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.
At its November 2015 meeting, the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) voted to pursue legislation in 2016 that would change the titles of post-degree, pre-license professional clinical counselors (PCCs) and marriage and family therapists (MFTs) from “interns” to “associates.”
There are a lot of “ifs” here, but if they are able to find an author, and if the bill gets through the Legislature and if it is then signed by the Governor, it would not take effect until 2018. This would give individuals and employers ample time during 2017 to plan changes to their marketing materials.
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.
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.
I’ve talked a fair amount in this blog about the need for better license portability across states. True license reciprocity, where one state automatically recognizes another state’s licensure, is rightly the long-term goal of some professional associations in mental health. (I’ve argued that telehealth will help us get there.)
Alliant International University, which houses APA-accredited psychology programs and COAMFTE-accredited family therapy programs, announced last week that it has converted from a non-profit corporate structure to a benefit corporation, a new type of for-profit structure allowed in California and at least 26 other states.
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.