I’ll never forget the speech given to me at my graduate school orientation as I was starting the journey to become a marriage and family therapist. “Get ready to say goodbye to your full-time job, goodbye to your social life, and goodbye to your boyfriend or girlfriend.” I was taken aback by the last part. Would grad school end my relationship? Turns out, yup!
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:
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.
It sometimes seems like labor abuses are a rite of passage for prelicensed therapists. Recent graduates are often appalled by the unpaid or underpaid positions their colleagues (and sometimes they) willingly take simply to get their hours done. Many wonder whether they will be able to support their families as they progress to licensure.
Therapists also often talk about inadequate supervision, dangerous working conditions, unrealistic and inappropriate demands, and a variety of other serious labor concerns on the road to licensure. Some drop out of the field altogether.
If so many therapists experience labor abuses, then why do the problems persist?
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.
Every fall, the universities where I teach enroll dozens of new students into our family therapy programs. Our new students tend to be immensely talented, and many of them (as at any school) are also immensely anxious as they begin their journey.
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.
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:
The website STAT, which focuses on news in health care, published an editorial last month under the headline, “Physicians aren’t burning out. They’re suffering from moral injury.” Almost all of its conclusions appear fully applicable to psychotherapists as well. Could it be that we’ve been talking about therapist burnout from the wrong framework?