About Us | Chapters | Advertising | Join
The Legal Department articles are not intended to serve as legal advice and are offered for educational purposes only. The information provided should not be used as a substitute for independent legal advice and it is not intended to address every situation that could potentially arise. Please be aware that laws, regulations and technical standards change over time. As a result, it is important to verify and update any reference or information that is provided in the article.
In this article, Ann Tran-Lien, JD, discusses new laws that affect pre-licensed therapists and answers commonly asked questions related to the licensure process.
With evolving changes in policies and the implementation of new laws, navigating the requirements of the licensing journey is not an easy feat. CAMFT strives to stay up-to-date with issues and trends that impact the MFT licensure process in California. This article discusses new laws that affect pre-licensed therapists and answers commonly asked questions related to the licensure process.
What is the new continuing education requirement for registered MFT associates?
As of January 1, 2023, the BBS requires registered associates to complete a minimum of three (3) hours of continuing education (CE) in the subject of California law and ethics during each registration renewal period (annually), regardless of whether they have passed the California MFT Law & Ethics Exam.1
What this means:
What is the new telehealth training/ coursework requirement for pre licensees?
All applicants for licensure and current licensees renewing on or after July 1, 2023, are subject to the new telehealth training coursework requirements. This means in preparing for an application submission or a license renewal that will occur on or after July 1, 2023, applicants for licensure and current licensees must complete the one-time three hour training or coursework on the provision of mental health services via telehealth.3 The coursework may be obtained as follows:
Registered associates and other future applicants for MFT licensure whose application is received on or after July 1, 2023, will need to submit the certification documents showing that they meet the requirement before they are approved to take the MFT Clinical Exam.
If your Application for Licensure is received by the BBS any time before July 1, 2023, you will be able to obtain approval to take the MFT Clinical Exam without meeting the telehealth training requirement. However, you will be required to certify compliance at your first license renewal.
Can pre-licensed therapists receive supervision via videoconferencing? What is required?
The law now allows for two-way real-time videoconferencing supervision in all settings.5
For new supervisory relationships established on or after August 29, 2022, your supervisor must conduct a meeting with you within 60 days of beginning the supervision to assess the appropriateness of allowing you to receive supervision via videoconferencing. The assessment must include, but is not limited to, all of the following:
Additionally, your supervisor must document the results of their assessment. If your supervisor determines that supervision via two-way real-time videoconferencing is not appropriate, then it cannot be used. It’s important to note that when conducting supervision via videoconferencing, your supervisor is responsible for ensuring compliance with federal and state laws relating to the confidentiality of patient health information.
If you had an established supervisory relationship with your supervisor prior to August 29, 2022, then the assessment and documentation are not required for videoconferencing supervision.
This law remains in effect until January 1, 2026. The BBS will monitor the effects of the law change and any feedback it receives, as well as any new academic research and literature on the topic. The BBS will then determine whether the law change allowing for videoconferencing supervision in all settings should be extended, rescinded, or made permanent.
I am thinking of getting licensed in another state in addition to California. The other state is asking me to take the national MFT exam. How do I obtain authorization for this national exam?
Currently, California is the only state that requires an MFT to pass its own MFT clinical exam. All other states and territories, including the District of Columbia and Guam, use the national clinical exam from the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB). If you are licensed in California and desire to obtain licensure in another state, you’ll need to check with that state as to whether the California MFT Clinical Exam is sufficient or you’ll also need to take the national exam. Because the BBS does not accept the national exam, it cannot approve you to take it. To qualify for the national exam, you must apply to the MFT licensing board of the state where you desire licensure. That state board will review your application and determine whether you are approved to sit for the national exam. Once you are approved, the state licensing board will notify you of its decision and provide instructions on testing. For more information about the MFT national exam, visit the AMFTRB website at https://amftrb.org/ exam-info/.
What are the two (2) “six-year rules,” and how do they impact my ability to gain hours of experience?
The LMFT licensing laws set forth two six year limits for pre-licensees who are acquiring supervised experience hours.
Six-Year Rule: Age of Experience Hours -
All supervised experience hours to be counted toward licensure must be completed during the six-year period immediately preceding the date that the BBS receives your application for licensure (exam eligibility).6 The only exception to this limit is if you gain 500 hours of clinical experience in supervised practicum as a trainee—those hours can be outside the six-year period. Thus, your goal is to have at least 2,500 hours that are no more than six years old.
Here are some examples to illustrate this rule:
Example 1: You submit your application for licensure, and the BBS receives it on January 1, 2024. You started gaining hours of experience as a trainee in 2019 and completed your required 3,000 hours by December 25, 2023. Your hours are all within the six-year period.
Example 2: You started gaining hours of experience as a trainee in 2015 and ultimately acquired 750 clinical hours. Over the years, you acquired experience hours off and on, and you completed them on December 25, 2023. You submit your application for licensure, and the BBS receives it on January 1, 2024. The BBS will only count hours of experience that you gained between January 1, 2018, and January 1, 2024, as well as your 500 clinical hours from practicum, even though you gained them in 2015.
Once the BBS approves your hours and you are eligible to take the MFT Clinical Exam, your hours are “locked in” until you pass the exam and obtain licensure, as long as you do not “abandon” your application. Abandonment occurs when you fail to sit for the exam again within one (1) year of failing it. At that point, the BBS deems your application abandoned and you’ll need to resubmit your application for licensure. The six-year rule still applies with your new resubmission dates/timeframes, and there is the possibility that not all your hours will count since some may have aged out of the window.
Six-Year Rule: Private Practice Prohibition -
The law allows for an associate registration to be renewed a maximum of five (5) times, so it can be held for a total of six consecutive years.7 If you have not completed the supervised experience in that time, you may obtain a new registration (or what is called a “subsequent registration”) as long as you’ve passed the law and ethics exam. If you need a subsequent registration, but have not yet passed the law and ethics exam, you’ll need to pass it before a subsequent registration can be issued.
If you are issued a subsequent registration, you are not permitted to work in a private practice or a professional corporation setting. With a subsequent registration, you are able to work in nonexempt settings (such as a nonprofit or a governmental entity) and other exempt settings that are not private practices (see the discussion of this later in the article). There are currently no exceptions to this rule.
My former supervisor refuses to sign off on my hours. Is there anything I can do?
For Registered Associates: Supervisors of registered associates are legally required to sign off on hours their associates complete in good faith.8 If the supervisor intends to terminate the supervisory relationship, they must provide written notice to you at least one week prior of their intent not to sign off on any further hours of experience. CAMFT recommends that you try to resolve such a conflict with your supervisor to the best of your ability. The BBS has investigated and continues to investigate complaints from pre-licensed therapists regarding their supervisor’s refusal to sign off on hours obtained in good faith.
For Trainees: The BBS will accept hours that your supervisor has signed off on if there is evidence of enrollment in practicum at the time the hours were gained. The supervisor is responsible for the quality of services provided by their trainee, and they have discretion not to sign off on hours involving unsatisfactorily performed services.9 The licensing laws require a memorandum of understanding or agreement between the school and the practicum site outlining the responsibilities of all parties.10 Trainees who encounter issues and/or disputes with their supervisor are encouraged to seek assistance and support from their practicum instructor or school representative.
I currently reside in another state, and I want to continue providing telehealth services to clients located in California. Am I allowed to count those hours toward my California MFT licensure?
According to the BBS, as the law does not prohibit these arrangements, registered associates may gain hours of experience toward licensure in these instances if the supervisor and the employer deem the arrangement and the practice location “appropriate.” The associate must maintain a current California registration and be supervised by a qualified California supervisor. Additionally, there are considerations that you and your supervisor/ employer should take into account, including but not limited to:
CAMFT strongly recommends that you give careful consideration to such arrangements. If the BBS finds that any laws were violated, there may be serious ramifications for both the supervisor and the supervisee, including potential disciplinary action by the BBS and the loss of some (or all) of the supervisee’s hours. Every situation is different, and the assessment and analysis of each case depends on the specific circumstances and facts.
Can an MFT trainee work and gain hours of experience toward licensure in a professional corporation setting?
MFT trainees are not permitted to work and gain hours of experience toward licensure in a professional corporation setting. Acceptable work sites where trainees can gain hours of experience include:
The site must also:
To determine whether a site is a professional corporation, you may consider first inquiring with the owner(s). You can also check on the California Secretary of State website at https://businesssearch.sos.ca.gov/; choose “corporation” and search using the name of the site. Additionally, the name of the setting may provide some clues that it’s a professional corporation by including letters and words such as “PC,” “P.C.,” “Prof. Corp,” or “Professional Corporation.”
A work setting organized as a limited liability company (also known as an “LLC”) may be an appropriate setting for trainees if it is not owned by a healing arts licensee (see definition above under private practice) and it meets the criteria above. It’s important for schools, supervisors, and trainees to vet a potential site carefully to ensure that it is an acceptable work setting for trainees as defined in the licensing laws.
What are the two 90-day rules that I need to be aware of when gaining hours of experience?
90-Day Period Not Enrolled in Practicum -
MFT trainees may only counsel clients and count such hours toward licensure when enrolled in a practicum course, with the exception of a 90-day period immediately before or after enrollment in a practicum course or completion of the degree program.14 For example, if you are enrolled in practicum and have a two-week winter break, then return to school and reenroll in practicum, you are able to counsel clients during the two-week break and gain those hours toward licensure, assuming that the site is appropriate, the school has approved the site, and you received appropriate supervision.
90-Day Period for Postgraduate Applicants -
Postgraduate applicants are permitted to gain hours of experience during the period between graduation from their program and issuance of an AMFT registration if they meet both the following requirements:
Applicants must provide the BBS with a copy of the completed State of California “Request for Live Scan Service” form along with the Application for Licensure to be permitted to count hours gained as a postgraduate applicant who has not yet been issued an AMFT registration. This does not apply to trainees or registered associates.
Note, not all employers and nonprofit agencies can obtain criminal history reports from the Department of Justice and send their applicants to get Live Scan fingerprinting. California law authorizes certain types of private organizations to conduct criminal background checks to help determine the suitability of a person applying for employment or a volunteer position that involves working with children, the elderly, and/or individuals with a disability. Nonprofits and in-home supportive care agencies are a few of the organizations authorized to conduct Live Scan background checks. For agencies interested in reading more about how to apply to become authorized, see the article “The New 90-Day Rule” on the CAMFT website.16
Will the BBS accept my supervisor’s electronic signatures on the BBS experience forms?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the BBS implemented a policy to accept supervisors’ electronic signatures on BBS forms in place of “original” or “wet” signatures. The BBS has recently clarified that it will continue to accept supervisors’ electronic signatures. According to the BBS, acceptable electronic signatures include:
CAMFT will continue to monitor legal and regulatory updates to the licensing process. Pre-licensed therapists are encouraged to attend BBS meetings to stay updated on changes to laws and regulations related to licensure and mental healthcare in California, as well as to join discussion and provide input and comment on issues that impact your profession and practice.17
Ann Tran-Lien, JD, is a staff attorney and the Managing Director of Legal Affairs at CAMFT. Ann is available to answer member calls regarding legal, ethical, and licensure issues.
To review the schedule of upcoming BBS Board and Committee meetings, materials, and webcasts, visit: https://www.bbs.ca.gov/ about/board_meetings.html
This article is not intended to serve as legal advice and is offered for educational purposes only. The information provided should not be used as a substitute for independent legal advice and it is not intended to address every situation that could potentially arise. Please be aware that laws, regulations and technical standards change over time. As a result, it is important to verify and update any reference or information that is provided in this article.