On Friday I drove up to Sacramento to attend the BBS board meeting. My goal was twofold: to gather information on matters of importance to MFTs and Social Workers, and to ask a few questions specific to the concerns we’ve heard regarding the MFT Clinical exam. Thankfully, both goals were achieved and I want to share with you what I learned and discuss how this information impacts you.
First, some positive developments:
1. The BBS passed legislation that will allow English as a Second Language (ESL) test-takers to request accommodations for time-and-a-half. This process will begin in October. To qualify for this accommodation, the BBS will require you to show proof of one of the following:
a. A Test of English as a Foreign Language, Internet Based Test (TOEFL-iBT) certification score of 85 or below; or
b. Documentation from a qualifying Master’s degree program showing they granted additional examination time or other allowance due to English as a second language; or
c. Documentation of a foreign qualifying Master’s degree that was presented primarily in a language other than English
Retrieved from: http://www.bbs.ca.gov/pdf/regulation/2016/1805_isr.pdf
2. The BBS, alongside licensing agencies throughout the country, recognize the need to improve mobility and are developing processes to make interstate mobility easier for MFTs and Social Workers. The Pathway to Mobility Committee will take charge of this and develop standards. Among the big changes for MFTs is the CA Clinical Exam being accepted in other states (already true for Oregon) and CA accepting the National Exam for those licensed elsewhere!
3. The BBS is hoping to launch their new and improved website in September. This site will make it easier for licensees to navigate, renew licenses, access forms, etc.
Now let’s talk about the MFT Clinical Exam. To be completely honest, I deleted a few drafts before settling on how to present what is clearly a sensitive subject that elicits many emotions. I am acutely aware, based on feedback from recent test-takers and reading threads on various social media sites, there is a lot of anxiety and anger regarding this exam. And while I do not want to minimize or dismiss people’s concerns and feelings, I am worried that some reactions may be more harmful than helpful. After sharing what was presented at the meeting, I will discuss strategies for moving from a place of feeling like a victim to feeling empowered.
The Office of Professional Examination Services (OPES) shared with the board how they develop their exams and addressed concerns regarding the significant drop in the pass rate in the first two quarters of 2017. While the pass rate in the last two quarters of 2016 was in the low 70% range, it dropped to around the low 50% range in the first two quarters this year. Several people, including me, voiced concerns about the exam, including the drop in scores and complaints we’ve heard about awkward wording and time constraints. OPES and the board listened to the feedback while affirming their belief in the integrity of the exam, acknowledging that drops like this can happen. They are paying close attention to these numbers and noted that data for the current quarter shows the pass rate is continuing to rise. Pass rates in this cycle are expected to be more on par with scores prior to the previous two quarters. While this exam will continue to be administered in California, OPES and Board members heard the concerns that were voice and stated that the conversation is not over.
When I coach people, a key goal of mine is to shift thinking away from feeling like a victim of this test to feeling strong and in control. Feeling empowered will naturally contribute to greater levels of confidence, lower levels of anxiety, and oftentimes greater cognitive functioning as you prepare for and take the exam. So, let’s talk about some strategies to move from victimization to empowerment:
1. Join a professional association and become an active participant (CAMFT, NASW, CALPCC). These agencies exist to advocate for their members and the profession as a whole. Representatives of these agencies will frequently present to the board, advocate for the positions of their members, and help advance their members’ concerns. If you are not a member already, consider joining today!
2. Attend board meetings (or write letters). The most direct way to address concerns and push for change is to communicate directly with the people in charge. When the board convenes, they usually provide an opportunity for the public to participate and ask questions. At the meeting on Friday, several people spoke up about the exam and their concerns. This is exactly how the ESL accommodation came about. Your voice matters, so make sure you are heard!
3. Help with the occupational analysis. Every 3-7 years, the board conducts an occupational analysis—and we are due for one this year. OPES develops and sends surveys to clinicians to understand trends in the field. The results of this survey are used to develop the examination outline. The most recent survey was conducted in 2012 and the response rate was a meager 10-15%. This is a fairly small sample size. If more therapists complete this survey, the examination outline will likely provide a better reflection of trends in our profession. While this survey is conducted for licensed MFTs and not interns (associates), even as interns you can encourage colleagues to complete the survey.
4. Help with exam development. Exam questions are developed by Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). The BBS is frequently recruiting individuals to participate in developing exam questions. You do not have to be licensed for long to do this and if you are not yet licensed, you can again encourage colleagues you respect and trust to participate in the process. Imagine how much better it would feel to have people you know and trust be involved in this process.
5. Focus on your studies and uplifting activities/people. When Amanda Rowan created TDC, she wanted to ensure our program was strengths-based. TDC is designed to help you build your knowledge, clinical skills, and become more confident test-takers without feeling overwhelmed. Pay attention to how you are being affected by your studies—are you studying the right amount, or too much? Do you have a healthy balance between your studies and other aspects of your life? Who do you talk with about your exam prep and how to do you feel after talking with them? Is your supervisor aware you are preparing for the exam and helping you do so? Are you on social media and if so how do you feel after reading different threads? Would stepping away from the collective anxiety on social media be healthier for you for a time? Over the next few days, ask yourself these questions. If you find that your actions are helping lift you up and feel more confident, awesome, keep doing them! If you find certain activities are causing you to feel anxious or angry, pause and consider focusing your attention elsewhere.
These exams are hard, but they are doable. Although you do have to work hard, you do not have to suffer. We have worked with thousands of successful test-takers and are here to support you! If you are struggling, please reach out to your coach. We are here to help you PASS WITH CONFIDENCE!