If you didn’t know this about me, I’m a white woman. Most psychotherapists are white women. (See the demographics of psychologists as an example.) When I sat down to write about how families respond when a family member starts down the road to becoming a therapist, I knew that culture and family background would have a lot to do with it. So instead of just focusing on my own experience, I decided to also interview some of my colleagues, to see what it was like being the therapist in their families. The differences surprised me.
This Friday and Saturday, I will be presenting at the Therapy Reimagined conference in Los Angeles. It’s a different kind of conference from any I’ve spoken at before, and I can’t wait. You should be there.
Different by design
Academic and professional conferences tend to focus on research and clinical application. Those are obviously critically important for keeping your practice up to date. But those conferences don’t tend to talk broadly about what it means to work in mental health. In other words, most conferences are more about doing therapy, and less about being a therapist.
The California School of Professional Psychology was the country’s first free-standing professional school of psychology. It was one once known for radically transforming the training mental health professionals. And at the 2013 Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in Anaheim, its founding President said the school made a major mistake by choosing to pursue APA accreditation for its Clinical Psychology programs.
In 2009, Julea Ward, a counseling student at Eastern Michigan University, was in her school-assigned practicum when she was assigned a same-sex couple for treatment. She went to her supervisor and said she could not provide treatment to the couple, citing a conflict with her religious beliefs. The couple ultimately was assigned to a different counselor at the same agency, who did not have the same conflict. Ward thought she had handled the issue appropriately, as the clients received the treatment they had sought and she was not put in a position of needing to hide or compromise her beliefs. She understood the issue to have been successfully resolved.
Her graduate program, however, did not.
A few years ago, I wrote about income share agreements. ISAs are a novel way of financing higher education. Under this model, rather than paying tuition, a student agrees to pay a percentage of their future earnings back to whatever entity agrees to finance the person’s education now. It’s now called deferred tuition, and it’s still a bad idea.
With the exceptions of California and possibly Texas, around the US most graduate degree programs in marriage and family therapy are accredited through the Commission on Accreditation for Marital and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). Of the 80 or so license-eligible MFT programs in California, only a handful are COAMFTE-accredited MFT programs. Without some background on professional accreditation and what it means, it is perfectly reasonable for prospective MFT students to wonder whether the benefits of COAMFTE accreditation are worth the added challenge of seeking out an accredited program.
Not everyone needs or will especially benefit from attending an accredited program. MFT programs that are not specifically accredited are still generally housed within accredited universities, making their degrees eligible for licensure. (More on that below.) But there are at least four areas where the benefits of program accreditation are likely to be significant for many students:
If you are planning to become a counselor, it is important to give thought to the time and money it will take to work your way to licensure. The timing of steps along the way could impact your choices for when to get married, have children, or maintain employment in another field.
Presented here are the typical steps to a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) license and some common timeframes. [Note: Specific license titles vary by state. LPCC and LCPC are also common, with the first “C” in each standing for “Clinical.”]
In the world of private education, it isn’t uncommon for universities to be bought and sold. But recent years have seen a spike in the acquisition of private universities offering graduate degrees in mental health fields. Many students may not even be aware that their universities are now parts of larger corporations.
Three specific companies serve as case examples.
Barry Duncan has an article in the current Psychotherapy Networker asking, “Why would anybody become a therapist?” The job offers low pay compared to other jobs with similar training requirements. Workers in community mental health are often stretched beyond the breaking point. And as we’ve covered here regularly, employer abuses of therapists are unfortunately common. When even a single therapist pushes back against exploitation, it makes a real difference. But that doesn’t happen very often.
Duncan’s article offers some interesting overlaps with our past coverage here. It can explain fairly well why even the best therapists can be easy targets for exploitation at work.
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.