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Fresh research and novel treatment methodologies continue to advance the mental health field. This presents exciting opportunities for mental health providers to make their treatments more effective and help more people. It also requires providers to keep up with new information every year. Continuing education credits for mental health professionals help you stay on the cutting edge of knowledge to better serve the clients who come to you for help. All mental health professionals must complete a certain number of these continuing education (CE) credits to maintain licensure. The number of credits, and the types of classes that fulfill them, differ between provider types.

How do you find these continuing education opportunities? A few go-to sources will keep you supplied with the courses, seminars, and books you need to continually grow in your profession.

We’ve partnered with AATBS to provide you with everything you need to know to get started.

Know your CE requirements

Every mental health practitioner should know the requirements for their type of licensure at the national and state level. CE requirements change often due to the rapid growth of the mental health field, so check with your national and state licensing boards on a regular basis. Keep in mind that some state boards have additional standards on top of the national standards, so check with every state in which you are authorized to practice.

Once you know your CE credit goals, it’s time to find the courses that meet them. Some CE courses “count” toward many different types of licensures. You might find a course that provides CE credit for both psychologists and counselors, for example. Some classes are only approved for a specific discipline, such as psychiatry.

But where do you find these courses?

How to find continuing education credits for psychologists

If you’re a psychologist, the American Psychological Association is a great place to start hunting. The APA facilitates online options and has a CE library searchable by topic, credit number, or course type (for instance, article vs. video).

Beyond the APA, a wealth of independent organizations also offer CE credits for mental health. Most serve several types of providers including psychologists, counselors, social workers, and more, and will allow you to search their CE databases by licensure type.

  • APA-approved CE credits at affordable prices for psychologists, marriage and family therapists, counselors, social workers, and substance abuse counselors. Their searchable database returns results by number of credits or by licensure type.
  • The Zur Institute: CE courses, plus a tool to help you search for your state’s licensing requirement.
  • Pesi: Online learning through webinars, seminars, courses, books, and more.
  • Exam preparation, coaching, and CE courses for a variety of behavioral health disciplines.

How to find continuing education credits for therapists and counselors

In general, therapists and counselors will find many CE options from the same sources as psychologists. However, a few counseling-specific organizations provide CE credits aimed specifically at therapists (and possibly not applicable as credits for psychologists).

Start with the American Counseling Association. Their online continuing education center allows you to work on the classes of your choice at your own pace. The annual ACA Conference & Expo also gives credits to attendees. Members of ACA get 12 free online CE courses each year.

You might also try the Psychotherapy Networker magazine which provides online courses, articles, and books.

You might be able to fulfill credits through other services you already use. You can access courses through the therapist directory GoodTherapy if you are listed there, and some regional healthcare systems help their medical and mental healthcare providers find appropriate classes.

Don’t forget to pursue learning on specialized topics. SAMHSA, for example, has CE resources pertaining specifically to substance abuse. Connect with national and state-level organizations dedicated to the specific diagnoses you treat to see if they can suggest resources that will give you credits and strengthen your specialty knowledge.

How to find continuing education credits for psychiatrists

Unlike other mental health professionals who must earn CE credits, psychiatrists require CME (continuing medical education) credits to maintain licensure. This is because psychiatry is a medical degree.

Psychiatrists looking to further their education will want to check  the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, which sets the CME standards for psychiatrists. They have information on credit goals and where to find the courses that meet them. Also connect with state-level psychiatric organizations for suggestions.

Other considerations for continuing education in mental health

Know the timeframe in which you must complete your credits. This can vary by provider type and state, but generally speaking, you must earn your CE credits within the span of 2-3 years, with a typical credit load of 30-40 total credits in that time. Check with your licensure board for exact details. Keep in mind that some licenses require specific training courses as part of those credit hours.

Financial expenditures for continuing education will probably depend on your employment status. If you’re an independent provider working alone, all of the costs to maintain your license fall on you. If, on the other hand, you work with multiple providers in a larger practice, your practice may allot every provider a certain amount of money to put toward CE credits. And, of course, there are plenty of opportunities online for free CE credits, particularly if you are a member of a national or state organization in your field.

Continued learning as a mental health provider is well worth the time commitment. You’ll gain knowledge and confidence, be inspired by new ideas, and become more effective at helping your clients nurture their mental health and overcome challenging conditions. Happy learning!