We’re big believers in efficiency around here, and we find ourselves often answering the same questions about the California MFT Law & Ethics Exam. So we’ve compiled a list here with some easy answers for quick reference.
Every clinical social worker entering the profession in the US faces the hurdle of social work licensing exams. Each state now requires an ASWB Exam, with most using the Clinical Level Exam for LCSW licensure. Typically, the exam must be taken at the completion of at least two years of full-time, supervised, post-masters experience. Many states also require some kind of Law and Ethics Exam (called Jurisprudence in some states), though this is more varied. As you approach either of these exams, how can you best prepare? Here are five things that can help:
Once you register as an Associate MFT, CSW, or PCC with the Board of Behavioral Sciences, you have a year to attempt the California Law and Ethics Exam for your profession. There are basically two schools of thought about when you should take that exam. One of them is wrong.
If you’re in your first year as an associate, you should take the exam right now.
A California MFT Law & Ethics Exam prep course is supposed to give you a good, broad overview of the legal and ethical standards for MFT practice — just like a 12-hour law and ethics CE course should. And if a 12-hour law and ethics CE course is good, it should leave you well-prepared to take the exam. So we made them the same.
We’re proud to announce the launch of our new California Law and Ethics for Marriage and Family Therapists course. It’s Law & Ethics Exam prep and 12 hours of continuing ed, rolled into one.
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.”]
Ben recently published an article on the shortage of therapists in California. He discussed the “supply-demand disconnect” and why it’s so difficult to meet the needs of clients across the state. Toward the end of the article, he remarked that due to this shortage, “more of our functions will be turned over to substance abuse counselors, peer counselors, and other professionals and para-professionals.”
What did he mean by that? How can therapists possibly be replaced by individuals who haven’t earned a master’s degree, aren’t registered with the Board of Behavioral Sciences, and aren’t supervised by a qualified mental health professional? Unfortunately, I can cite examples from my own personal experiences in the workforce that support Ben’s claim.
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.”)