Podcast: You are enough!

I'm so excited to be interviewed by Joe Sanok, LPC from the Practice of the Practice podcast! He interviewed my business partner and I about ZynnyMe and growing private practices. However, I got to talk about how failing my exam by 1 point was really the jumping off point for me in learning how to authentically grow a private practice (even though I didn't know it at the time!) 

You can listen to the podcast in full here: http://www.practiceofthepractice.com/session45/ 

We talk about what: 

  1. Five things every counselor should be outsourcing.
  2. One thing counselors should never outsource.
  3. How to grow a private practice today.
  4. What every new counselor needs to know
  5. One thing that every counselor in America must know.

Comment below and tell me what you learned, or even what you didn't like! I highly recommend you check out a few of the other podcasts as well. They are all fantastic! 


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. 


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



Why Blogging Is Awesome (for Pre-Licensed Therapists)

I started a blog in March 2013 without really knowing where I was going to go with it. At the time I was considering family/parent coaching as a way to build my name before I was licensed. I was also having tons of conversations with professionals who would really dig what I was saying about parenting and how to help parents. So, I started blogging and directing people to my blog as another way of networking. As I started writing more, I began to develop my voice and began to see that I had a ton of information to give to others. I also realized that I was really getting to know my niche.

So, how did I start blogging as pre-licensed therapist?

I started with a free WordPress blog and I committed to writing one blog a week titled The Weekly Skill, since I was focusing on parenting developing their parenting skills. After I got the flow of blogging, I also committed to doing one series blog a month (i.e., do a series on parenting concepts posting one in the series a month). I created a schedule of how the series would span out over the next year (so, this was May 2013). With that schedule set, it gave me motivation to begin this task of getting my ideas out of my head and onto “paper”!

Beginning the blog with a schedule set for how I would post made it easier to digest and I felt more confident that I could actually pull this off. But, it did feel like a lot at the time because I was still in my full time community mental health position. As I began to network and share my posts, I began to get feedback that people were not only sharing my posts, but they liked them! And, that was great motivation.

Now, why is this a good thing for you?

How can blogging benefit ACSW and MFT Interns while accruing hours (or waiting on hours to be approved)?

Well, I’m glad you asked.

Here are 5 ways that blogging is great while you are pre-licensed:

  1. It gives you a space to carve out your niche, or ideal client, well before you break out on your own.
  2. It can help you get your ideas and thoughts about helping clients sorted and organized
    a. Note:  When I first started my blog in 2013, I just wanted a place to put my thoughts about parenting out and keeping them from being unorganized in my mind
  3. It allows you a creative space to develop your voice without the pressure of solely marketing to client.
  4. As you write, you will begin to nurture the confidence in how much knowledge you have about working with your ideal client, or within your niche.
  5. It’s also a great place to for others to find out about who you are.
     a . It can be used in connection with your other social media profiles to give a whole picture about you and your work! 
  6. It let's Google "get to know you" so when/if you launch a private practice you won't be starting from scratch! 

Now that you see the benefits, and understand how having a blog can add value to your work and development as a clinician, what can you do to start blogging?

Blogging Tips for Therapists Starting Out

Pick a platform

WordPress.com and Blogger.com are two of the most prominent blog platforms, and I would honestly start there. Both platforms have free accounts so you can begin immediately. The benefit of using either one of these platforms is that there are tons of help on forums, Google, and Youtube to help you get started. But, to be honest, the simplest way to begin blogging is to sign up, pick a cool theme, and start writing!

Decide on a schedule

One of the biggest barriers that I have heard from other prelicensed clinicians about blogging is knowing when to blog and how much to blog. The short answer is that it’s really up to you; do whatever you feel is comfortable. But, the longer answer is that you should start with at least once a week for at least a year. I give this suggestion because you will see so much progress in your writing, inspiration, and voice if you write more. Essentially, the more you blog the more comfortable you will become.

Write about what you’re interested in

Of course, a pre-licensed blog should focus on helping clients, but also it should talk about who you are clinically and professionally. I recommend not worrying about focusing on an ideal client for each post just yet, but write about topics that interest you in the field (mental health awareness, gender roles and its effect on society, gay rights, advances in psychotherapy).

Find a blog challenge

There are a few cool blog challenges that are swimming around on the web right now. One that I used is from Julie Hanks’ Private Practice Toolbox blog (you find the challenge here).  These challenges give you inspiration for thinking about blog topics that can really get your creative juices flowing. It can be difficult to think about relevant topics sometimes, so having a list of topics that you can chose from will help with the writer’s block or the barriers that come with writing your blog.

Don’t worry and have fun

Lastly, just have fun! Blogging does not have to be stress inducing or anxiety provoking. Understand that you’re not building a website yet, and you’re not worried about SEO, search engines, or marketing yet. And, look eventually you can link it to your website, but right now, just enjoy!

Here’s a little bonus, you can add a separate page to your blog and add your resume/curriculum vitae. By doing this, you can send the blog link to potential supervisors or add it to your email signature when you’re looking for an internship. It will give them a good picture of who you are as a clinician and they’ll be pretty impressed too (trust me!)

Overall, blogging can be a real benefit to your prelicensed journey if you are willing to use the steps above and use it to enhance your already impressive skill set.

Happy blogging!

*A huge thank you Mercedes Samudo for reaching out and offering help to other MFT Interns and ASCW who are the journey to being licensed as a therapist. Check out the awesome resources she provides parents at http://theparentingskill.com/ This may be a great resource for the parents you work with who are struggling, or parents of children that you are working with! 

In the Trenches: Good Supervision

Miranda Palmer, LMFT (Your MFTGuide) here to introduce our very first "in the trenches" post from an MFT Intern current gathering hours. I had the pleasure of meeting Michaela Renee Johnson at the 2013 California MFT (CAMFT) Conference in Sacramento, CA. I would love for you to hear her thoughts and recommendations about finding a good clinical supervisor while gathering hours for California licensure! 

When I was in Grad school, people talked about the concept of a “good” supervisor and a “bad” supervisor.

The concept was lost on me as people told horror stories of “bad” supervisors in practicum.
It wasn’t until I was half way through my practicum that I finally understood. The first supervisor I had was everything I had envisioned a supervisor to be, she was easy going, a great listener, educated, theoretical yet tactical and humorous. She was exactly what I needed in that first experience to get my bearings and build confidence at such a pivotal moment. But, I only could only fully "see" that in retrospect. 

Halfway through my practicum she announced she was moving out of State, and we would be assigned a new supervisor.

I was incredibly sad, because I’d come to appreciate and enjoy her as a supervisor and a mentor, but it wasn’t until my new supervisor was assigned that I started to truly appreciate what I’d had, and lost.

Every supervisor has a different skillset and style that they bring to the experience.

And not knowing what I didn't know- I sort of expected supervision was a standard thing. That there was a specific formula and that my new supervisor would be just like my old supervisor. 

Supervision is a very personal thing, and every supervisor has strengths, and areas that could be improved.

  • There are supervisors who are more oriented toward the technical details of being a therapist, making sure to verify your assessments match your treatment goals and that your prog notes have every “I” dotted. This can really help build your confidence with record-keeping. 
  • Then there are supervisors who are lackadaisical, letting you swim the river of BBS paperwork, insurance paperwork and clients on your own. You almost have to track them down to get five minutes outside of your weekly hour to ask questions as they come up. This will teach you to own your experience and build assertiveness skills to get what you need. 
  • There are also supervisors who are more focused on your talents and what happens in the office with your clients…you could say, your instinctual ability to be a good therapist (or a bad one). These supervisors sometimes feel like those one in a million experiences. And, that person who "gets you" just perfectly may be different for each of us! 
At some point in your clinical development, finding a supervisor who meshes with your personal style is critical to your success as a therapist. Here’s why:
  1. You aren’t going to be under supervision forever, at some point you are going to have to either work for an agency or branch out into your own private practice.
  2. Your supervisor isn’t going to be sitting next to you as you take the state exam.
  3. It’s ultimately up to you to find your personal style, theoretical orientation and beliefs about finances and insurance.
  4. A supervisor who doesn’t connect with you on a personal level, means you are missing out on a great deal of inherent learning through osmosis.
  5. A supervisor who doesn’t encourage the strengths they see in YOU means you never get the opportunity to feel confident before you are out on your own. 
  6. A supervisor who isn’t the kind of therapist you want to be, isn’t going to make a great coach or mentor.
While as therapists we may be good at letting go of judgment, finding a supervisor that is best for you, is one place you should be able to be clear about your needs and assess whether someone can meet them. At the beginning of internship, 3,000 hours feels like a life time away. I can assure you, 1500 hours  and four supervisors into the process, it goes quicker than you realize.
I have been afforded the opportunity to work with supervisors who fell into all the categories above. I’ve also turned down opportunities to work at some facilities based upon the person who would be supervising me.  
I’ve learned that sometimes we have to accept a supervisor because it’s the best financial position, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t consult with other supervisors who have more experience, or just better match with our personal goals as therapists. After all, the point of supervision is not just to have someone to bounce cases off of, but for our own personal growth.

Michaela Renee Johnson is a Board Registered Marriage and Family Therapist intern who works in private practice as well as in non profit. MichaelaRenee.com

(Would you like to submit an article for publication? We are currently accepting anonymous as well as byline pieces to share with therapists around the country. Send to miranda@mftguide.com We accept stories that tell a story, and that while they may talk about the difficult parts of this profession- offer real strategies to be successful.)