Continuing Education

Therapists in continuing education group sitting in a meeting.

Continuing education (CE) is education mental health professionals receive after obtaining their academic degree and professional license. As psychology is a dynamic field, research and best practices often change over time. Continuing education ensures clinicians stay up-to-date on developments in their field so they can continue providing the best services possible to their clients.

GoodTherapy offers a variety of online continuing education events and homestudy courses to help mental health professionals meet their licensure requirements. Learn more or sign up for an event today!

What Is Continuing Education?

Numerous organizations offer continuing education classes for mental health professionals, including GoodTherapy. These classes must generally be approved by a licensing agency to count toward continuing education requirements. While various psychological organizations and educational organizations offer many classes, interest groups may also offer classes. For example, a homeless rights organization might offer classes on counseling homeless veterans.

Continuing education for mental health professionals comes in many formats and covers a broad range of specialties and interests. Some examples of continuing education can include:

  • Workshops
  • Seminars
  • University courses
  • Online courses
  • Community service
  • Peer consultation
  • Research

State’s requirements vary as to the specific criteria a continuing education experience must meet in order to be counted as valid credits, so it’s key for mental health professionals to be aware of the requirements for maintaining a license where they live.

While therapists can take any continuing education classes that meet their state’s requirements, most professionals focus on classes in their areas of interest and expertise. A forensic psychologist, for example, might take classes on evaluating competency before trial, while a trauma specialist might take classes discussing the latest research on rape, war, and other trauma-intensive topics.

Continuing Education Requirements

Each state has a licensing board that establishes continuing education requirements for mental health professionals. While each state’s requirements are different, many requirements cover these key areas:

  • License renewal after a certain amount of time
  • A minimum number of CE credits within that amount of time
  • A set amount of credit hours that have a particular focus within the professional’s field

Boards often require that continuing education include training for a certain number of hours in several areas. For example, the state of Georgia requires that professional counselors, clinical social workers, and marriage and family therapists renew their licenses in even-numbered years. To be eligible for license renewal in the state of Georgia, therapists must complete 35 hours of continuing education. Five of these hours must be dedicated to professional ethics, and 15 of these hours must be core hours. Other states have similar requirements.

Mental health professionals who do not meet their continuing education requirements may have their licenses temporarily revoked or receive other sanctions.

Common Continuing Education Terms

Much like in other fields, continuing education for mental health professionals comes with its own terminology and acronyms. Below are some common terms in the CE lexicon:

  • Credit hours: Also called contact hours, these are hours of CE required by state licensing boards to renew a professional license. One credit or contact hour is typically equal to 60 minutes of instruction.
  • CEUs: This acronym refers to continuing education units. One CEU is equal to 10 contact hours, so one credit hour is .1 CEU.
  • Homestudy: CE courses that allow someone to earn credits at home, typically online, are referred to as homestudy. Some states allow all CE credits to be earned through homestudy, while other states set a maximum amount of homestudy credits per license renewal.
  • Webinar: An online seminar that is generally viewed live.

How to Choose a Continuing Education Course

There are a variety of factors to consider when choosing a continuing education course. For those in the mental health field, a few considerations include:

  • Credibility. Make sure the CE course or experience is approved by your state’s licensing board and that it will count towards the CE credits you earn.
  • Length. How many hours of continuing education do you need? Some courses are only one hour, which may help fill in gaps. Meanwhile, other classes are more intensive at 3 hours or longer.
  • Format. Some professionals value the experience of exchanging questions and ideas with their peers, while others may find that homestudy courses are easier to fit into their busy lifestyle.
  • Topic. Some states require a certain number of credit hours in different areas of focus. It’s important to make sure the class you select counts toward the area of specialty required. It may also help to consider how you wish to expand or deepen your professional knowledge and to take classes that propel you toward that goal.
  • Presenter. Some CE courses are self-driven, or independent, and have no instructor or presenter. Others are led by a qualified instructor who may be a pioneer in a particular area of study.

When deciding how to earn CE credits, other experiences such as research and community service may also be viable options, although the availability of these options may vary.

Benefits of Continuing Education

Continuing education classes do not just offer new knowledge; they offer a variety of other professional benefits.

  • Opportunities to network with others in one’s professional field. This provides therapists and other professionals with a wealth of knowledge they might not otherwise have and allows them to reach out to peers when they have a question.
  • Chances to strengthen core professional ethics and values.
  • The ability to help more people. Many CE courses instruct clinicians one how to help clients with diverse backgrounds.

As continuing education supports lifelong learning, it helps ensure mental health professionals remain curious and critical thinkers who are well-equipped to provide quality care for their clients.

References:

  1. Continuing education help. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.jcrinc.com/cehelp
  2. Georgia board of professional counselors, social workers, marriage and family therapists requirements. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.continuingeducation.com/social-work/state-ce-requirements/georgia
  3. Mental health counselor: Continuing education frequently asked questions. (n.d.). Washington State Department of Health. Retrieved from https://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/MentalHealthCounselor/ContinuingEducationInformation
  4. The value of continued education for healthcare professionals. (2017, January 11). Retrieved from http://health-system-management.advanceweb.com/the-value-of-continued-education-for-healthcare-professionals

Last Updated: 10-18-2018

  • 2 comments
  • Leave a Comment
  • Tammera

    Tammera

    October 11th, 2018 at 6:54 PM

    Can someone explain to me what are considered core CES what topics or trainings would I look for and what are related CE and what training subjects would that be. still a little confused even after reading board description.

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    October 18th, 2018 at 12:41 PM

    Dear Tammera,
    Thank you for your question. Requirements do vary by license type and location, so it’s best to contact your licensing board if you have specific questions about CE course types.
    Kind regards,
    The GoodTherapy Team

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