In a previous post, we discussed the required hours of supervised experience for psychotherapist licensure and the history of that requirement. In this post, we examine the ever-growing educational requirements for a master’s degree that leads to licensure as family therapist, clinical social worker, or counselor.
Therapists and counselors never stop learning over the course of their careers. The educational process starts in graduate school, where trainees and students absorb as much information as they can within and outside of the classroom setting. In California, following graduation and registration with the BBS (Board of Behavioral Sciences), associate marriage and family therapists seek work and training opportunities that will allow them to continue expanding upon their knowledge of therapeutic techniques and treatment modalities. Once licensed, marriage and family therapists are required to obtain CEUs (Continuing Education Units*) in order to continue practicing.
We know that continuing education is important, but do continuing education hours matter for prelicensed therapists? CEUs are required in order to renew licenses with the BBS, but not registrations; therefore, the answer may seem like a straightforward “no.” The more complex answer is that CEUs can be beneficial for prelicensed therapists in certain situations.
If you’re working your way down the long road to licensure, the holidays can offer some welcome relief. It’s a rough process, getting licensed. It’s certainly longer than it needs to be, and it helps if you’re independently wealthy to begin with. Sometimes staying optimistic is a challenge.
But going into the holidays with family and friends, we thought it would be a good time to remember all the good that comes with this work. And there is a lot!
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.
Student loan debt has been a regular topic here, as it should be. Mental health professionals need to have graduate degrees, which often means taking on significant debt. The American Psychological Association reports that PsyD students in psychology now graduate with a median of $200,000 in student debt just from their graduate studies. The federal government offers loan forgiveness for those who work in government and nonprofit organizations, through its Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
Recently, there’s been some concern over the fate of that program. Therapists and counselors currently working in nonprofit settings wonder whether they will in fact be eligible — or whether the program will still exist — by the time they complete 10 years of service. But their concern is (at least so far) not supported by what’s actually been happening.
I was working in a residential treatment center for teens. It was a typical mid-week day, and I was supervising “school time,” a period where clients are able to work on their treatment assignments and homework from their schools back home. Often during this hour, the primary therapists would pull the clients for individual sessions. I happened to know that today was the day that Nicole* was going to be given her diagnosis of depression, and I was prepared to help her process her emotions should she need coaching after her return from session. Sure enough, Nicole returned from her therapist’s office with a solemn look on her face. When she sat down away from her peers, I walked over to her and asked, “How did it go?”
She let out a sigh, “Well, I found out my diagnosis.”
I nodded. “I see. What’s that like for you?”
“I guess it’s better to know what’s going on and have an explanation for everything. At least it’s not like I have cancer!”
That comment gave me pause. I thought: But I have cancer.
I’m a young therapist. I started my graduate program at 23 years old and finished at 25. When I first started seeing clients in a school setting, I was 24, and their parents were often in their 40s or 50s.
I also have a young face. When people guess my age, I get anywhere between 17 and 23. I’ve been told that this is a good attribute to have, yet I am not yet seeing the benefits in my career. Several of my clients were taken aback when they first met me. Addressing my age and experience has become a norm, and I’ve accumulated a handful of recited professional responses when this occurs.
We can’t say we didn’t see this coming. In the first edition of The Heart and Soul of Change: What Works in Therapy, published in 1999, authors Mark Hubble, Barry Duncan, and Scott Miller predicted that psychotherapists would soon be facing a new era of accountability for their work. Clients, payors, and policymakers would all demand hard evidence that psychotherapy was effective. That era is well underway, and so far we have provided a wealth of the kind of information these parties have demanded.
We can demonstrate that therapy works as an overall conclusion, and within the contexts of specific problems and populations. Proving the effectiveness of specific models has been helpful in many ways (showing that model-based treatment is superior to no treatment) and enlightening in others (showing that, for most problems, the model of therapy has little to no impact on outcome). The brain research discussed by Siegel, Cozolino, and others explains why therapy works. Psychotherapy in general is being held accountable, and it is passing the test with flying colors.
The same cannot be said of specific therapists, or of therapy training programs – yet.