Understanding Continuing Education Credits (CE) and State Rules

Continuing education credits (CE) and state rules can be difficult to understand. Here is some information that can make understanding these rules easier to digest: 

1. Professions in each state are regulated differently. 

A. In some states, each mental health-related profession has its own regulatory board. For example, there are different regulatory boards in Alabama for each profession: the Alabama State Board of Social Work Examiners, the Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling, and the Alabama Board of Examiners in Marriage and Family Therapy. Search for what board is in your state that is specific to your profession. 

2. In some states, there is a mix, with some mental health professions regulated by one board and others regulated by other boards. For example, in Delaware, social work is regulated by the Board of Social Work Examiners while both counseling and marriage and family therapy are regulated by the Board of Mental Health and Chemical Dependency Professionals. 

3. In some states, all mental health-related professions are regulated by the same board. For example, in California, all three professions (counseling, social work, and marriage and family therapy) are regulated by the Board of Behavioral Science. 

a. Sometimes each profession under the board all have the same rules they follow for continuing education. For example, in California, social workers, counselors, and marriage and family therapists follow the same rules for CE. 

b. Other times, each profession, even though they are under the same board, still have different rules they have to follow. For example, even though social work, counseling, and marriage and family therapy are all regulated under the Illinois Division of Professional regulation, each profession has to follow a different set of rules. 

2. Whether or not a board accepts CE that has been approved by an entity like the APA is not as simple as “yes” or “no. 

Here are some examples of some of the different ways that this question might be answered:

A. Never accepted. For Counselors in the state of Alabama, CE can only be accepted from a list of providers recognized by the board. While APA-approved programs are acceptable for CE, a program that is only approved by the ASWB and not one of the other board-approved providers would never be accepted for CE. 

2. Always accepted. For counselors in Vermont, programs approved by the American Psychological Association will always be accepted for CE, without the need for the board to review any details about the program. 

3. Can possibly be accepted. For example, in Alaska, programs certified by the Association of Social Work Boards can be accepted for CE as long as they “contribute directly to the professional competency of a social worker” and is “directly related to the skills and knowledge required to implement social work principles and methods as defined in AS 08.95.990.” 

4. Can possibly be accepted. For counselors in Vermont, while programs approved by the American Psychological Association are automatically accepted for CE, programs that are only approved by the Association of Social Work Boards are not automatically accepted. However, in Vermont’s rules, programs from providers that are not pre-approved can possibly still be accepted for CE as long as they meet certain criteria, such as clearly relating to “maintaining skills for the safe and competent practice of counseling” In this case, an interested person would need to submit the course through an online application to the board in order for the program to be approved. 

Most of the time, programs can be accepted, but only if some other criteria are met. 

3 “Approved by” or “Sponsored by” are different from “Offered by.” While this may seem obvious or unimportant, understanding this distinction matters. 

For example, CBI is approved by (aka sponsored by) the American Psychological Association to offer CE. In the state of New York, the American Psychological Association is on the list of approved providers of CE for social workers. While reading this might make it seem like programs offered by CBI are acceptable, they actually are not. New York’s rules only mean that

programs directly offered by the American Psychological Association can be accepted. CBI itself would have to be on the approved list of programs to have its programs accepted for CE. CBI has applied for this approval and, as of May 2020, CBI is on that list. 

4 Other language matters too and can vary from state to state. To understand what the rule is, it is important to read and think about the language carefully. 

A. Boards sometimes have different rules depending on if a program is live, recorded, in-person, distance, home study, online, interactive, non-interactive, etc. And, all these words can be defined differently to different boards. Some may consider CBI programs to be just like in-person programs because they are interactive. Others may consider our programs “home study” because they are not in the same location as the trainee. As of 9/9/2020, all CBI programs are live interactive webinars - but this may not always be the case. It is important to understand where specific programs fit into the rules. Often, in the first part of a set of rules, there are several definitions at the top that can help us know what definitions the board is using. B. In addition, how different mental and behavioral health professionals are defined varies from state to state. For example, some states allow bachelors level individuals to obtain a social worker license where in other states, individuals can only obtain a social work license at a master’s degree or above. Sometimes, the CE requirements differ for people at different levels of licensure in a state or who are in different roles, such as that of a supervisor or an intern. Most of the time, the difference is in the number of hours of CE the individual needs to do to renew their license. Sometimes individuals need to do CE on certain additional topics. It is important to recognize that the requirements can differ not just by state and profession, but also by what type of license specifically a person has in their profession. 

5 Rules change sometimes. 

Sometimes the boards regulating these agencies change their rules about what is or is not acceptable for CE or even if CE is needed at all. Sometimes the boards themselves change, getting new names or new responsibilities. It’s important to keep in mind that information that is saved about the regulations for a profession are important to periodically update and that the board itself is the final source of information about the rules. 

6 The licensing board is ALWAYS the final source on rules.

This is the most important guideline to understand. Sometimes agencies like us, or other bodies or people may learn about, interpret, or teach you about rules relating to CE for your profession or state. However, these rules are nuanced and can sometimes change. For the most up-to-date and accurate information, the board should always be considered the final source on any rules relating to professional regulation or CE. Boards often have an email, phone number, address, or contact form on their websites so you can reach out to them directly. 

Written by Alysse Littleberry 

Edited by Brittany Steiner

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