Guest blog: Special Accommodations for MFT Exams

So excited to have the wonderful Maria Shufeldt submit an informative article outlining the process for applying for accommodations. Give it a read, explore, and become informed about the options and process for asking for special accomodations when taking licensing exams in California. 

By Maria Shufeldt

Melanie Masters contributor 

State and federal laws require the BBS to give exam applicants with documented disabilities an equal opportunity to perform on the licensing exams. Disabilities are generally defined as a condition or impairment that limit one or more major life activities. They may also include mental or psychological disorders, and specific learning disabilities. 

If you believe your test performance would be affected by such a condition, you may file a written request with the BBS at least 90 days before scheduling your exam. The BBS will evaluate your eligibility for “Special Accommodations” within the legal mandates. 

Accommodations must fall within certain limits, and may not alter the exam’s measurement of knowledge or skills. Specific accommodations approved will depend on BBS evaluation process, and may include: up to time and a half for exam completion, a private room, breaks to take care of special needs or use management strategies, or special equipment like seat cushions. You may also request to take the test by pen and pencil.

A request is another form of application to the BBS, so make sure that you are timely, accurate, and thorough. Be patient: it’s the BBS, after all! Here are some steps that may help during the request process. I used clinical terms because it may help to remember this is a systemic process. Keep focus, not frustration in mind. 

1. Assess yourself, the situation, and the presenting problem.

Assess how all the bio/psycho/social factors of the testing process may affect you if you have a pre-existing condition. Try to visit the test site to assess the environment and ask questions of the facility staff. Think carefully about your daily functioning, and compare that with the exam conditions. 

2. Refer out for expertise 

Consult with a qualified medical or educational professional as soon as you determine you want to request accommodations. BBS requires testing and/or medical diagnosis, and will consider the length of time you have been in treatment, as well as requirements and recommendations for management during the exam. 

Some conditions may not qualify if corrected by aides or medication. (Examples: wearing eyeglasses, or taking ADHD meds). Finally, keep “test anxiety” out of your mind and vocabulary. It is not in the DSM. 

3. Advocate for yourself. 

This is what we do ethically for our clients, but can be difficult for ourselves. Finally getting to exam stage requires many sacrifices and admirable qualities such as persistence and self-sufficiency. Yet the exam is not the time to “white knuckle” a known condition, hesitate to request assistance, or to ignore the possibility that a disability or non-diagnosed condition is affecting you. Remember (as if you didn’t know): it’s a 6 month wait to retake the exam. 

4. Recognize (and keep) your role in the system

BBS follows its own defined process within the legal mandates of Special Accommodations. Here is what you should expect – in order of likely occurrence:

  • Submit your Request for Accommodations to the BBS Special Accommodations Specialist at least 90 days before scheduling your test date. 
  • The BBS will evaluate your request and mail you a letter of official approval with specific accommodations. You can check on status by phone or email to the BBS Specialist. 
  • If your request is approved, BBS will send you a letter that specifies your Special Accommodations. You will schedule your exam by phone only with PSI’s Accommodations Unit only. When you call, ask PSI if they have received an upload of your accommodations approval from BBS. You cannot schedule until this is in place. You can follow up with BBS and/or ask PSI to call you when it is received. 
  • Once you are scheduled and starting your study process, you may want to ask your test coach how to incorporate accommodations in your mock exams. 
  • On test day, be sure to bring everything you have been allowed for your accommodations, including the letter of accommodation from the BBS. 
  • Generally, BBS will apply approved accommodations for the 1st. You will receive another mailed letter for the second accommodations, and you should follow the same steps outlined above. 

1. Confidentiality and Disclosure 

BBS maintains confidentiality on your Special Accommodations status, but you will  make the decision yourself about disclosing to colleagues and friends or family. This decision generally comes up when people ask you “how long did it take,” or other details about the testing conditions. 

2. Celebrate the “pass”.

You did this with special accommodations, not because of them. 

Resources: 

Marriage and Family Therapist Standard Written Examination Candidate Handbook, p. 6 (Special Accommodations and Reporting to the Test Site) www.bbs.ca.gov/pdf/publications/mft_swhbk.pdf 

Request for Accommodation Form from BBS: www.bbs.ca.gov/pdf/forms/specaccom.pdf

BBS Special Accommodation Specialist: Mary Miranda: 916-574-7862 Ext. 62 Mary.Miranda@dca.ca.gov

PSI Special Accommodations Scheduling: 1-800-367-1565, Ext. 6750