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MFT Job Listing Lingo

Imagine seeing a job listing for a paid position that’s located close to home, involves working with the client population of your dreams, and offers excellent benefits. Excited to learn more, you begin to read over the job description. Upon reaching the “Qualifications” section, you see unfamiliar terminology. You start to question whether you meet the requirements for this position, and you wonder whether it’s worth applying for the position at all.

Many of us have encountered this situation and struggled to make sense of MFT job listing lingo. Fortunately, this blog article can provide clarification on several terms that may be unfamiliar to prelicensed MFTs who are seeking their first paid clinical opportunity!

ABA Therapist/Behavioral Therapist: Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is a treatment modality commonly used with individuals who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Some employers will accept prelicensed MFTs, and they may or may not offer clinical supervision that meets BBS requirements. Other employers will only accept individuals who are working to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), Applied Behavior Analysis Therapist (ABA), or a similar profession. There are also employers who will accept applicants at a bachelor’s or high school level of education, depending on the nature of the job.

Addiction Counselor/Alcohol and Drug (AOD) Counselor/Substance Abuse Counselor/Substance Use Disorder Counselor: Dual-diagnosis treatment is steadily becoming the norm in our field; however, employers are not always in agreement about whether prelicensed MFTs are qualified for these types of positions. Some employers will accept prelicensed MFTs, and they may or may not offer clinical supervision that meets BBS requirements. Other employers will only accept individuals who are working to become a Certified Alcohol Drug Counselor (CADC), Certified Addictions Treatment Counselor (CATC), or a similar profession. There are also employers who will accept applicants at a bachelor’s or high school level of education, depending on the nature of the job.

Bilingual Differential: Employers who are in need of bilingual job applicants will occasionally offer a differential (sometimes referred to as an incentive, bonus, or stipend) in order to encourage them to apply.

Case Manager: Employers who need individuals to perform case management for clients may accept prelicensed MFTs, and they may or may not offer clinical supervision that meets BBS requirements. Some employers will list “Therapist/Case Manager” and other variations as the job title to indicate the position involves both therapeutic and case management duties. There are also employers who will accept applicants at a bachelor’s or high school level of education, depending on the nature of the job.

Good Standing: An applicant who is registered with the BBS and in “good standing” is one who has an active registration and does not have any disciplinary actions on their BBS record.

IMF/IMFT/MFTI/MFTT: Employers will occasionally use the first three acronyms when referring to MFT registered interns, and the fourth acronym when referring to MFT trainees.

License Eligible: This term refers to an individual who is eligible to become a licensed mental health professional (LMFT, LCSW, LPCC, etc.) in California. Applicants are usually required to be registered with the BBS (IMF, ASW, PCCI, etc.); however, some employers will accept trainees as well. Applicants who are “license eligible” do not need to have all of their hours toward licensure completed; however, some employers may require applicants to have a minimum number of hours completed.

License Waivered: Similar to “license eligible,” this term usually refers to an individual who is eligible to become a licensed mental health professional (LMFT, LCSW, LPCC, etc.) in California. In some cases, “license waivered” refers to an individual who is licensed in another state and is working toward licensure in California; however, the first definition is far more common.

Licensed Practitioner of the Healing Arts (LPHA): This term is occasionally used by agencies that permit various types of individuals to function as the “Head of Service” for clinical settings. Examples of LPHAs may include (licensed and prelicensed/unlicensed) marriage and family therapists, social workers, professional clinical counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, licensed vocational nurses, and psychiatric technicians. Professions that fall within the LPHA category may differ from county to county, so be sure to read job descriptions carefully before applying.

Mental Health Specialist/Worker: This term may refer to an individual who is at the master’s or bachelor’s level of education in psychology, social work, and related fields. These positions may or may not offer clinical supervision that meets BBS requirements.

Preferred/Required: In some cases, employers will state a preference or requirement for bilingual applicants or applicants with specific types of experience/training. When there is a preference, applicants who do not possess these skill sets are still welcome to apply, assuming they meet other qualifications listed by employers. When there is a requirement, applicants are generally discouraged from applying and are more likely to be ruled out during the screening/hiring process.

Prelicensed/Unlicensed: Similar to “license eligible” and “licensed waivered,” this term usually refers to an individual who is eligible to become a licensed mental health professional (LMFT, LCSW, LPCC, etc.) in California. Employers may or may not consider trainees to be “prelicensed” or “unlicensed,” so be sure to seek clarification when job descriptions are not specific in this regard.

School Counselor: This term’s use will vary depending on the school program/district. A Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) Credential may be required by some employers, which can be obtained through additional education and training. Some school programs/districts will accept licensed and/or prelicensed mental health professionals who do not have a PPS Credential; however, clinical supervision that meets BBS requirements may not be offered if funding is limited. Some school counselors split their time between clinical and academic/administrative counselor, so be sure to read job descriptions carefully before applying.

Are there other terms you would add to this list? Share and define them in the comments section below!

About the Author

Robin Andersen is the founder of Prelicensed. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT 100070) who is passionate about giving back to MFT registered interns, trainees, and students by maintaining this valuable resource. More information about Robin can be found here.

1 Comment

  1. Elisha P says:

    Thank you, your blog posts are super helpful! I’ve heard some CA public schools require the PPS credential for school counselors while other districts will hire LMFTs. Do you know why they have different requirements or how difficult it is to get your PPS once you have your LMFT?

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