Episode 52

Becoming a licensed therapist, today on the Student Edition

What should I know about licensing before I graduate?

How do I find out what the state requires?

What else should I make sure I know about licensing?

Getting a license is the single most important thing you will do for your career. Your license is your permission to work. It’s the key to getting a job. It’s the key to being able to be seen as a professional and gives you credit in the therapist community. It’s also a really confusing thing for lots of people. Today, we’re going to go through getting a particular license and I’m going to teach you how to read the statute and what questions you need to be able to answer for yourself in your own quest to become a licensed therapist. It’ll seem overwhelming at first, but stick with me! I promise it’ll all make sense in the end.


You’re listening to the All Things Substance podcast, the place for therapists to hear about substance abuse from a mental health perspective.  I’m your host, Betsy Byler and I’m a licensed therapist, clinical supervisor, and a substance abuse counselor.  It is my mission to help my fellow therapists gain the skills and competence needed to add substance use to their scope of practice.  So join me each week as we talk about All Things Substance.

Welcome back to the All Things Substance podcast. This is episode 52. Today on the podcast we have another student edition. In the last student edition episodes we covered what it’s like to be a therapist, how to pick a pathway and choosing a grad school. So today we’re going to talk about the next step, which might seem like we’re getting ahead of ourselves because today’s topic is licensing. You won’t be pursuing licensing until after you graduate, but it is the single most important thing in your career.

That is a big statement. I realize that. If you don’t have a license, you can’t practice. Getting a license can be complex. It can be frustrating and it can take a long time, even though you’re not the one dragging the process out. Each state varies and how it does licensing.

For some states, they tell you that it could take three months and that you can’t call them or ask them about it until after the three months. Other states it could take longer. You are sort of at the mercy of the licensing board and that can be really hard.  It’s sort of a fact of the life of a therapist that we are at the mercy of the licensing board. There are ways though, to try to make it a little easier on yourself. Which is why we’re starting with licensing today.

At no other time in my life, have I felt actively different after an event than when I got my full license. I remember every birthday growing up people would ask “do you feel any older” or when you graduated, does it feel any different. Each of those things had their own nuances. Nothing I have been through felt quite as different as the day I was granted my full license. 

Licensing is really confusing for most people, it’s even confusing for therapists who’ve been in the field and decide they want to move to a new state. Today’s episode is going to be a lot of nitty gritty details.  If you aren’t at the place where you’re choosing a grad school or in grad school, this might not be super relevant. I do think that the information could be useful in at least understanding how these things work. 

Becoming a licensed therapist: Reading the Statute

So we’re going to dig in today and I’ve chosen to use a new state that I’ve never looked at and a discipline that I am not in either to make it fair. I know how to do professional counseling things in a number of different states and I’m guessing that the language is probably similar in other places. And so I thought I’d give myself a little challenge. So I chose the state of Indiana and I chose to look up  how to become a Clinical Licensed Social Worker.

If you wish you can follow along on the path today and pause the podcast if you need to catch up and find out where I am. Before we begin looking  at the specific license requirements, I have a point I’d like to make.  Wherever you’re going to work you need to read the fucking statute, the whole thing. It’s not as bad as you think, and it is what you can and cannot do and what you have to do in order to be licensed. It is not a mystery to the state, how you get a license in that state. It is all very spelled out. Now the language can be really confusing at times and sometimes it can seem like the legalese overlaps itself, but everything that they want you to do is in the statute.  When I say read the fucking statute, that’s why I say it like that.

People want to skim it. They want to find the most pertinent details. This is going to be different from your typical Google search. We aren’t looking for highlights. We aren’t looking for bolded information. You have to read this line by line and understand each line. As we go through I’ll give you an example of how one little word can change the whole meaning of a paragraph.  

Everything I talk about with the licensing today is going to relate to Indiana Licensed Clinical Social Workers only because that’s the state I chose. My hope is that you’ll be able to translate this to your own state and do your own work on looking at what your license requirements are. It is much easier to know ahead of time what you’re going to need to do so you can plan accordingly.

Becoming a licensed therapist: Finding the right application and information page

First, we want to get to the right page. So I opened Google and I typed in: Indiana Social Work license. The very first link that pops up is right where we want to go.  It’s part of the Indiana government’s government website and the URL is .in.gov. And it takes you to the place for professions and then social workers.

What you’ll see at the top of that page are a bunch of applications. It starts with Bachelor’s level Social Workers for examination and reciprocity goes through the Licensed Social Worker, which is a different thing that we’ll get to and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

Now don’t click on any of those links yet. What you want to do is you want to scroll down the page and look at the application information. There are places where there are instructions for applying online, how to contact them, but also the basics for licensure.

So you want to read the whole page of what they’re telling you, because these are the most pertinent pieces of information they felt  that people should know. This whole website. Yes. It’s designed to be helpful, but ultimately it’s designed to stop phone calls.

So whatever they’re getting phone calls about and whatever they feel like they have to explain all the time. That’s what’s going to show up on these pages. All the more reason for us to make sure we’re reading thoroughly.

In this case, you’d want to pick on the one that says licensed Clinical Social Worker examination, not the one that says reciprocity. Reciprocity is about moving from one state to another. And it will assume that you have a clinical social work license in a different state. When you click on that, you’ll be taken to the page where there’s a number of different pieces of information.

There’s an application checklist requirements: detailed, temporary permits, repeat application instructions and clinical social worker frequently asked questions.

So as you’re reading down, one of the first things under requirements/detailed is that you can do your application online, but  then it says you could complete it on paper. And there’s an underline under the word paper, click that.  And that takes you to the paper form of the application.

We don’t need to go through and sign up for an account on the indiana.gov site, because we’re not ready to do that yet. So you just go to the paper version and you open it, come back to this main page and continue reading.

So you’ll open the application in another window and you’re going to leave it there for the moment. Coming back to the main page we started on, you’re looking at the checklist costs 50 bucks, which is actually extremely cheap.

The other requirements listed like criminal background check. That’s pretty standard. You then see the section titled supervisor/employment, coursework forms. These are the forms that are attached to the application. And we’re going to get to that in a few minutes.

Becoming a licensed therapist: Temporary licenses

I want to draw your attention to temporary permits. This is the first hint we have of a way to get a license before your full license is granted. We’re not totally sure how that works yet, but that’s what a temporary permit means.

According to this, Indiana has one year temporary permits. This is when you want to apply for the license, but you haven’t taken the big fat test yet. So the big fat test or the big fucking test is the test that we all have to take in order to become a therapist. Now for Professional Counselors, that’s the National Counselor Exam. There’s a different one for MFTs. And in this case for Social Worker,

The ASWB is the big test. You have to take one after graduation, and then you have to take another one in order to get your full license. You can’t just go and schedule it. You turn in your application  and once your application is complete and approved. Then they give you leave to go take the test, but that could take months. So they’ve come up with a way, like most states have, to allow you to get a temporary permit because it’s basically you have a license except for the examination. This is a good place to be. This means that your application was complete and that as long as you pass that test, at some point, you’re going to be able to get a license.

This first test that you would be applying for is the one to get your training license, not your full license. A training license is what’s going to allow you  to practice social work until you get your full license. Remember, in the other episodes, especially the last one, we talked about how you would have to have two years post-graduate in order to get a full license.

The rest of the application is going to tell us what that has to entail. And also it’s going to tell us about what your internship or practicum has to entail as well. That’s why this is pretty important to understand and not wait until it’s  time to apply and then find out you’re missing something.

Becoming a licensed therapist: Read the FAQ’s

You’ll see that the frequently asked questions are not on this page. So you click on that and it’ll bring you over to that page. And you’ll  see a bunch of questions, some of them will apply. And some of them won’t. The top question is how do I become a school social worker? Well, if that’s not what you’re shooting for, ignore that because that’s a different set of requirements.

I want to draw your attention to the very last question: is a degree in social work required and the answer is yes,  in order to become an LCSW in the state of Indiana, you must have an MSW from a CSWE approved university.

There’s a sub-question in there that I found a little funny because I think it belongs on the next line. And it’s how do you know if a school is approved by CSWE and they give the website, so you can check it out. Remember when we talked about choosing a grad school and I talked about accreditation. This isn’t about the other ones, like CACREP  or the MFT designation. This is about the CSWE which is the big body of social work education approval. Any social work program worth its salt will have this. Now that we’ve read that first page, let’s go over to the application.

Becoming a licensed therapist: Study the application in its entirety

This is exactly the application that you’re going to submit if you are in the state of Indiana and want to be a Clinical Social Worker. Everything you need to know is on this application and contained in the statute. These forms do get updated and you can usually find out which revision you have. In the top left of this application, it says application for licensure as a Clinical Social Worker. And then underneath it says, State Form 50325, and then it says R9 and then 9-17.

So what that means is this is revision nine and it was revised in September of 2017. I know that this is the most up-to-date because we got it from that page. That is the main link. I’m not going to go looking for any other applications. This is it.

For those of you who don’t want to follow right along, it might be helpful for you to skip forward just a touch. But I am going to talk about how to read statute and so I think that part will be important regardless of whether you’re following along.

On the top of the application, you’re going to see some boxes. When we see boxes, we want to fill them out. But  if you look just below the boxes, it says do not right above this line. So leave that stuff alone. There is a place for a passport photo and you will need to do this.

Not every state requires it that I’m aware of, but  I did have to do it in South Dakota. So I got a picture taken and then went to Walgreens and made it passport size. I didn’t get a specific photo taken. I had someone take it for me. You’ll see that it has to be fairly recent. So that isn’t something that you do ahead of time. It has to be taken within the last eight weeks, according to the application.

So you’ll see that the first parts of information are pretty standard name, date of birth, when you started your program. And at the bottom of the page, there’s a place that says I’m applying for licensure by examination. And then I’m applying for licensure by exemption, from the examination (endorsement). This can be a little confusing, but what you are doing is you are applying for licensure by examination.

The next page is pretty, self-explanatory telling them where you went to school, what you graduated in and what degree you got along with your employment history. . The third page has to do with if you’re licensed in any other states,  which in our case, you aren’t, because this is your first license and then you’re going to also sign the release of information. Now, remember on that main page, it told us that we have to fill out form one, two, and three, and here’s those forms. Form one is about supervision. You will see  the first part is the part you fill out. And the rest of it goes to your supervisor.

Your supervisor is the one that completes this and they have to have it notarized. Your supervisor will then send it directly to the board they do not give it back to you. The board will likely not count it. If it comes from you. I have seen that happen with licensing. An applicant would send it in because the supervisor gave it back to them and it was returned because it has to come directly from the supervisor. A supervisor is not the same thing as a boss. It could be the same person, but it isn’t necessarily. 

The next form is about your boss and your employment information. This is where you did your employment while you were working on your hours. We are post-grad in a training position where you are acting as a therapist and you are employed by somebody.

You could have had multiple jobs. You could have also had multiple supervisors. So you just print more forms and you get them to fill them out, notarize them and send them in. Again, needs to be directly from the employer.

Form three is about  clinical coursework. These instructions need to be followed to the letter. They want the course titles in the areas below exactly as it appears on the transcript.

As I refer to in another episode, if the course name does not clearly reflect what the class was about, then you’re going to need to send supporting information. Here they say that they might take a course description from the university’s catalog and in my experience, a syllabus is more specific and sometimes what’s required.  It all depends on your state’s requirement.

So you see underneath,  that they tell you right here, how many hours you have to have of each section. You have to have at least three credit hours in each of the following seven content areas. You may only use a course one time on this list.

So you can’t use a class that was say psychopathology and clinical theory and practice. Those are two different things and you can’t use the same class for both of those content areas.  That’s why the big board accreditation for schools is so important. They may look like they’re giving you all of the courses you need, but you really have to have these specific things  and you have to have specific credit hours for each area of content.

If you’ve already checked your grad school, to make sure that it’s CSWE accredited, or if you’re not doing social work, whatever that accreditation is, you’re good. But if you want a double-check, you just take this list and you cross check it with the classes required for graduation. Most colleges and universities we’ll have those courses listed, plus the credit hours on the website in a decently accessible area.

Now that we know what each of these three forms are, let’s pop back over to that main page. When you scroll down, you saw the supervisor slash employment slash coursework forms. Each of these paragraphs tells you exactly what you have to have in order to meet their requirements. 

For supervision, it says you must have four hours per month for a minimum of 24 months. Means that you cannot do your hours in less than 24 months. It doesn’t matter if you’re done with them after a year and a half, you have to have 24 months of supervision at four hours per month. So there is no doubling up here. It’s very clear.

50% of that has to be face to face. Supervision requirements are going to be in the statute and we’ll get to that. But this part’s fairly clear  and it’s going to ask your supervisor to attest to the fact that it was 50% face to face.

Becoming a licensed therapist: Application Supplemental Forms

Form 2 about employment says that you have to have 24 months of post degree paid and supervised employment experience. Volunteering does not count in the state of Indiana. I don’t know what it’s like everywhere else, but this is clear and every word matters. So I want to bring your attention to the hours there. 3000 hours. Let’s do some math. 

Each year full-time work is 2080 hours. That’s how many work hours there are in 52 weeks, a year at 40 hours. So theoretically you could hit 3000 hours before the 24 months. It doesn’t matter if you’re done with them early, you still have to have 24 months and you also have to have supervision for those 24 months.

On form three for education. They’re very clear that you have to have courses that are all master’s level. You’re not able to include any social work classes or other types of classes that you had in undergrad.

Becoming a licensed therapist: Finding the right statute

So I want to show you one more thing on this main page. It’s in the next paragraph under temporary permits. Now we’re not really concerned about a temporary permit right now. It’s good to know it’s there because it means that if you have to wait six months  to take the big fat test, then you can get a temporary permit to practice as a clinical social worker. Because basically you’re all. But test on that.

In that first sentence, it says that examination  applicants are eligible to apply  per, and it says the statute number. That’s actually really important and this is the statute I want you to read. When you’re doing a search somewhere on the application or on the main page for the license, you’re gonna see a statute and that is where the rest of the information lies. So the full number says, IC 25-23.6-5-11.5. Seems like a bunch of numbers, but each one of those is important and tells us where to find it. IC in this case is Indiana Code. 25 is the section. Then 23.6 is the article and the subsection of those articles are  5 to 11.5. So under 25, we’re looking at professions. So 23.6 is us, 23.7 manufactured home installers. We just have  one little point of an article. So it’s not as long as people would be worried about

So I can hear people feeling like, oh shit, that’s a lot. I’m confused. I’m not going to worry about this. Please don’t do that. It can be confusing, but you’re not living in 50 states. You’re living in one state or maybe wanting to practice in two. These sections and  the articles of these codes are not super long and they are really specific and they tell you everything you need to know.

This is like filling out a test and having every answer. It’s just a matter of finding them. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to go to Google and type in Indiana code 23.6 because that’s the article, right? We want the specific part of the code that tells us what we need to know. So Indiana code 23.6, and then I want you to put.gov. Because there are sites that want you to go to their site and they have just copy and pasted the code. I am not trusting those sites to be up to date on the code. And so you want to make sure that you’re on an indiana.gov site.

In my Google results. It’s the second one. Because it says statutes and rules and underneath, I see behavioral health and human service licensing board. That’s how I know that this is the right one. In this case, it brings you to another section of the Indiana.gov site and it has a link to the Indiana code and you can see under it, it says, chapter one is definitions. Chapter two is the licensing board. Chapter three is marriage and family therapists. Chapter four is social workers. And so you’re going to click on a code and you’re going to find the Indiana code 23.6.

Becoming a licensed therapist: Read the chapter on definitions

The first chapter in this section says definitions. And as you start to scroll down, it can seem like maybe you don’t need this section. And the truth is that you do. You might not need to know what every word means because they’re pretty self-explanatory.  If you just look at the table of contents, you can see that there’s some really specific things there.

You see right away that there’s a clinical addiction counseling experience. They call that out. What that tells me is that the state of Indiana has made a distinction between addiction work and just regular social work.  It also tells you what a clinical social work experience must contain.

In this case, it says that an applicant has to provide clinical services, including evaluation and treatment of clients in which at least 50% of those hours is direct client contact. That is a key point. You need to, to make sure that your hours post-graduate have enough direct face to face. This will also be an issue in your practicum or internship. Which, from what I can tell is basically the same thing. It’s just that different licensing groups use different names.

Mine was called an internship. I find that social workers use the word practicum fairly often, but to me they’re fairly interchangeable, but that does depend on license and state. So make sure, you know, if there’s a difference.

As you move down in definitions, you can see that there are a number of different addiction counselors. There’s a licensed addiction counselor, a licensed addiction counselor associate, a licensed clinical addiction counselor associate,  and a licensed clinical addiction counselor. So what that tells me is that there are two levels of addiction counselor licenses. That’s completely separate from your social work license. We’ll talk about that later because the statute tells us whether or not you are going to need that license in order to cover addiction. 

In some states, you will need a separate license and in others, you won’t, it depends. And the statute is where it’s at. For the purpose of this episode we’re going to not talk about the specifics of addiction counseling. I’m not going to have you go through those. I’m just going to tell you what I found.

You’ll see on this list of definitions that it defines  what clinical addiction counseling is.  At the moment you’re not concerned with that. There is a license where someone would only have that they would not be a clinical social worker. They would be getting an addiction license.

This is what that means is that their license has to have these components. Their practice is allowed to do these things under this section, but for us right now, that’s not really necessary. So just scroll on past that.

Now, you’ll see it in places where it talks about “this term does not include diagnosis as defined in, IC 25-22.5”.  22.5 is not our statute in the state of Indiana. When you click on it, it’s actually the statute for physicians. So all they’re saying here is that they’re referring to a diagnosis that we would give, and it’s not to be confused with what a physician would give, even if it’s the same diagnosis. It’s just stating that physicians are  under their statute and that we’re under ours. But that’s what those side statutes are.

Becoming a licensed therapist: You won’t need all the sections

Once you get through definitions, you go on to chapter two, which is behavioral health and human service licensing board. Now, this is the part that I feel like you can skip. I personally don’t care how they created the licensing board, who serves on it and for how long I just don’t someday. I might care if I wanted to run for the board or I wanted to do something else.

But honestly, it’s basically saying we use a process to come up with the board and this is how we did it.  So I skipped right by on that. Chapter three is about Marriage and Family Therapists. That is not us today as we’re working on social work. So I’m going to scroll past that too.

Chapter four is social workers-unlawful practices.  Each type of therapist has this section where they’re talking about unlawful practices. So we’ll look at chapter four. And then we’re also going to look at chapter five, which is social work licensure. The rest of that list:  privileged communications, disclosure of educational background, et cetera. Those things aren’t really something we’re going to be looking at.  So in this 23.6, we’re actually looking at chapter one, chapter four and chapter five. That’s not very much. You can see why I want you to read the statute.

I want to draw your attention to article 23.6 -4-1. This is unlawful practices under chapter four for social workers. Section one states that an individual may not profess to be a social worker, a licensed social worker, or a licensed clinical social worker. They may not use the title social worker, et cetera, use any other title insinuating that they’re a social worker or use abbreviations or any other things indicating or implying that they’re a social worker and they may not practice as a social worker.

And then this is the very bottom of that paragraph, unless the individual is licensed under this article. This whole section, this just a bunch of words, is covering every loophole that someone may not claim to be a social worker in any way, shape or form, unless they have a license under article 23.6. That’s a lot of words and it’s just how the government statute works. Because the law is the law and if someone is going to get reprimanded or sued for claiming they’re a social worker, there has to be laws saying that they can’t use things like abbreviations or insignias. I mean, it’s really specific.

The rest of the unlawful practices is just basically outlining what social work is and what people are exempt from having to get a license like clergy, that kind of thing. And it’s not really something you need to worry too much about, but it is interesting to see what it is listing in that section.

Becoming a licensed therapist: The main part of the statute

Our main bread and butter today though is chapter five. So article 23.6 -five is everything you need to know about how to get a social worker license in the state of Indiana. Most of you are going to be in a different state, not Indiana. There is a section just like this though, in your statute. And that’s where you want to put the majority of your energy, figuring this stuff out. This is the kind of stuff that you figure out over time as a therapist working in a specific state, but it can feel like a mystery. And the truth is it’s not a mystery. It is laid out and voted upon and stamped in black and white what you need.

The very first part talks about social worker license requirements. If you read this at first, it can seem like if you didn’t get a bachelor’s degree in social work, you might be fucked. However, when you keep reading there is a tiny two letter word that you need to watch for. It’s the word or. The very first section says that you have to have gotten at least a bachelor’s degree in social work. However at the end of that section, it says, or

Or has a master’s degree in social work from an eligible post-secondary education institution approved by the board. So you don’t have to have a social work bachelor’s. If you weren’t reading this carefully, it might seem like you do, but that little word or either you’re going to meet it in number one or you’re going to meet it in number two. This is not the clinical license. . This is getting a social worker license. So we’re paying attention to the fact that you are going to get a master’s in social work. So, okay. You meet that requirement. Now, the next section is bachelor’s degree of social worker license requirements, we don’t need to know that.

In section 23.6, chapter 5-2 Clinical Social Worker license requirements. Your ears should perk up because this is the real important place. An individual who applies for a license must meet the following requirements.

Becoming a licensed therapist: Clinical Concentration

You either have to have a doctoral degree in social work. Or at least a master’s degree in social work from an eligible  post-secondary institution accredited or approved by the Council on Social Work Education, CSWE.  It’s right here in the statute. Then it says the graduate program under this must have emphasized direct clinical or client health services.

This is the clinical concentration that I’ve told you about. Some states may not require that your social work program have a clinical concentration, but it is right here in black and white. In Indiana you must have it. Now, my opinion is that you should have it anyway. That you are going to feel ill-equipped if you go to school and get a social work degree that does not have a clinical concentration and then go to do therapy and realize you didn’t get trained how to do it. So there’s licensure requirements and then there’s opinion. And my opinion is you should have a clinical concentration if you’re going to be a therapist.

Becoming a licensed therapist: What experience is required

It goes on to say that there is a section 3.1 of this chapter that talks about what clinical social work experience should consist of. That part is the next part we’re going to look at 23.6-5-3.1. 

Graduate program providing clinical experience. This is about your program and what they must be preparing you to do. If you are going to be licensed in the state of Indiana, but are going to school in a different state, say Illinois, Ohio, whatever you need to know that those universities may not be preparing you for what Indiana is going to want from you. And so it is up to you to figure out what your graduate experience must be in order to be licensed in the state,  in which you want to work.

These are the areas that you must have. Coursework in clinical social work and related areas, such as psychiatric social work, medical social work, social casework, case management, psychotherapy, group therapy, and any other coursework accepted by the board. Making sure that your graduate program has those things covered is your responsibility.

Becoming a licensed therapist: What your grad program has to have

The next part required supervised field placement. This is your internship or your practicum. It has to be part of the program and it states that you must have direct practice where you’re providing clinical services directly to clients.

The last part in this section talks about the 24 semester hours that you have to have of clinically oriented  service courses in the theory and research of human behavior and social environment and practice methods.  The next little sentence talks about if the transcript doesn’t clearly state by the course name that they’re going to want, possibly a syllabus course description, et cetera. This is where it tells you  what they will find acceptable. If you’re in a different state, they might tell you that a course description isn’t enough and that you have to have a syllabus. This is why I’m pleading with everyone to keep your syllabus forever.

Becoming a licensed therapist: Post grad experience and training licenses

In section 23.6-5-3.5. These are clinical social work experience requirements. So the first part of the experience requirements say that you have to have at least two years of clinical social work experience. In subsection B it says if you’re going to get clinical social work experience, the individual must be licensed as a social worker under section one. Section one is about social workers, not clinical social workers. The license you’re going to get as a practice license is a licensed social worker.

That’s the practice license or the training license or whatever you want to call it. This is where it tells you. In no other place did it tell us that right? Nothing else has mentioned that you have to have an LSW in order to have those hours count. This is post graduate. 

Becoming a licensed therapist: Summary of Indiana Statute

So as we’re looking through this, I’m going to kind of sum up here. You have to have an LSW. You apply for the LSW after your master’s degree, you can go back to section one, to find out. What the requirements are. That’s where we saw that you either have to have a bachelor’s in social work or a master’s in social work by a CSWE accredited university.

So you get an LSW once you graduate, then you get hired and then you do two years, 24 months of supervised  services where at least 50% is client contact. And that you have 24 months of supervision. And it will tell you in this statute who can do the supervision and where they’re located and how many hours can be virtual and how many hours have to be face to face. It is extremely specific and it is up to you when you’re out of grad school to make sure you’re getting these things.

The statute is your friend. It is gonna tell you everything you need to know, you just have to pare it down. And my suggestion is that you have a copy of the pieces of the statute that you need. If it was me, I would find out what statutes applied to me and what subsections and I would copy paste them into a word doc so that I could always refer to them.

I would highlight things and make notes about what they mean. I would break down what it’s saying piece by piece, put it back together and if that doesn’t work, ask a licensed clinical social worker or whatever the corresponding license and state are for you.

Becoming a licensed therapist: Questions you should be able to answer

So here are some questions that you want to answer from your own statute. Question one: How many credit hours are needed for your degree ? Some states it’s 48. Some it’s 60. It just depends. But the statute will tell you. My suggestion is that you get a 60 hour master’s and if that means you take extra classes above and beyond, then do it while you still have financial aid. The highest amount of credits I’ve ever seen is 60.

That is pretty safe for you and it gives you a chance to make sure that you have all the classes you need instead of going back later. Going back later means you don’t get financial aid because you’re not in a degree seeking program. Financial aid rules state that in order to receive financial aid, you have to be seeking a degree. If you already have your degree and you’re supplementing classes, that’s going to be out of your own pocket right then and there. 

Question two: who does the program need to be accredited by which body? So is it CSWE?  Is it CACREP? Depending on your license path that’s what you need to look for. These questions are not necessarily in a specific order. It’s just how I thought of them and I wanted to give you specific questions that you need to find in your statute.

How many practicum or internship hours must you have during your graduate program? This is not post-grad. This is during graduate school. You want to know how many hours it’s requiring. The highest I’ve ever seen is 700. The lowest I’ve seen is 480. You want to have the max amount of hours. If you are in a state that has said they want 480, and then you go to a new state and they want 700, they may not accept your internship and they may want you to do it again. That’s a big deal. It is no skin off your nose to make more hours before you finish your internship. It is so much easier to do this on the front end.

Question 4: Who has to supervise those hours. What does an approved supervisor look like? There are two different sets of supervision that you’re going to be getting. One for your graduate internship, and one for your post-grad work. The approved supervisor is going to be very specific and laid out in the statute. So who does that have to be? Who counts as an approved supervisor for your hours?

Question five: How many hours of supervision do you have to have? And in what ratio now the Indiana statute talks about per month. Other states I’ve been in ask you for a certain number of hours per hours worked. So an hour per 20 hours worked means that you need two hours of supervision a week. I know that that’s been the case, at least in Minnesota, that you’ve had to have two hours per 40 hours worked. So you want to know which ratio and how often you have to have that.

Question six: How does that supervision need to be delivered? There are some pretty specific statutes on what has to be face to face, in person. What can be virtual and even what can be over the telephone with no video. I don’t know that all the statutes in different states will have caught up with the prevalence of video supervision, but I think they’re getting there.

Question seven is clinical coursework, a requirement for your license.  If you’re going to be a marriage and family therapist or a professional counselor, you don’t need to bother answering this question. The answer is, yes. It is specifically for social work, whether or not clinical coursework is required. In the statute what you’re looking for is if they talk about content areas for the graduate program, that’s providing the degree.

Question eight on the application: what education domains do you need and looking at your program, does your program meet those requirements? This can be a little worrisome and you might be concerned about the names of your classes. Universities want students, if the university is any good they know these things, and they have tailored the names of their classes to suit licensure.

My own graduate program has drastically changed the names of the classes to match for their CACREP accreditation. When I went there, they had used the names of the classes to match the domains for the state of Illinois. But since then you got a CACREP accreditation. They have to use specific verbiage. So on your application for whatever license you’re going to get, you’re looking at what the domains are. So psychopathology, psychopharmacology, family therapy, whatever it is. Those are the domains that I’m talking about.

Question nine: What does an internship have to have? How many hours and how many supervision hours and by who? When you’re choosing an internship, this is going to be absolutely imperative. It is not the internship site’s responsibility to make sure that you’re getting what you need. They don’t need to know. They just have to sign off and provide you with the client contact and with the supervision hours that were agreed upon. This is a hundred percent on you to make sure you’re getting what you need.

Becoming a licensed therapist: Final Tips

I have a couple other tips and comments. As I was going through this, it took me about an hour, an hour and a half to read the statute in Indiana and find all of the pieces that I’m telling you now, and to be able to prepare, to explain it to you. It might take you maybe twice as long, because you’re not as familiar with statute language as I am. I’ve been licensed for the last 18 years and in a number of different states and so  I have more practice reading statutes and understanding  what the government is requiring. It won’t take you that long though and it will  give you some peace of mind that you know what you’re going to need.

Becoming a licensed therapist: Take the test ASAP

The following are just  some tips that I wanted to give you about licensing. Take the big fat test right away. You do not want to delay this. Now, if you’re a social worker, I’m pretty sure you have to take it right away in order to get the basic social work license. But for MFTs and for Professional Counselors, that may not be the case for myself. 

I didn’t take the big fat tests until two years after I graduated, it was really fucking hard and it had been two years and so all of the stuff wasn’t really on the forefront of my mind. It is so much easier to  take that test. If you can, when you are still in the mode of studying for these big kinds of things, There are typically  study guides that people recommend. I used them and you just keep taking that test until you pass it. 

There might be a waiting period. So you don’t want to like fuck around on this and just wing it. It’s very specific what it is they’re looking for on these tests. Do not put this off. If you can help it, get the approval to take the test as soon as you can. Some states even allow you to take certain tests before graduation, but the program will typically know that. Just plan on at the end of your graduate program, finding a way to get your test out of the way.

Becoming a licensed therapist: Supervision Logs

You should pay attention to whether or not your state requires supervision logs or not. It looks like from the state of Indiana on the social work application that they just want the supervisor to say, yep, did this supervised it. In other states, they require supervision logs. So every date, how long it was, who it was with and what the discussion topic was.

Imagine going back and recreating hundreds of hours of supervision. What a pain in the ass. Here’s my suggestion: make supervision logs anyway. Just keep it in an Excel spreadsheet and keep up on it. And you’re just doing topics like: discussed ethics around dual relationships, discussed trauma and family systems or whatever. Because if you move to a new state, who wants you to prove that you’re going to want that.  Do yourself a favor, keep track. 

It’s also good to make sure that you can prove that you had the right number of hours because while an internship site or an employment site  may say that they’ll give you the supervision hours you need. Some people have had experiences where they just weren’t getting all the hours and the company or the internship site were like, meh whatever, not our problem. It’s on you. This is your career. And like I said, the license is the biggest thing. The number one thing you have to pay attention to.

Becoming a licensed therapist: Training license  or supervision plan

You want to find out what the practice license is. So post-graduate, is there a training license? In Wisconsin it is literally called in-training. In other places like in South Dakota when I lived there, there wasn’t a training license.  You just started practicing, but you had to have a supervision plan on file before you could start your counting of hours. So they didn’t require you to get a license like other states might, but you had to tell them who was going to do your supervision and get it approved. And then you could start counting hours for two years from that date. If you start doing hours and then find out later that you needed a supervision plan, none of those hours will count. So you want to read the statue and find out if that’s in there.

What we found out in the statute here was that the training license is called an LSW in the state of Indiana. In the state of Wisconsin, it’s an APSW and  Advanced Practice Social Work license. Wherever you are, the statute is going to tell you that.

I hope you can hear my encouragement dig into this. Really look at the statute and the application as though you were going to apply and as though there wasn’t anyone else to ask. You really can go and find out these pieces of information and make sure you have  enough of all the requirements.

Becoming a licensed therapist: Addiction work

The very last part I will mention is about doing addiction work. In some places, addiction work requires a license. In the state of Indiana for instance, it’s really difficult to tell.  I went through the statute fairly carefully, and here’s what I gathered.

You can say that you cover things like addiction in therapy, but you cannot say that you are an addiction therapist or that you specialize in addiction without having a specific addiction license. This does not mean that you cannot talk with your clients about addiction as a clinical person in Indiana. You can.

However, there is a designation for substance abuse and they want to make that very clear. In Wisconsin this used to be the case too. You used to have to have an addiction license or a substance abuse specialty, which is what I have. They did away with that and now it’s very clear in the statute that if you have a master’s level therapy license, that you can treat addiction and specialize in it without further licensing. That is going to depend on the state, but I wanted to bring it up because clearly I’m here promoting that you guys should be looking at addiction.

If you decide that you want to specialize, you need to look at the requirements for that licensure at the same time as your master’s level license. Because you can make your internship do double duty. You just have to make sure that the person who’s supervising you is duly licensed,  both in addictions and also in whatever MSW LPC, et cetera, that you’re going to get. And that the experience has addictions as part of it. It’s not difficult, but it is difficult to go backwards and fix that. You don’t want to have to do another internship just to get a separate license. 

If you are really passionate about the idea of doing some addiction work, then take the exact same approach that I laid out today and go look at your state’s statutes about addiction work. If they don’t really have one, then it’s probably not a separate license or a big deal. In the state of Indiana it’s pretty specific. Which means  that somebody or somebody went through and really wanted to make a clear distinction and that addiction counselor is a protected title.

Just doing a simple search on Psychology Today for therapists in Indiana, will show you that some mentioned addiction and some say that they specialize. And that the ones who specialize have the Licensed Clinical Addiction Counselor in addition to whatever their primary license is.

Here’s the thing about addiction licenses though, when you’re a master’s level person, you’re not billing under the addiction license. You’re always going to bill under your primary license because reimbursement rates are higher for someone with a master’s degree than someone with a bachelor’s degree.  It’s not as imperative that you have both licenses because you’re only billing under one of them.

If you’re going to work in a treatment center or something like that, then of course you need to have the addiction license as that’s part of their gig and it’s a specialty. It is something that you might decide you want to do in addition. That could be part of the extra classes that you take during your master’s program.

All of this work beforehand is to help you make the best choices during grad school that you can and make sure you’re getting everything you need out of it. I ended up taking extra classes after I graduated in order to come up with a 60 degree master’s program and two different states required some classes I hadn’t taken. Those are included now in the program I graduated from because they changed their accreditation, but I had to do them on my own.  If I had known that ahead of time, I could have saved myself some time and money.

You can’t predict what the future statute is going to say and you don’t need to. You’re getting licensed within a few years of graduating. The statutes usually will allow a couple of years  for grandfathering people in under the previous licensing requirements. The statute is going to be pretty clear about that.

Licensing is confusing and can be hard and it is rewarding. Getting your full license feels different. It feels like progress. It feels like getting a seat at the grownup table. Be proactive about your license, find out what you need and write it all down so that you know what you’re looking for.

That way, you can make sure that you are getting the best that you can out of your graduate experience and out of your post-grad employment. During an interview, you want to make sure that you’re going to get the supervision you need and not have to pay for it out of pocket. Some people have had to pay a lots of money out of pocket because their agency did not provide supervision to the adequate level that they need. 

I really hope that this information is helpful. I was a little concerned about doing something so specific and talking about the legalese because honestly, a lot of people’s eyes just glaze over. When I first pulled up the Indiana statute, I was like, oh, oh my God, what a pain in the ass. Because it’s not my state. I’m not gonna live in Indiana. I’m not a social worker. It means jack to me.  And I wanted to show all of you that you can go in blindly and start from scratch and find the information that you need. I encourage you to go do that sooner than later. Make it a mission of yours to really understand what the state is asking of you and when the time comes, it’ll be a piece of cake. 

Next week. We go back to talking about drugs of abuse, and we’re going to be covering the class of drugs called barbiturates. Barbiturates is a name that I’ve been familiar with for a while. But honestly was really kind of one of those words that I hadn’t really paid attention to and was like, yeah, I think those are sedatives.

I wonder if a lot of you also have that when you hear the word barbiturates. So we’re going to delve into it. I’m going to tell you what they are,  what they do and their place in the current landscape. I hope you’ll join me for that podcast. And until then have a great week.

Thank you for listening to the All Things Substance podcast. For show notes, links and downloads, please visit betsybyler.com/podcast. If you loved what you heard today, it’d be great if you would share those with your therapist friends and colleagues. If there are topics that you think would be useful and you’d like to hear me cover them, please let me know.  Just send a message to podcast@betsybyler.com. I’ll see you on next week’s podcast. And until then have a great week.

This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regards to the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher or the guests are rendering legal, clinical or any other professional information.

Helpful Links

Indiana Code 2019 – Indiana General Assembly, 2021 Session

https://www.coamfte.org/ COAMFTE

https://www.cswe.org/ Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) – Home

https://www.cacrep.org/ Home – CACREP






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