Licensed at Last

Posted on August 14, 2014

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Lately it occurs to me what a long strange tip it’s been.  Grateful Dead

Life is for the learning.  Joni Mitchell

Well, the State of California has now seen fit to license me as a marriage and family therapist.  In honor of the milestone, my supervisor provided me with a magic wand signifying, that as a licensed MFT, I now had magic powers that I did not have as an intern.  How long a process it has been depends upon what you view as the starting point.

It has been one month since the board of behavioral sciences (BBS) told me I could take the clinical vignette exam (the second part of the licensing exam), two months since they said I could take the standard written exam (the first part of the licensing exam), thirteen months since I sent in my hours requesting to take the exam[1], and fourteen months since I completed my 3000 hours.  That is just getting through the exam stuff.

The process actually started well before that.  It was seven years ago that I told my wife I wanted to quit banking, go back to grad school, and become a marriage and family therapist.  Fortunately she was supportive of my career change despite the complete lack of fiscal sense in the decision.  From there, I largely let providence pull me along.  Bethel Seminary invited us for an orientation and got me to enroll in classes before they had even formally accepted me into the program.  When I was in sales, we called this the presumptive close.  It can sometimes be effective.  Bethel was the best program I could have hoped for, and I was blessed to be there.  Then I ended up with my first choice of practicum sites with San Diego Hospice.  I was able to learn from some excellent supervisors and gain great experience.[2]

Several months before I graduated, I cornered Aaron Reinicke after one of his speaking engagements and told him I wanted to join his practice.  We went through a whirlwind of an interview process with Aaron and Melinda, and they offered me a position before I graduated.  It did not hurt that my faculty advisor from Bethel also works in the practice.  Aaron asked me if I had an interest in treating sexual addiction (his specialty).  I told him, “Not particularly, but I am willing to learn.”  My sense of calling had primarily been to work with couples.  Three years and change, 150 hours of classroom work, and 30 hours of supervision later, I am a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist, and my practice is largely split between sexual addiction treatment and marital therapy.  Providence continues to pull me along.

Perhaps this process started well before then.  It was 35 years ago in undergrad at University of California, San Diego that I decided to major in Psychology.  I had spent about one quarter being Bio-pre-med.  Then about two quarters undeclared until deciding on Psychology.  My original intent had been to go directly to grad school in Psychology.  As it turned out, I first made a 25 year detour into banking.

A few months ago, out of the blue, a friend of mine sent me a message on Facebook asking if I knew then what I knew now, what career I would have chosen.  I had replied that I would not have changed anything.  It was through the banking career that I met my wife.  Also I am a better therapist at 54 then I would have been at 25.  I know a lot more about life now than I did then and I also realize how much I still have to learn.

So what changes now that I am licensed?  Very little.  I still work in the same practice, same offices, with the same great colleagues.[3]  I am employed by Reinicke Counseling Associates instead of LifeSpring Center, and I don’t have to show up for supervision every week.

This is a line of work where on needs to always be working on improving one’s skills.  This is a milestone, but not the end of the growth process.  Thank you to my clients for your continued trust in me as your therapist.  Thank you to those who continue to refer the people you know who need help.  I love being a part of seeing relationships healed.

[1] I think I caught the trough on the BBS’s turnaround time for exam eligibility.  On the website, they list the date for the exam applications they are currently working on.  They were at about six or seven months when I sent in my paperwork.  By the time they got to mine they were at 10 months.  They have recently hired additional staff and I understand that they are projecting to be at three months by the end of the year.  Oh well.  As “Nuke” LaLoosh observed, “Life is like a game of baseball: sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes, it rains.”

[2] To some extent, there is always grief to be worked through in therapy.  We grieve when our life and relationships are not what we had hoped they would be.

[3] I know other therapists who work in agencies where there is a lot of drama.  We just don’t have any (for which I am thankful).  I also have a high level of confidence in my colleagues’ clinical skills.

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