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

 

 

Top 5 Reasons Why Therapists Need the Free Online Study Group

I started a free MFT study group back in July of 2005. I had failed a licensing exam, felt humiliated and wasn't sure what to do next. My clinical supervisor hadn't taken the written clinical vignette, and had failed the oral exams several times. She had no words of wisdom before, or after I took my licensing exams. 

I started the free study group for MFT Interns studying for the clinical vignette on a whim after failing my written clinical vignette exam by 1 point. Sometimes that is just how these things start, on a whim, selfishly. I am SO glad that I did, it was a major turning point in my professional career.

The study group currently has pre-licensed MFT, LPC, LCSW, MHC studying for California Exams, National Exams, and other state specific exams. There are over 1040 members currently helping each other down the path to successful, licensed practice. 

When I started the study group I thought for sure we would be practicing theory, quizzing one another, etc. And yes, that stuff happened. However, there is something much deeper, and more profound that happens in the free online study group:

1. Community

While some professional organizations have clubs for pre-licensed individuals, many do not. Many pre-licensed therapists feel less than, left out, unseen. They are biding their time patiently to get licensed and "emerge." In a pre-licensed group the sense is that you are great right where you are. Everybody is there with you, and rooting for you as you go forward. Nobody feels less than, just excited for one another! 

2. Crowd-sourcing

I remember asking the 1 person I knew who had taken the written clinical vignette exam what study materials I should get, or what advice she had. She had none. She felt like it was a fluke she passed. She didn't know what to tell me. My supervisor recommended a program with a lady whose picture looked a bit crazy. That picture did NOT instill confidence. With over 1000 therapists in one place, ask and you shall receive. Is this study program worth it? You can get dozens of responses within a few hours usually. What should I do to prepare for my exam that is 3 days away? Dozens of responses with tried and true tips- and TONS of encouragement. 

3. Power

It is easy to feel alone and powerless in the licensing exam process, and in the entire licensure process. Having hundreds of people who are in the process, finishing up the process, just starting the process. It is beautiful to see people stepping us as leaders, informing the next generation, who in turn step up as leaders, and inform the next people. I truly believe the online study group is going to train up an amazing group of future clinical supervisors. 

4. Encouragement

There is nothing like true, honest support while in the deep depths of a really bad day. Whether it is a letter from the BBS saying they didn't approve all your hours, frustration at a 10 month wait for exam approval, or failing your MFT exam by 1 point. Being able to post in a place where people really get you, or where others are experiencing the same thing is amazing. I've watched this process for almost a decade, and I might even say it is awe-inspiring. 

5. Informative

While asking a question like "What study materials should I buy for my MFT exams?" and getting dozens of responses is awesome. Sometimes, we don't need lots of opinions. Sometimes you just need someone who has the information. When you have questions like "How do I get someone at the BBS to pick up the phone?" Having someone who has a direct contact to share that meets your needs is the best feeling in the world. I wish I coudl see that I was that person with "all the answers." I'm not. I can't be. What is fantastic is that when you get hundreds and hundreds of passionate, determined therapists together someone has the answer. Or, someone is going to get the answer. 

These are the top 5 reasons why therapists need a free online study group. These are the reasons why even though I created the group selfishly, to meet my own needs, I've continued the group all these years. I always want pre-licensed therapists to know there is a place to go where they can get support! Would you like to join? We'd love to have you! 

Join the free online study group today.

Are you already in the study group? Post below why YOU love the online study group. And give this article a share!