appeal on June 13. In a rare move, the court granted that appeal. Later this year, the Texas Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether MFTs should be allowed to independently diagnose mental illness.

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