Help, I just failed my licensing exam

Failed my licensing exam

There is little more devastating for a therapist than failing a licensing exam. The only way to be taking a licensing exam is if you have spent years being successful taking exam. SATs, GREs, Mid-terms, finals, exam papers... you have to get past all of those to even come close to sitting for a licensing exam. 

If you have failed a licensing exam, you are not alone! 

And you don't want to hear this- but it's not the end of the world. In fact, I'm extremely grateful for my experience of failing my licensing exam. So today, I wanted to give you a few tangible tips of what to do after failing your licensing exam: 

1. Be kind to yourself. 

Nobody will be harder on you than you will be. 99% of your colleagues will not think of you any differently, and will have compassion for your experience. Your colleagues know you are a good therapist from working with you- a silly exam isn't going to change that. 

2. Take a rest.

The preparations you made up to the day of your exam were probably exhausting. Your body and mind truly need rest before you will be able to make sense of all of this and make a game plan to pass on your next attempt. Now is NOT the time to make any long term decisions. 

3. Celebrate. 

You took the exam. You made the attempt. The are therapists out there avoiding this exam like the plague- afraid of failing- you did it- and guess what- you are still standing! And you still get to do therapy. And you still get to be you! 

4. Explore your anxiety. 

There is nothing people hate more than me letting them know that the biggest preparation they need to be successful on their next attempt is anxiety reduction. I talked to a wonderful woman who called me for exam coaching after she failed her exam by 1 or 2 points. We talked about what happened- turned out her child had to be rushed to the doctors at 2am... and she had gotten some pitiful amount of sleep. 

Guess what I told her? She is fine! She needs to do very little to prep- missing by 1 or 2 points on no sleep after your child's sick is fabulous! Now, she just needs to watch the anxiety the next time she takes the exam and realize that the first exam experience was not representative of her ability to pass the exam. 

5. Reach out to community

Connect with great people. Be social. Have fun. Use this as opportunity to build some great connections and network with other people. You might just meet some of your favorite humans through this experience. 

6. Take your power back. 

Tap into your strengths, take care of your body, your mind- and make a game plan to pass on attempt #2. You can and you will do this! 

Hope this helps inspire you today! 

Miranda Palmer

I have successfully built a cash pay psychotherapy practice from scratch on a shoestring budget. I have also failed a licensed exam by 1 point (only to have the licensing board send me a later months later saying I passed), started an online study group to ease my own isolation and have now reached thousands of therapists across the country, helped other therapists market their psychotherapy practices, and helped awesome business owners move from close to closing their doors, to being profitable in less than 6 weeks. I've failed at launching online programs. I've had wild success at launching online programs. I've made mistakes in private practice I've taught others how to avoid my mistakes. You can do this. You were called to this work. Now- go do it! Find some help or inspiration as you need it- but do the work!

Free LCSW Study Materials

Yeah... I know.... the site is called MFTGuide... I get why you wouldn't think we have any connection to ACSW and LCSWs. To be honest, I let some really well meaning, awesome business advisors convince me to name my site mftguide... If I was to go back in time- I'd choose something else. Back to the point. 

While the process that prelicensed therapists go through to get licensed is quite similar, and exam formats may be similar, the material can be quite different. It is important to choose study materials that understand the material that will be on the exam for your particular license. While I empathically recommend picking up a paid study program before taking licensing exams- I also believe studying for licensing exams should start in graduate school. 

Ok... I'm not talking about stay up every night stressing and sweating for hours studying. I'm just talking about digesting material throughout your process of gathering hours that will make the process of preparing for licensing exams less stressful. 

It isn't uncommon for interns and associates to realize, during the studying process that they had been doing some things wrong, or been misinformed for YEARS! Many say- I wish I would've known this at the start of this process.

One fun way (if you can let go of the text anxiety aspect) to start prepping is with free LCSW study materials online and LCSW study apps. I'm sharing these resources here as a fun way to bring material into supervision, consultation, or even into a monthly exploration of- wow I didn't know that! session. 

  • BTA Exams Lite is a free program developed by a LCSW and professor at UC Berkely in California. It has 25 free questions and is available on Android and Iphone
  • LCSW Quiz: California has a small bank of 15 questions developed by Gerry Grossman seminars. 
  • Are you a Pinterest lover? Check out this board and this board for some fun links to materials. 
  • Free 10 Question LCSW Exam Prep Test
  • ASWB Social Work Exam Questions Here
  • People sharing flash cards they developed to study for exams here. Make sure to verify information is correct! 

Do you have materials that you've used to study for the LCSW or LMSW exam? Share them in the comments below! 

Why I'm thankful I failed my California Clinical Vignette Exam

Yesterday I posted that was I was full of gratitude for failing my clinical vignette exam back in 2005. It caused some major confusion for some people ;0) If you have failed your clinical vignette exam, written exam, or any licensing exam- you know it isn't something you feel grateful for in the moment. 

You don't feel grateful. You might feel angry, sad, numb, frustrated, confused, hurt, humiliated, humbled, panicked, fearful, overwhelmed, disappointed, embarrassed, and about a million other things. But, I've yet to meet someone that, in those first moments or hours feels grateful. 

No, I'm not one of those evolved humans who felt grateful for my failure in the moment. I still hate failing today, and I hated it then. That is probably one of my Top 10 worst days in my life... which considering my life story is actually pretty funny. 

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