California’s licensing exam restructure for marriage and family therapists (MFTs) takes effect January 1, 2016. Here’s how the new exam process will affect you.
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.
Whenever I get into conversations about the licensing process, a number of the same questions keep coming up. Many of these questions revolve around the value of having a license exam. It’s perhaps the most pesky, the-answer-should-be-obvious-but-isn’t question: Do licensure examinations make for better therapists?