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Choosing a master's program in psychology at 50

Discussion in 'Mental Health and Social Welfare' started by edwingo, Jul 20, 2011.

  1. edwingo

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    [Update: I've collected new info relevant to my original question in a followup post.]

    Hi. I'm almost 50 and employed full time in an unrelated profession in the SF Bay Area. I have always had a strong desire to study psychology and would like to get a master's in counseling psychology aiming for fall 2012. It won't be for the money as I realize, the pay will be significantly less than what I make now. Worst case, I'll have the education and try to get a new job in my current field. Does this sound realistic at my age?

    I am trying to compare programs in my area but have not found much data. I have been to several open houses at professional schools that are centered around MFTs but am still confused. The programs at public universities I know about are: San Fransicso State and Cal State East Bay. Professional schools are: alliant.edu, ciis.edu, jfku.edu, wi.edu. How do I figure out which are the quality programs to apply to? For example, are some more experiential than others?

    I'd appreciate any feedback. BTW, I think I understand the differences between the various master's level fields so will likely apply for an LPCC or MFT program. I'm also happy to share what I've already found out so far so feel free to ask. Thanks!
     
    #1 edwingo, Jul 20, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2011
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  3. jdawgg

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    Whatever you do, don't go to a professional school in mental health... It is not worth it. As far as your age... You are definitely not too old. I went to a masters program in counseling and there were a few people in their 50s and even their 60s. Since you are in California I would recommend against an LPCC because California only recently began licensing counselors and jobs may be more difficult to come by. Have you considered social work? An LCSW is a more versatile degree.
     
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  4. edwingo

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    Can you elaborate why you do not think it is worth it? Does it make sense to apply to a professional school as a backup?

    I have considered getting an MSW/LCSW but as I understand it, the curriculum would focus more on didactic classes in administration and I am more interested in experiential classes in psychology. Is this not true?

    As for LPCC vs MFT in California, as I understand it the LPCC is a more general curriculum compared with the MFT. Please correct me if I'm wrong. I would prefer a more general curriculum but am undecided. Most current programs are designed for MFTs with an LPCC option.

    Thanks for the reassurance about my age and I appreciate your response.
     
  5. jdawgg

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    Professional schools are generally a bad idea because their academic standards are often poor, many are not accredited, and they are extremely expensive. Publicly funded masters programs in mft, counseling, and social work are generally not particularly difficult to get into. I know of people who got less than 1000 on the GRE with a gpa below 3.0 who got into programs of this type, for instance, though you'll probably want to be at or above those numbers. Most programs want to see some sort of human service experience, so I would highly suggest any paid or volunteer work experience that would prepare you for the program.

    As far as social work goes, you are right that some coursework would not pertain directly to clinical work, so if you are absolutely certain you want to solely conduct therapy then this may not be helpful. At the same time, some programs have a particularly strong clinical focus and definitely offer good training. And when I say that it is more versatile, I am also referring to the settings you'd be able to work after graduation because, for example, lcsws are often hired at hospitals and other medical settings whereas lpccs and mfts aren't.

    Since you are interested in the experiential aspect, I would definitely look into opportunities for internships and practica because they vary greatly. In my opinion, social work's model which includes year one and year two internships makes more sense than counseling's model of coursework followed by practicum and internship because you are doing while you are learning. At the same time, I had an especially strong practicum experience whereupon all of my sessions were monitored via live supervision behind a one way mirror in a university counseling center. Social work has nothing like this to my knowledge.

    Your idea of seeking an LPCC within an mft program makes sense. I was fairly certain that I was only interested in conducting individual psychotherapy but after being exposed to mft, I found myself much more drawn to it than I would have previously thought.
     
    #4 jdawgg, Jul 20, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2011
  6. edwingo

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    How do I find out which programs have a strong clinical focus? For example, I looked at the SF State MSW page http://socwork.sfsu.edu/IFG.aspx but it appears more caseworker focused.

    That sounds great. Can I ask what your background is? Are you in an MFT program and in what state? I appreciate the info.
     
  7. MFTinLA

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    Hi Edwingo, I'm in a smilar position. I'm in my late forties, currently living and working in Hong Kong in the field of education. I'm looking at starting an MA in Psychology iwith an MFT specializationn the fall of 2012. I will be in the LA area. I'm also concerned about a change of career direction, a large cut in income, the lengthy process before qualifying and the huge costs involved.

    On the positive side I'm also hugely excited by the challenge ahead and the possibility of working in an area that I feel I have the right skills set to make a positive contribution to. I'm looking at courses at Argosy, Mount St Mary's and Antioch. If anyone in the LA area has any thoughts about these places I'd be glad to hear :)
     
    #6 MFTinLA, Oct 1, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2011
  8. Psychadelic2012

    Psychadelic2012 PhD Student

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    Older adult students have a different ball game to play. If you attend a university-based program, please realize that you'll mostly be in classes with students in their low- to mid-20's. You will not fit in. If you're okay with that, then it might be a good way to go--just remember that you'll be studying with very young adults who are probably more focused on how annoying their parents (who they may even still live with) are and how much they partied over the weekend. You may also find erratic scheduling of classes and authoritarian professors, since academia produces that type of attitude. Professional schools tend to be more amenable to the working, mature student.

    Also consider the differences between MFT, psychology, and counseling. MFT is heavily focused on systems theory, treating the family and the couple. Psychology (especially clinical, if you can find that type of program) will give you more of an emphasis on testing and assessment. Counseling will give a broad-based education in just that, focused on generally healthy people in all sorts of life challenges. Social work, as you know, is more about the social welfare system and policy, with little clinical focus, in its educational emphasis.

    Also, the LPC licensure in CA isn't likely to hurt your job prospects. Employers won't care if you're licensed in MFT or Counseling (or even SW), they just care that you're licensed, for billing purposes. It is like that in every other state, no reason to think it would be different there. In fact, what you'll likely face is a preference toward a particular way of practicing--MFT professionals are oriented toward treating the family/couple/system, so they may or may not search for the same when hiring. You may even be different than many of the others, so it can be an advantage.
     
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  9. wigflip

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    Hi edwingo,

    I'm a non-traditional student who was in your boat a few years ago. I got swayed by the conventional wisdom at the time, which stated that the MSW was THE way to go (mostly because of the better license and job opportunities). But the "smart" choice was the stupid choice for me. I knew it probably wasn't what I wanted to do (I had wanted to do a PsyD or MFT). I left the MSW program after a semester.

    Which is to say, that most people give one of two kinds of advice:

    1. There is one right thing for everyone to do. It's X.
    2. I wish I had done Y. You should do Y.

    I think that most of the advice above is more thoughtful than that; I especially like Psychadelic's very thoughtful input above. I'd just caution you about getting seduced into doing the "smart" thing if your heart lies elsewhere.
     
  10. wigflip

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    I don't have thoughts about the above, but have you considered Pepperdine? I've heard good things about their masters training.
     
  11. edwingo

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    Thanks for the feedback Psychadelic and wigflip. I've considered the various options, and for me, an MFT or LPCC in California is the closest match. Also, good to know there are others like me, MFTinLA.

    I wanted to expand on my comments above about the various options I considered for getting licensed. Any corrections are welcome.

    1) psychiatric nurse practitioner: very well paid (I have a friend who now makes 6 figures in the Bay Area), but I have an aversion to blood
    2) doctorate in psychology: better pay, but since I'm around 50, it takes longer. Also, may be more competitive.
    3) master's in social work: established and recognized in all states, good pay, broader curriculum but can also specialize in clinical work
    4) master's in psychology or counseling psychology: possibly lowest pay

    Social work is an older profession and so if you have an LCSW (clinical social work license), you can practice in any state. Counseling is not as established and so licenses vary between states. Generally, there are two kinds: a counseling LPC-type license and a marriage-family-type license. As I understand it, all states now have some kind of LPC-type license with varying requirements and so the degree coursework is not easily transferable compared to an LCSW. For example, I've heard that at least in the past, the VA hires LCSWs but not LPCs. Some states also have a marriage-family-type license usually with lower requirements. California is different, however. Historically, in California, the situation was reversed where an MFT (used to be called MFCC) was the only master's level counseling license available. Recently there is a new LPCC, LPC-type license, which is less established and may have fewer requirements.

    Under the new California MFT requirements, getting a master's takes 2 to 3 years and then you become an MFT intern for 1.5 to 4 years. It takes 6 months to prepare for the exams. If you pass, then you become a licensed MFT after a total of 5 to 7 years.

    As for pay, it is less important to me as I am transitioning my career and am looking for other things in a second career. In particular, it may be difficult to live off of a MFT salary in California at first as the market is highly saturated where I live. One way to tell is to do a search in your area at http://www.psychologytoday.com/. Therefore, I plan to supplement my income with savings from my first career. I am looking at it similar to an amateur artist who is interested in painting and wants to devote more time to being a painter. Perhaps, the situation is better than that of a painter, but I want to be prepared for a worst-case scenario.

    For California, one can find a list of approved schools on government web sites. For example, for MSW, MFT, LPCC programs, there is the California BBS website. Also, I've heard one way to judge the quality of a program is by looking at exam pass rates by school, also on the BBS site. However, there may be schools with new programs that are not in the exam pass rate list yet.
     
    #10 edwingo, Oct 3, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2011
  12. wigflip

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    I'm in CA too (did I mention this above?), but wasn't aware of training geared towards the LPCC. Are there any such programs in the LA area? From what I've gleaned, the programs are all MFT or MSW. Would love to hear differently, because I'm more interested in the counseling approach than the marriage and family/systems route.
     
  13. MFTinLA

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    Hi I think Loyola Marymount has a an MA in Counseling leading to LPCC
     
  14. MFTinLA

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    I'm transitioning my career too and for that reason pay IS important to me. In fact, I'm very concerned about the cost of the course, time to licensehip and then pay.
     
  15. wigflip

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    Interesting--thanks, LMU wasn't on my radar. By the way, since my previous post here, I called Pepperdine, and it looks like they are going to be revising/expanding their curriculum to meet requirements for the new CA LPCC (or whatever the new acronym is). I like Pepperdine's (evening format) flexibility a lot.
     
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  17. edwingo

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    If pay is more important then the other options I listed my be more suitable to you. Also regarding LPCC vs MFT in California, as I understand it, there is considerable overlap and that the LPCC curriculum is still new, so I would expect that most existing MFT programs will be modified to also meet requirements for or provide options for the LPCC which is why I listed both on the same line in my list. I've updated my earlier reply with more information about pay and the licensing process.
     
    #15 edwingo, Oct 11, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2011
  18. Vasa Lisa

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    You have already gotten some great information and advice. I started my program in my late forties and am now in my early fifties. It was a major career shift and pay plummet for me and I have never felt more fulfilled and content than I am now that I am working in my LPC Residency.

    My program was highly experiential and that in part contributed to my confidence and skill set - but being older also was a major factor in feeling at home in this work.

    My classmates were for the most part one year out of UG - and they were for the most part sweet and naive. They had an easier time in many ways because they were still in the mode of being willing recipients of "wisdom from above." :) I had a tougher time because I already had an advanced degree and decades of professional experience. And in between - I made some deep friendships with people of all ages that continue long after the degree is done.

    I would look into Saybrook also. James Hollis is there - not sure if they off a MA level in counseling. If at all possible I would look for a program that is CACREP accredited. More and more agencies are requiring this and some states are moving toward requiring this for licensure.

    That said - I have had friends who loved JFK and CIIS - they tended toward being Jungian in their orientation.

    Whichever path you choose - listen to the internal whisper - it will guide you!

    Vasa Lisa
     
    #16 Vasa Lisa, Oct 17, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2012
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  19. Psycnube

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    Excuse me...but :eek::eek::eek:!! Please tell me the names of the schools they applied to.
     
  20. Barefootone

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    Hi edwingo,

    Any updates on your situation? It seems my own journey may be a similar one.

    I had to chuckle when I saw mention of James Hollis. Hollis was likely the catalyst for my decision to consider this career change.

    Thanks and wishing well to all.

    bfo
     
  21. Barefootone

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    I have had friends who loved JFK and CIIS - they tended toward being Jungian in their orientation.

    Hi Lisa,

    Could you explain these acronyms? I am curious.

    Thank you, bfo
     
  22. wigflip

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    I don't know JFK, but if I'm not mistaken, CIIS =
    http://www.ciis.edu/

    bay area, non-traditional
     
  23. edwingo

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    JFK is http://www.jfku.edu/.

    @Barefootone, no real updates on my situation, but one thing I haven't mentioned before is that you can find a list of accredited schools at the California BBS website. Also, I've heard one way to judge quality of program is by looking at exam pass rates by school also on the BBS site. I will also update my previous post with this info.
     
    #21 edwingo, Nov 9, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2011
  24. psypipe

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    For programs In cali that lead to an MFT while obtaining a degree in clinical psychology check

    San Francisco State masters in clinical psychology
    Cal State fullertown masters in clinical psychology
    Pepperdine masters in clinical psychology
     
  25. Vasa Lisa

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    Hey Barefoot one,

    I adore James Hollis! and he too was a catalyst for me to switch careers. I saw a therapist who had studied with Jim (I always call him JAMES since we are not acquainted :) and through that experience I read From Misery to Meaning in Midlife and was hooked.

    I have an acquaintance who is going through the Saybrook program in SF - I am super jealous on one level, and super content on another level - I love my work - and now I can hone my training on things that directly interest me.

    AND - I can't say it enough - if you are going fro Licensed Professional Counselor - go to a CACREP school if you think you ever might want to get licensed and/or change states. More and more applicants for licensure are being scrutinized and delayed if they don't have that 60 credit Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree.

    Cali is an oddball - they just approved the LPC in the last few years - they were the last hold out - so YMMV.

    Vasa Lisa
     
  26. wigflip

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    Re: CA--I believe the LPC takes effect next year, though with the budget crisis, who knows. I called Pepperdine and someone there indicated that they will be retooling their MFT curriculum to provide the additional coursework needed for the LPC license. Extra classes = extra tuition $$$, so I wouldn't be surprised if they followed through with that and if other schools did the same.
     
  27. Barefootone

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    edwingo,

    I just wanted to provide an update to a statement you made earlier in the thread.

    As of 10/2010, the VA now hires LPCs, not just LCSWs. Of course, the challenge now is getting the agency hiring authorities to write the job announcements properly - i.e. - indicating that applications can also be submitted by LPCs.

    Best,

    BFO
     
  28. NewMasters

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    Though this is a two year old conversation....it could have been me.

    I'm fifty and in the SF Bay area considering an MSRC leading to a LPCC at SFSU. There is a comperable path at Sac State but that's quite a ways for me.

    San Diego State has an online MSRC program.

    And on top of all that is the, "Way don't you get an MSW they are more known and marketable." question.
     
  29. NewMasters

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    Edwingo as the orginial poster....you are probably well into your studies by now. What happened? What did you choose and where are you studying?
     
  30. deenie

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    So...you're not too old. I graduated with honors and it was a great experience. Tough but worth it. At least until I try to get my LAC (in NJ) and start my internship! I passed the NCE and am awaiting the paperwork to be done so I can start applying for jobs and accruing hours towards my LPC. I didn't go for the MSW because I liked the approach and coursework of counseling better. Although we do similar things, there are differences. I also had an MA in clinical psych from 1987 and still wound up going for another 60 credits since I felt that a CACREP accredited program would be a safer bet. NJ did not accept my MA since they changed their laws and my degree had to have the word counseling in it :mad: Still, it's done now and I don't have to worry about standardization from state to state. If I meet the NJ requirements, I'll be fine in most every other state. My goal is to practice privately. I wish you the best of luck on your journey. It won't be easy but I did it while raising two elementary aged children. It can be done... :)
     
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  31. Cydpsyche

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    So nice to know there are other non-traditional age students out there. I can't speak much about California since I am in Illinois, but after speaking with a number of mental health professionals I believe that an LCPC will be fine for me. I have no interest in social work and plan to be in private practice. I toyed with the Psy D idea, but I am afraid of the perception of professional schools and a PhD would not be realistic. So, perhaps the process of elimination might help. I also think it is important to state that I believe in this field you will not ever make very much money unless you have the ability to invent and reinvent yourself. That includes networking, marketing, and other business-related skills

    I have come to the conclusion that being over 50 is a huge strength. How does someone think they can truly be an effective therapist when they still have so many life experiences ahead of them? Like marriage, divorce, raising children, losing one's parents, etc. Theory and practice are very different.

    There are very few life issues that I have not experienced and for every bump in the road I consider it a gift in hindsight because it has given me so much empathy and personal strength. One can be smart and young but I doubt that anyone can be young and truly wise.
     
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  32. edwingo

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    Yes, thank you for asking. I have finished the first year of a two year MFT program at Cal State East Bay in Hayward. When I applied to schools, I selected programs based on my particular circumstances such as Bay Area location, full-time program, lower cost (implying a public school), and license type. Quality was also a consideration, however, I was not able to find any data on quality at the time. I therefore applied to public schools first because they had application deadlines that were almost a year in advance. If I failed to get into a public school, I would have applied to a private program. At the time, two public schools offered MFT programs in the Bay Area. I applied to both and was fortunate to get accepted into one.

    In the intervening time, however, I have found good sources of information. Ben Caldwell writes about exactly these issues at http://mftprogress.blogspot.com/. For example, he mentions CACREP and the developing COAMFTE accreditation. Also, he writes about the differences between licenses http://mftprogress.blogspot.com/2012/10/difference-mft-lpc-lpcc-lcsw.html.

    Another aspect of working in this field that I have not seen much written about is having financial resources in the period after a degree but before one gets licensed. In California, one must have on the order of 3000 hours before sitting for a license exam. Over 90% of the hours happen after the degree and takes years working as an intern. The pay may be minimal to non-existent; however, I am unclear on these details since I am not at that point yet. Any further information on making a living as an intern is welcome.
     
  33. JAS333

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    I have a question. I've been seeing people say LPCC in California is not the way to go because it is relatively new, which makes sense. However, what do you think about LPCC's and the entrepreneurial route?
     
  34. CaliMac

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    By entrepreneurial you mean private practice? I cannot speak to that bit do believe that the LPCC provides more inter-state portability. Should you ever decide to leave CA, you'll have an easier time with an LPCC.
     
  35. Goobernut

    Goobernut LMSW

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    The LPCC is more portable out of CA than what license? An individual will have a hard time getting the CA LPCC to transfer to any state that requires CACREP accredited training to get licensed. I know the CA LMFT also has a reduced number of Hours required for licensure (and has the same issue with COMAFTE accreditation).
     
  36. CaliMac

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    Sorry, I assumed CACREP accreditation. It is my understanding, from reading this board, that LPCCs are have more opportunities in other states than MFTs. Also, since the VA values LPCCs and MSWs over LMFTs, that applies as well.

    It's the primary reason I am applying to a program that is CACREP accredited and leads to LMFT and LPCC. Cali is wonderful but so are flexibility and job options.
     
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  37. CaliMac

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    Isn't it 3000 hours? The same as other states? You have much more knowledge than I do in this field.
     
  38. Goobernut

    Goobernut LMSW

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    Ooooooh no. I don't know anything! I just look it up on the internet haha. When Neutralpalette was asking about CA licensure I looked it up because I was curious. The CA LMFT is 3000 hours just like most other states, but CA allows them to use part of the student's practicum hours to count towards licensure hours. If someone who was newly licensed tried to move to another state, the feedback (on random internet forums) is that the new state will most likely make the person complete more hours to make up for the ones that the they used from their practicum. So, for example, lets say an individual earned about 900 hours at their practicum during the masters program. Which is about how many hours I'll have with my MSW, and I'm guessing all the master's programs are kinda similar? At any rate, it may be less. So the new state may require that the applicant get another 900 hours of supervision in the new state because they don't allow practicum hours to be used for licensure hours. This explanation is pretty crappy. I'll edit if I can find a link with a better explanation...

    I can't find the link I remember reading, but this is a very detailed one from CA itself.

    http://www.camft.org/ScriptContent/CAMFTarticles/Interns/CriticalRemind.htm

    and this link:
    http://mftprogress.blogspot.com/2012/03/how-long-does-it-take-to-get-mft.html

    the one above warns that some states will not recognize CA's MFT examination. CA is currently the only state not using the National MFT exam. Be aware that even if your program is CACREP accredited, that doesn't mean another state will accept your CA LMFT hours. 32 states require the school to be COMAFTE accredited to award the license. Here is a chart I found :) Be warned it is just a blog post, so you may need to verify individual state information.

    http://anmftblog.blogspot.com/2012/07/blog-post.html


    VA is really slow to include LPC's in their ranks. They are doing it!! It's just slow going. I still have hope they will integrate more.

    This looks good on more MFT license portability...

    http://mftprogress.blogspot.com/2014/07/license-portability.html
     
    #36 Goobernut, Oct 24, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2014
  39. CaliMac

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    Then why wouldn't a program offering dual licensure get both credentials? And here I thought I was such a smarty pants for finding my little goldmine of a school... Still, imo, the best around but more research is needed. Thanks!
     
  40. constructionist

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    May 24, 2017
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    MSWs are the best master's level degrees. Stay away from Saybrook. They are cons and nutjobs.
     
  41. cybertsiren

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    Jul 29, 2017
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  42. cybertsiren

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2017
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    Hi I was over 50 when I got my MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I chose the cheapest state school I could find. Now that I am trying to find a job to get a clinical license it has been impossible. I'm glad I didn't spend a lot on tuition now that I see the job prospects. You might want to study Spanish to improve your job qualifications. Above all, choose a cheap state school.
     
  43. scorpions

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2016
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    Pre-Optometry
    Have you heard the quote "Age doesn't matter chopping wood" From "Mothers in Manville". I strongly believe this line. And Psychology is a very strong and interesting subject. Wishing you a good career.
     

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