I’m at the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) meeting today in Orange County, with Robin Andersen from Prelicensed. The BBS has returned to two issues I’ve raised here previously: The alarmingly low pass rate on the California MFT Clinical Exam, and the issue of sites charging trainees to work there.
Streamlining licensure. Banning reparative therapy for minors. Fixing problems in child abuse reporting. Changing “interns” to “associates.” Saving Psychotherapy.
I’ve spent years now fighting for major changes in the world of mental health care, and winning. Many of the changes I’ve played a role in were ones that I was told would be impossible.
Today we launch Ben Caldwell Labs, the most important project of my career. The change I’m fighting for this time involves you.
I just took the California MFT Clinical Exam and the National MFT Exam within a month of each other. When scheduling both of these exams, my hope was that I could study once, and then ace both. Here, I’ll outline the similarities and differences I noticed between the two exams.
In every state, and for every psychotherapist license, there is a supervised experience requirement. Those requirements differ a bit from state to state and between license types, but they all hover around the same place: two years of full-time experience or the equivalent, typically operationalized as 3,000 hours. Where did that standard come from, and how has it changed over time? You may be surprised.
It’s nearly 100 years old.
At the August meeting of the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, I had a tense exchange with representatives from the state’s Office of Professional Examination Services about pass rates for the California MFT Clinical Exam. That pass rate has fallen off a cliff. For the first six months of the year, just 56% of those taking the test for the first time passed.
At the meeting, OPES presented about their exam development process, and argued that nothing meaningful had changed on their end. They and the BBS raised several hypotheses about both the current low pass rate and the drop in pass rate at the start of the year.
Over the past week, I investigated every one of the hypotheses offered. Not one of those hypotheses stands up to scrutiny.
Back in May, I wrote about how pass rates on the California MFT Clinical Exam for licensure had fallen off a cliff. At the time, the state’s Board of Behavioral Sciences offered an explanation for why the pass rate might have been higher than expected at the beginning of 2016. However, they had no explanation for why the pass rate since then had fallen so far.
The most recent data on California licensing exam pass rates [page 25] makes clear that the alarmingly low pass rate in the first quarter of 2017 — when just 57% of first-time test-takers passed the MFT Clinical Exam — was not simply an aberration. It truly does appear that the exam is broken.
Therapists, as a group, are pretty friendly people. We entered into a helping profession, one that relies on our ability to connect with a wide range of people. Generally speaking, we try to assume the best of others, whether friends or strangers. We go to great lengths to avoid jumping to negative conclusions. These are all great traits, and useful in the therapy room.
These same traits can also leave therapists and counselors vulnerable, though. Our desire to be on good terms with those around us can make it difficult when their behavior doesn’t line up with what we want or need. We’re trained and skilled at reducing conflict, so we’re typically not eager to jump into it (or create it).
Often, the frustrating things that other people and organizations do to therapists aren’t personal. They result from those other people and organizations doing exactly what they are supposed to do. They aren’t your friends, and they aren’t supposed to be. Understanding that can make it a lot easier and less stressful to deal with them.
The California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) tends to elicit negative responses from MFT registered interns, trainees, and students, and probably for good reason. The “horror stories” relating to therapists’ experiences with the BBS seem endless at times, and unfortunately, these stories can contribute to feelings of stress that are already being experienced by aspiring marriage and family therapists. Avoiding these five common mistakes can help reduce those feelings of stress when dealing with the BBS.
[Ed. note: This is a guest post written by our friend Robin Andersen, who runs the excellent resource Prelicensed.com. More about Robin appears at the end of this post. For more great resources for prelicensed therapists, check out this article. -bc]
Ah, to be a medical doctor. To only have to pass the boards once, and then be done with it. MFT license portability isn’t so easy.
Marriage and family therapists — who, at least in theory, practice the same profession no matter where they roam — are subject to a mishmash of licensure laws around the 50 states, with similar-but-different requirements for education, experience, and examinations. Taking your MFT license to a new state can be a challenge, as you may be forced to provide transcripts and even syllabi from classes taken decades ago, register as an intern or associate even if you’ve been fully licensed, and in some states, go through another testing process.
If you’re in the process of preparing for social work licensing exams, you may be dreading them. Those fears may be based on what you’ve heard about the exams — and what you’ve heard may not be true.
I hear complaints about clinical social work licensing exams on a regular basis. Some of the complaints have merit, but most are based on mythology. It’s as if we (quite understandably) have anxiety-based associations with our testing process, past or future, and then conjure up rational-sounding but factually baseless complaints about the process in an attempt to justify those fears.