Jennifer Kolb, LCSW,
Those entering the field of Marriage and Family Therapy may be interested in obtaining their licensure in the state of California. The California Board of Behavioral Sciences requires passing scores on 2 examinations: Law & Ethics Exam, 75 multiple-choice items administered over a 90-minute period; and the MFT Clinical Exam, 170 multiple-choice items administered over a four-hour period. Each exam is intended to test your knowledge of and the ability to apply marriage and family therapy standards in how it relates to clinical practice.
The process of preparing for and taking these examinations can invoke some anxiety. While some anxiety can help sustain your attention and stimulate your concentration when studying for and taking the exam, high levels of anxiety are likely to be a substantial hindrance. Therefore, it’s essential that you acquire and practice anxiety management techniques that help you reduce any anxiety or tension that interferes with your ability to effectively prepare for the exams.
When identifying strategies to use to reduce anxiety, consider the anxiety-reduction techniques that have worked for you in the past and then use those techniques as you are preparing for the MFT exams. The following techniques may also help you to manage your anxiety.
- Adopt a Positive Attitude — An effective way to overcome pessimistic attitudes that may be contributing to your anxiety is to adopt the following perspectives:
- “I Will Pass!”: Approach the exam with the attitude that you’re going to pass.
- “The Exam is Good”: Rather than viewing the exam as your “enemy,” try to see it in a more favorable light.
- “I’m in Control”: Though it’s normal to feel discouraged or overwhelmed while studying, you must find ways to overcome these feelings so that you can continue working toward your goal of passing the exam. Having a realistic study schedule will greatly contribute to your sense of control.
- Overcome Procrastination — A high level of anxiety can lead to a cycle of procrastination and avoidance. Monitoring your thoughts and ability to stick to your study schedule are ways for determining if you’re in the cycle. Techniques for keeping yourself out of it can include:
- Having a realistic study schedule that consists of specific goals and manageable tasks.
- Using methods for relieving anxiety and stress and increasing motivation.
- Finding a study partner who can help you stay on track.
- Planning to do something you enjoy after completing the day’s or week’s tasks.
- Gain Control of Negative Thoughts — Although it’s unrealistic to attempt to completely eliminate negative thoughts about the exam, you can manage them so that their potential to trigger anxiety and hinder your ability to study is minimized.
- Use thought stopping to reduce or eliminate counterproductive thoughts.
- Replace negative thoughts with positive self-statements.
- Challenge negative beliefs. Write down your worries and fears about the exam, and for each one, consider what evidence you have to support it. If there’s basis in reality for your concern, identify specific actions you can take to address it.
- Use Relaxation Techniques — You may need to try a more direct approach to relaxation, including:
- Deep breathing
- Use Tension-Reducing Techniques — Tension-reducing techniques are useful for reducing muscle tension that often accompanies anxiety. We recommend that you practice using one or more of the following techniques while preparing for the exam or when you notice your anxiety level increasing while taking the exam.
- Head rolls
- Shoulder rolls
- Arm shakes
For those who are wrapping up their course work and preparing to take the licensure exam, we wish you the best of luck! While the task may seem daunting, know that you have a support network and a multitude of resources to help you. Rely on friends, family, and peers to see you through this stressful time. Don’t be afraid to seek help from others.
And if you need AATBS, we’re here for you! Give us a call and we can help guide you from starting a study plan to finding the right materials to suit your personal learning style: 1-800.472.1931.