Look, I’m not here to defend the BBS (California’s Board of Behavioral Sciences) or any other licensing board. They’re not your friend. They require deeply flawed exams that even they know don’t work. Their disciplinary guidelines, especially around substance use issues, are unreasonably punitive. They are notoriously unresponsive. There are a lot of problems there. But it’s also true that most complaints about the BBS are based on flat-out falsehoods.
Becoming a therapist is ridiculously expensive. There’s grad school, which costs about five times as much even in inflation-adjusted dollars today than it did 30 years ago. There’s the time between graduation and licensure, which is often filled with low-paying employment. And then at the end of all of that, you take your final license exam. (Some states have bumped up some exams to be earlier in the process.) Given all the expense that leads up to it, it’s common to wonder why that last major hurdle is itself so expensive. If your education and experience should have prepared you for licensure, why should you have to do license exam prep courses in addition? And if you do go the test-prep route, why is it so expensive?
Let’s take those questions in order.
Whenever I get into conversations about the MFT licensure process, and how it differs from one state to another, similar questions come up. Earlier I addressed the fundamental question of whether license examinations make for better therapists. Another common question I hear: Why do we require 3,000 hours of supervised, prelicensed experience for MFT licensure?
(Making things more complicated, why do some states require more? California uses the 3,000-hour standard. Arizona, like a handful of other states, requires 3,200 hours. Some other states simply say “two years of full-time supervised experience or the equivalent.”)
We all remember the last semester of high school. A new life chapter was approaching. Our childhood was ending. We would soon experience the freedom of the college world.
It was scary to know that we would be on our own, but we were itching to leave. We knew the quality of our work did not reflect what we were capable of, we just wanted it out of the way. I even remember calculating how much I had to do to just barely pass my classes and coast through the rest of my school year. It did not matter that more difficult times and more responsibility were imminently ahead of us, we just wanted to be done with high school. We called it “senioritis.”
Nearing the end of your 3,000 hours towards licensure can be eerily similar.
In Part 1, which was an excerpt from my Basics of California Law text, I discussed the subtle ways that even well-meaning therapists can subvert a license exam. Here in Part 2, available only online, I’ll get more specific about what kinds of things I think can be safely shared and what probably can’t.
It is essential to the fairness and validity of any testing process that those who take the test are who they say they are, do not attempt to cheat on the test, and do not reveal any information about test content to those who have not yet taken the exam. This is certainly true with license exams, which are considered high-stakes tests because failing can directly impact one’s professional standing and job opportunities.
Violating exam security or subverting a license exam, one of the forms of unprofessional conduct that can lead to discipline from the Board of Behavioral Sciences, occurs most commonly when someone who has just taken their exam shares its content with others who have not yet taken the exam. “Subverting,” as it is used here, means impacting the integrity of the exam; while sharing content is perhaps the most common way this happens, it certainly is not the only way it could occur.
From students and colleagues alike, I often hear statements to the effect of “There are a lot of bad therapists out there.” As I understand it, “bad” in this context has a variety of meanings, ranging from ineffective to unethical. At either end of that spectrum, though, the next question is usually the same: How do they stay licensed?
In late 2017, I sat down with my friends at LA-CAMFT for a wide-ranging discussion of issues that impact prelicensed therapists. Advocacy is sort of my jam, so we knew that advocacy would be a big part of the discussion. But we also got to talk about interviews, health insurance, employment, exams, and a lot of other issues relevant to early-career therapists.
Good news and bad news, I suppose, from today’s meeting of the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. The most important good news surrounds the 90-day rule for supervised experience between graduation and registration as an associate. Good stuff first!
Discussions about California’s “six-year rule” for prelicensed family therapists (MFTs), clinical counselors (PCCs), and clinical social workers (CSWs) often turn confusing. There’s a simple reason for that. When people refer to California’s “six-year rule,” they actually might be referring to either one of two different rules, both of which have six-year timeframes. Here’s a breakdown of both six-year rules.