Choosing to see a therapist is the first step in finding relief from your symptoms. When you are suffering from personal or socially-related issues, you will likely need the help of a professional counselor to help you learn to cope.
Licensed therapists are highly trained in proven techniques and treatments for disorders ranging from depression to post-traumatic stress disorder. The following breakdown explains the requirements for providing counseling services and will ease any fears you may have about your therapist’s ability to help you.
Step 1: Extensive Education
Much like our clinical medical providers, therapists are required to complete many years of education that begins with an undergraduate degree that will often be related to the field in some way.
Next, future counselors must attend a minimum of 60 hours of graduate work that will include, but are not limited to, concepts such as substance abuse, human sexuality, and psychopathology.
Beyond the classwork, the MFT trainee is required to complete at least 150 hours of face-to-face counseling. They may even undertake 75 hours of client-centered advocacy training, or if not, another 75 hours of face-to-face will be needed to obtain their master’s degree.
Step 2: Dual Exams
Some states have very thorough and strict examination policies for licensed marriage and family therapists. In California, the licensing program entails two exams, with time-limits in place, to be sure that counselors are up-to-date on techniques and regulations.
Upon receiving a graduate degree, prospective therapists will have their fingerprints taken and apply for their chance to sit for three separate written tests. The Law and Ethics Exam will assess the applicant’s knowledge and ability to apply legal and ethical standards.
The California Clinical Exam tests prospective therapists knowledge of, and ability to implement, psychotherapeutic principles, methods, treatments and their applications. Applicants are allowed four hours to complete this 170 question exam.
Step 3: Supervised Training
Those graduates that have completed school and passed their exams are not simply thrown to the wolves. First, they must fulfill many hours of supervised training in a real-world setting.
Now known as an MFT Intern, a candidate will need to work under supervision for 104 weeks or at least 3,000 hours. Within this amount of time, they are required to engage in 500 hours of psychotherapy, but no more than 500 hours of group therapy and 375 hours of tele-counseling.
Additionally, up to 500 hours of administrative activities such as writing evaluations, processing notes, and completing reports will be accepted. Up to 1,000 non-counseling hours are allowable and may include workshops, meetings, and receiving psychotherapy themselves.
You may be needing therapy for yourself, or to work out marriage issues, but in the end, finding a highly educated and knowledgeable therapist is going to be the best thing you can do for yourself and those around you.