A. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

The LMFT licensing law, specifically Section 4980.36 of the Business and Professions Code, specifies that qualifying degree programs must, among other things,

  1. Provide an integrated course of study that trains students generally in the diagnosis, assessment, prognosis, and treatment of mental disorders;
  2. Prepare students to be familiar with the broad range of matters that may arise within marriage and family relationships;
  3. Train students specifically in the application of marriage and family relationship counseling principles and methods;
  4. Teach students a variety of effective psychotherapeutic techniques and modalities that may be utilized to improve, restore, or maintain healthy individual, couple and family relationships.

The applicant’s educational institution must submit to the Board a certification that the applicant has fulfilled the above-mentioned, as well as other requirements. Such other requirements include, but are not limited to, a named doctor’s or master’s degree in marriage, family, and child counseling, marriage and family therapy, psychology, clinical psychology, counseling psychology, or counseling with an emphasis in either marriage, family, and child counseling or marriage and family therapy, obtained from a school, college, or university accredited by a regional accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education or approved by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education or accredited by either the Commission on the Accreditation of Marriage and Family Therapy Education or a regional accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education.  The degree program must contain at least 60 semester or 90 quarter units of instruction, with no less than 12 semester or 18 quarter units of coursework in “theories, principles, and methods of a variety of psychotherapeutic orientations directly related to marriage and family therapy and marital and family systems approaches to treatment and how these theories can be applied therapeutically with individuals, couples, families, adults, including elder adults, children, adolescents, and groups to improve, restore, or maintain healthy relationships.” (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §4980.36(d).)

The law carefully articulates what a degree program must contain, but also allows some room for program flexibility. It should be apparent that the educational requirements for licensure as an MFT are substantial and quite relevant to the practice of psychotherapy. Undeniably, the focus of the education is on psychotherapy in general, and marriage and family therapy in particular.  The law requires the degree program to include the following areas of instruction, but is not limited to: diagnosis, assessment, prognosis, and treatment of mental disorders, including severe mental disorders; evidence-based practices; psychological testing; psychopharmacology; and promising mental health practices that are evaluated in peer reviewed literature; developmental issues from infancy to old age; multicultural development and cross-cultural interaction; law and ethics, including licensing law and processes; human sexuality; spousal abuse; effects of trauma; poverty and deprivation; co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders; resilience; and the impact of personal and social insecurity.  The degree program is also required to infuse culture and norms of public mental health work and principles of the Mental Health Services Act throughout the LMFT curriculum, which includes recovery- oriented care, greater emphasis on culture, and greater understanding of the impact of socioeconomic position.  Additionally, the curriculum is required to include instruction in areas necessary for practice in public mental health environments. The curriculum most also include a six semester or nine quarter units of supervised practicum that involves a minimum of 225 hours of face-to-face experience counseling individuals, couples, families, or groups. Up to 75 of those hours may be gained performing client centered advocacy.  (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §4980.36(d).) 

B. Licensed Clinical Social Workers
The Clinical Social Worker licensing law, particularly Section 4996.18 of the Business and Professions Code, requires that applicants for the license possess a master’s degree from institutions accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the Council on Social Work Education. Aside from the mandated coursework in substance abuse detection and treatment, human sexuality; child abuse assessment and reporting; spousal abuse; and aging and long term care; the Clinical Social Worker licensing law does not specify course content. Schools of social work have complete control over course content, as determined and controlled by the Commission on Accreditation of the Council on Social Work Education.

A social work program curriculum usually includes, but is not limited to the following courses:  social work practice; social policy and services; research; social welfare; human behavior and environment; and field study.  For instance, the curriculum for the Master’s in Social Work program at California State University, Fullerton, consists of courses in the following content areas for the first year:  social work values and ethics; diversity; populations-at-risk, and social and economic justice; human behavior and the social environment; social welfare policy and services; social work practice; research; and field education.  The second year courses prepare students for professional social work practice in the areas of child welfare or community mental health.  Students are also expected to complete internship hours under supervision. 

C.  Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors
The Professional Clinical Counselor licensing law, particularly Section 4999.32 of the Business and Professions Code, requires an applicant for licensure to possess a master’s or doctoral degree that is counseling or psychotherapy in content obtained from an accredited or approved institution.  The degree must contain not less than 48 graduate semester or 72 graduate quarter units of instruction, which should include three semester units or four and one-half quarter units of graduate study in nine core content areas, including but not limited to, counseling and psychotherapeutic theories and techniques; career development theories and techniques; group counseling theories and techniques; assessment, appraisal, and testing of individuals; and law and ethics.  Furthermore, a minimum of 12 semester units or 18 quarter units of advanced coursework to develop knowledge of specific treatment issues; special populations; application of counseling constructs; assessment and treatment planning; clinical interventions; therapeutic relationships; psychopathology; or other clinical topics is required.  Additionally, not less than six semester units or nine quarter units of supervised practicum or field study is required as part of the degree program, which must include a minimum of 150 hours of face-to-face supervised clinical experience counseling individuals, families, or groups.

Furthermore, an applicant must complete the following coursework prior to registration as a PCC intern: alcoholism and other chemical substance abuse dependency; human sexuality; psychopharmacology; spousal or partner abuse assessment; child abuse assessment; law and ethics; aging and long-term care; and crisis or trauma counseling. (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 4999.32.)

D. Psychologists
The Psychologist licensing law, particularly Section 2914 of the Business and Professions Code, provides that individuals meet the educational requirements for licensure if they possess one of the following earned degrees from an approved or accredited educational institution: 1) a doctorate degree in psychology; 2) a doctorate degree in educational psychology; 3) a doctorate degree in education with a field of specialization in counseling psychology, or education with a field of specialization in educational psychology.  The required degree, as also specified in the MFT Licensing Law, may be obtained from an accredited institution or from an institution that is approved by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education.  An applicant for licensure trained in an educational institution outside the United States or Canada must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Board that he or she possesses a doctorate degree in psychology that is equivalent to a degree earned from a regionally accredited university in the United States or Canada.  These applicants must provide the Board with a comprehensive evaluation of the degree performed by a foreign credential evaluation service that is a member of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services and any other documentation the Board deems necessary. 

A Psychology program curriculum typically includes, but is not limited to the following courses:  clinical interventions; law and ethics; psychopharmacology; statistics; clinical interventions; social psychology; psychological testing and assessment; psychopathology; neuropsychology; independent study; supervised practicum; and a dissertation.  The California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant, for instance, expects its students to develop competency in seven areas:  interpersonal/relationship; general assessment, appraisal, and ascertainment; multifaceted multimodal intervention; research and evaluation; consultation/teaching; management/supervision; and quality assurance.

Psychologists, like LMFTs, LCSWs and LPCCs, must also complete legislatively mandated coursework or training in substance abuse detection and treatment; child abuse assessment and reporting; human sexuality; spousal abuse; and aging and long-term care.  (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 2914.)