Nearly every state in the U.S. requires continuing education (CE) for renewing a psychology license. The requirements vary from Idaho’s 30 hours every three years to 60 hours every two years in Vermont, Arizona, and Washington. There are a few states that have no required amount of continuing ed credits and South Dakota inexplicably asks for “some” with no guidance on the exact amount.
In New England, the requirements vary. New Hampshire and Maine ask for 40 hours every two years, Rhode Island is at 24 and Massachusetts requires 20. Of these hours, each state allows for a certain amount to be completed online or by reading pertinent information but the rest must be done at live, interactive events.
“First and foremost, the state boards require it to ensure the safety of the public,” said Jessica Leonard Ph.D, chair of the continuing education committee and president-elect for the New Hampshire Psychological Association.
In order to continue practicing psychology in all but three U.S. states, professionals must fulfill obligations to learn something about their profession. Some of those CE credits may be required to be around suicide prevention, drug addiction, veteran care, or basic ethics. The remainder may be in any direction that suits the practitioner, as long as it is through an approved program.
For many psychologists, fulfilling continuing ed requirements is an unavoidable part of the job but not one that is seen as a benefit in and of itself. Everyone knows why CEs are a good idea and there may be many interesting topics out there, but finding the time can be difficult. Registering for a seminar means losing billable hours in addition to attendance fees and travel costs.
And, it’s even more difficult to encourage people to pursue more than the basic requirements. Ilene Grueneberg, Ph.D, the continuing education chair for the Connecticut Psychological Association, commented that the CPA has had trouble finding find topics that fill a room.
“No matter what CE event we do,” she said, “the average attendance is never very high. Of course, it has been only a few years since the state passed requirements for CE credits for psychologists. But even with that, we thought attendance would skyrocket and it hasn’t.”
So, why should a psychologist invest time and money into continuing education beyond basic requirements? For one thing, as Leonard pointed out, it’s a way to encourage personal growth.
“Personally, I like to go out and engage with other people,” said Leonard. “But also, to become a licensed psychologist, you have to have a love of learning to stay in school for so long and that is why I enjoy seminars, workshops, etc.”
Continuing education can also help to keep psychologists up-to-date with new work being done in the field, expand base knowledge or grow a practice in new areas. It’s one way to further one’s own business model.
“Keeping up with new research techniques,” said Grueneberg, “and expanding the depth of what we know is a way of continuing to distinguish oneself from other professionals.”
With local programs, continuing ed gets psychologists out into the community and provides networking opportunities. Spending all day, every day, with clients can make it hard to make connections with other professionals.
“In New Hampshire, a large number of psychologists are in private practice so there is little opportunity for face to face with colleagues,” said Leonard.
“It is really easy to get stuck and stale,” added Grueneberg.
Organizers are looking for ways to better serve attendees at their events.
“One of the things we did was to offer a round table format and label tables by geographic area so people could meet others in their local communities,” Leonard added.
Beyond the basic requirements, there is no limit to the variety of continuing education options available – from learning more about teletherapy to taking courses on fundamentals of running a business.
There are classes on medical cannabis, working with military veterans dealing with guilt and trauma, narcissism in youth, and more.
Courses are offered by private companies as well as state and national professional associations. The American Psychological Association has links to hundreds of courses at https://www.apa.org/education/ce/index.
Connecticut PA is offering workshops throughout the day as part of its annual conference in October and New Hampshire PA is working to introduce interactive live stream to its courses to provide options for more rural psychologists to joi
By Catherine Robertson Souter