Over the past months, a number of readers have privately, and very kindly, asked whether I would be okay with them selling their used copies of my exam prep book, Preparing for the California MFT Law & Ethics Exam, once they’re done with it. In short, I am. But selling isn’t your only option for using test prep materials after you have passed the test you bought them for. And there are a couple of options you shouldn’t take. Let’s run down the list of what you can and can’t do with used exam prep materials.
I am part of several online groups for psychotherapists, on Facebook and elsewhere. We talk about ethics, about theories, and sometimes about cases (without identifying details, of course, to protect confidentiality). Most of the time, when people say something that isn’t right, the collective wisdom of the group corrects the error. That’s one of many positives of social media: It allows professionals all over the world to share information and hold each other to high standards of knowledge and behavior.
Sometimes, though, a myth or misstatement is so common that the collective doesn’t effectively stop it. Here are the five misstatements about legal and ethical issues that I see most often from therapists.
The so-called “gig economy” — best exemplified by ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft — has brought political attention to the plight of workers who are hired as independent contractors rather than employees. As independent contractors, these workers typically have no ability to engage in collective bargaining, often receive little or no benefits, and have limited workplace protections. The attention they are receiving might end up helping therapists and counselors who take insurance — or who would, if the pay and benefits were better. It could also help clients by improving accessibility of care.
There weren’t enough changes for this year to warrant a whole new edition of the book, but there are a number of new laws worth knowing if you practice in California. The update includes new rules surrounding:
Interns and associates in the master’s level mental health professions in California will take a law and ethics exam in their first year of registration, under an exam restructure taking effect in January 2016.
The American Psychological Association apologized on Friday for its actions that allowed psychologists to participate in the torture of military detainees. Those actions are detailed in the extensive “Independent Review Relating to APA Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations, and Torture” (otherwise known simply as the Hoffman report). It is the most thorough examination to date of how APA staffers, aiming to remain in the good graces of the Central Intelligence Agency and (especially) the Department of Defense, actively sought to create ethics policies that allowed psychologists to be involved with torture and shielded them from consequences for doing so.
Note: The following is an edited excerpt from Saving Psychotherapy: How therapists can bring the talking cure back from the brink. You can buy it on Amazon.
Licensing exams do not assess your effectiveness as a therapist. They aren’t meant to. That bears repeating: License exams do not assess your effectiveness as a therapist. They are a licensing board’s best effort at assessing whether you have the minimal knowledge (not skill, knowledge) to be able to practice independently without being a danger to the public. That’s all. When therapists decry the fact that license exams are nothing like doing therapy, they’re right – and their point isn’t relevant. Exams aren’t supposed to be like therapy. If you want to know how good you are as a therapist, look elsewhere, because exams are not and are not intended to be a barometer of clinical effectiveness. They are a somewhat crude assessment of safety for independent practice.
With that aim in mind, do they work? Do licensing exams make therapists safer?
There’s remarkably little data to answer that question.
Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed into law by Governor Mike Pence last week, has raised a great deal of controversy. In the psychotherapy community, the law could have an immediate impact in the form of professional events and conferences moving out of the state. In the longer term, the bill is likely to impact training and practice by making it harder for universities and licensing boards to discipline discriminatory behavior.
In California, we’ve seen a lot of changes to state law and to the ethical codes that govern mental health practice in the past 12 months. So I’m happy to announce the new third edition of Basics of California Law for LMFTs, LPCCs, and LCSWs, updated for 2015 and available for preorder now.
If you’re considering a career in mental health, there’s some good news on the economic front. After stagnation associated with the larger economy’s downturn, salaries in mental health professions appear to be back on the rise.According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, salaries are improving for all of the mental health professions except Psychology, which has been effectively flat since 2009. There are several cautionary notes that go with this data (more on those below), but if you’re considering a master’s degree in counseling, clinical social work, or family therapy, overall it’s promising:
Source data: Bureau of Labor Statistics Note that the y-axis there starts at $40k, so it’s a little misleading as to proportionality but shows year-over-year changes more clearly.The news seems to be especially good for MFTs in California (I’m one of them, so I’m incredibly biased on this): From 2012 to 2013, the mean annual wage for MFTs here went from $47,230 to $54,470. That’s an increase of more than 15% in just a year. As I said, some pesky cautionary notes: First, the BLS data assumes full-time work, calculating the average annual wage by multiplying the mean hourly wage by 2,080. There are benefits and drawbacks to that approach; it keeps the mean from being dragged down by part-time workers, but also arguably overestimates what the average worker actually makes, since many do work part-time. Second, there is significant state-by-state variability in the numbers. Even if the national means are improving, it can be worth checking to see what the trend is within your state. Third, especially in states with smaller populations of mental health professionals, it isn’t unusual to see big gains or drops in a year simply due to small sample sizes. Data for larger states is more reliable. Finally, the BLS data isn’t perfectly broken down by license; the data shown here uses the BLS categories of Mental Health Counselors (21-1014); Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists (19-3031); Marriage and Family Therapists (21-1013); and Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers (21-1023). These are the categories most focused on mental health services and thus the closest parallels to licensure. There should be a new data set for 2014 out within a couple of months; I’ll update this post once that data is available.# # # Your comments here are welcome. You can post them in the comments below, by email to ben[at]bencaldwell[dot]com, or on my Twitter feed.