2019 Law Changes: California Licensing Process Changes for LCSWs

In the coming year, there will be many law changes that you need to be aware of as a Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) licensee, registrant or applicant. While this document highlights some of the bigger changes, the Board highly recommends reading the bills referenced for greater clarity. The discussed changes become effective on January 1, 2019, unless otherwise noted.

It is recommended that you sign up for email notifications from the BBS to be alerted to all of these changes as they go into effect: https://www.dca.ca.gov/webapps/bbs/subscribe.php.

Below is a summary of changes to the LCSW supervision and licensing process:

Supervisor Qualifications and Responsibilities

There are several law changes that apply to existing supervisors and individuals who wish to supervise associate marriage and family therapists (AMFTs), associate clinical social workers (ASWs) or associate professional clinical counselors (APCCs). Highlights are below. For complete information, please see AB 93.

  • The Board now has the authority to audit supervisors to ensure they meet the qualifications to supervise. All supervisors must keep records of his or her qualifications for 7 years from the termination of supervision to prove they meet the qualifications in case of an audit. Additional information about the audits will be available in the Board’s upcoming newsletter, to be released in January.
  • A supervisor must meet all the following requirements; some of which have been changed by AB 93:
  • Held an active license for at least 2 years of the 5-year period immediately preceding any supervision as an LPCC, LMFT, licensed psychologist, LCSW, a licensed physician and surgeon certified in psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, or an equivalent out-of-state license;
  • For at least 2 of the past 5 years immediately preceding supervision, the supervisor has practiced psychotherapy or provided direct clinical supervision of psychotherapy performed by marriage and family therapist trainees, AMFTs, APCCs or ASWs. Supervision of psychotherapy performed by social work interns or professional clinical counselor trainees is also acceptable if the supervision is substantially equivalent to the supervision required for Board registrants;
  • Has and maintains a current, active California license that is not under suspension or probation, as an LMFT, LPCC, LCSW, a licensed psychologist, or a physician and surgeon certified in psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology;
  • Has received supervision training as required by the Board;
  • Has not provided therapeutic services to the supervisee;
  • Is not a spouse, domestic partner or relative of the supervisee; and
  • Does not have or has not had a personal, professional or business relationship with the supervisee that undermines the authority or effectiveness of the supervision.
  • Specifies certain actions that are a supervisor’s responsibility (For complete information, please see AB 93).
  • Group supervisors are required to ensure that the amount and degree of supervision is appropriate for each supervisee.
  • Permits an ASW or APCC supervisor to arrange for alternative supervision during his or her sick leave if in compliance with the law’s supervision requirements. (This provision was already specified in the law for supervisors of AMFTs.)
  • If a setting is not a private practice, and if the supervisor is not employed by the supervisee’s employer or is a volunteer, the supervisee’s employer and supervisor must sign a written oversight agreement.

Changes to Required Supervised Experience

Below are some highlights of changes to supervised experience requirements for AMFTs, ASWs, and APCCs. For complete information, please see AB 93.

  • Removes the limit of 15 supervisees in a corporation. Supervisors at private practices or corporations can continue to supervise up to 3 supervisees each.
  • The law now allows triadic supervision in addition to individual supervision and group supervision. Triadic supervision is defined as face-to-face supervision between one supervisor and two supervisees. Allows the 52 weeks of required individual supervision to now be either individual, triadic, or a combination of both.
  • Clarifies that consultation or peer discussion does not qualify as supervised experience.
  • Once all experience hours are gained, a pre-licensee must have at least one hour of direct supervisor contact per week for each setting in which direct clinical counseling is performed. Further supervision for non-clinical practice once all hours are gained is at the supervisor’s discretion.

The 90-Day Rule

The 90-day rule is a clause in the law that allows applicants (previously only marriage and family therapy and professional clinical counselor applicants) to count supervised experience hours gained in between the time of their degree award date, and the date the Board issues their associate registration number, if the applicant applies for the registration within 90 days of the date that their degree was granted. The following is an overview of changes that apply to the 90-day rule. For complete information about the law changes, see AB 93 (for AMFT and APCC applicants) and AB 456 (for ASW applicants).

  • Beginning January 1, 2019, associate clinical social worker (ASW) applicants can begin utilizing the 90-day rule. (Previously, the 90-day rule did not apply to ASW applicants.)
  • To utilize the 90-day rule, an applicant must apply for registration and the Board must receive the application within 90 days of the qualifying degree being granted. The applicant is not allowed to work or volunteer in a private practice until the actual registration is issued.
  • For all (ASW, AMFT, and APCC) applicants who complete graduate study on or after January 1, 2020, there is a change to the 90-day rule. For these applicants, hours may only be counted under the 90-day rule if the applicant can prove that prior to gaining those hours, the workplace required completed Live Scan fingerprinting. To prove this, the applicant must obtain a copy of his or her completed “State of California Request for Live Scan Service” form and provide it to the Board when applying for licensure.

Other Supervised Experience Requirements Specific to LCSWs and LCSW Applicants

Aside from adding the 90-day rule for ASW applicants, AB 93 made the following changes specific to LCSWs and LCSW applicants. (See AB 93 for complete details):

  • Reduces total required supervised experience hours from 3,200 to 3,000. Reduces the maximum allowed non-clinical hours from 1,200 to 1,000.
  • The 13 weeks of required supervision by an LCSW may now be either individual or triadic supervision.
  • Disallows ASWs from being supervised in a private practice by a person not employed by the private practice. (§4996.23.3(b)) Specifies that an ASW may only perform services where his or her employer regularly conducts business and services. In a private practice, the ASW’s supervisor must be employed by the same employer and must practice at the same site or must be an owner of the private practice. If the site is incorporated, the supervisor must be employed full-time at the site and be actively engaged in performing professional services there. (These provisions were already in LMFT and LPCC law.)
  • Adds a provision already in LMFT and LPCC law, that educational institutions and supervisors should encourage their students/supervisees to undergo counseling or psychotherapy and are encouraged to assist them in finding it at a reasonable cost.
  • Requires ASW supervisors to evaluate the site where their supervisee will be gaining experience to determine they are in compliance with the law for acceptable supervision sites (already in LMFT and LPCC law).
  • Specifies that ASW supervisors must not have provided therapeutic services to their supervisee. Also clarifies in law that ASW supervisors must maintain a current and active license in good standing. (Language is being made consistent with LMFT and LPCC statute.)
  • Adds three new unprofessional conduct provisions (4992.3(t), (u), and (v)). These provisions are already in LMFT and LPCC law and were added to LCSW law for consistency.

Suicide Risk Assessment and Intervention Coursework

Effective January 1, 2021, applicants for licensure for each of the Board’s four license types (LMFT, LEP, LCSW, and LPCC), as well as all Board licensees (upon renewal), must have completed at least 6 hours of coursework or supervised experience in suicide risk assessment and intervention, as follows (This is a one-time requirement; see AB 1436 for further information):

Applications for Licensure Received on or after 1/1/2021:

The requirement must be met using one of the following methods:

  • It can be obtained as part of the degree program. The applicant needs to provide the Board with a written certification from the registrar or training director of the school or degree program from which he/she graduated stating the required coursework was either required by the degree program or was part of the coursework completed by the applicant.
  • It can be obtained as part of the applicant’s supervised experience. The applicant needs to provide the Board with a written certification from the director of training for the program, or from his or her primary supervisor, stating that the training was included in the applicant’s supervised experience.
  • It can be obtained by taking a continuing education course from a provider that meets the Board’s continuing education provider requirements. The applicant needs to provide the Board with the course’s certificate of completion.

For All Existing Licensees (Effective First Renewal Period, Reactivation or Reinstatement on or After 1/1/2021):

Upon the first renewal period occurring on or after 1/1/2021 (or upon reactivation or reinstatement on or after this date) an existing licensee must sign under penalty of perjury that he or she is in compliance with this coursework requirement via one of the three methods described above. The licensee does not need to submit proof (other than certifying under penalty of perjury) but does need to retain proof of the coursework or experience in case of a Board audit.

  • In the coming months, the Board will be contacting in-state school programs to let them know that the new 6-hour requirement is coming. It will also be asking them, if already in their curriculum, to identify the course(s) it is located in.

Criminal Convictions

Effective July 1, 2020, the Board may only deny a license on grounds that an applicant has been convicted of a crime or subject to formal discipline if one of the following conditions are met:

  1. The applicant has been convicted of a crime within 7 years of the date of their application that is substantially related to the qualifications, functions or duties of the profession. The 7-year limit does not apply to convictions for a serious felony (defined in Penal Code §1192.7), or for those who must register as a sex offender as described in Penal Code §290(d)(2) or (3).
  2. The applicant has been subject to formal discipline by a licensing board within the past 7 years if it was for professional misconduct that would have been cause for disciplinary action by the Board and is substantially related to the profession. (The prior disciplinary action cannot be used to deny if it was based on a dismissed or expunged conviction.)

For a full description of the changes related to licensing and convictions, see AB 2138. The Board is in the process of developing regulations to comply with the provisions of this bill. Information about the new process, as well as instructions for applicants with convictions who are applying during the transition period (the period just before July 1, 2020), will be available before the effective date.