Take Action: Make Your CE Requirement Meaningful

Benjamin E. Caldwell, PsyD

Every two years, licensed MFTs in California must complete 36 hours of continuing education. You may be surprised to learn that research does not support this requirement. In fact, when it comes to therapy outcomes, continuing education doesn’t appear to do anything at all.

Actually, you probably aren’t surprised to hear that. For many of us, continuing education is a box on a checklist. It’s something we think about mostly when we get close to license renewal time, and if we’re really pressed for time, we resort to low-cost, online CE providers. Classes through these providers can often be completed without reading all of the material, and in less time than the number of CE “hours” awarded. These classes are only “education” in the loosest possible sense of the word, and we often aren’t taking them with even the intention of learning.

Obviously, it’s better to do continuing education on a regular basis and to take courses that you are truly interested in. Even then, though, CE can feel like a slog. You have to take time away from clients, and not all presenters are strong public speakers. Even a course that looks interesting on paper might be something you take grudgingly.

You’ll be more satisfied with your CE if you can find a way to get real value from it. So before you even register for your next CE workshop, it’s worth considering a single question: What do I want to get better at?

Be as specific as possible. Is there a skill where you’re struggling, or a problem type where you would like to improve your competency? Answering this question will allow you to then find a workshop that is a close match to your needs.

It’s worth mentioning here that your needs may not be limited to clinical material. If what you want to get better at is having a network of local referrals, perhaps the best workshop for you is one that is local, in-person as opposed to online, and well-attended, regardless of the presentation topic.

If you go into a CE event with intentionality surrounding not just what you hope to learn but what you plan to do with that knowledge, you can find your continuing education to be a lot more, well, educational. And it certainly will be a better value than throwing money at a website every two years so that you can check off a box.

We’re all in this together. Thanks for all you do.

Benjamin E. Caldwell is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (#42723) in Los Angeles. He is the author of Saving Psychotherapy and Basics of California Law for LMFTs, LPCCs, and LCSWs.