The road to licensure requires what seems like endless years of studying and supervised clinical work, including passing state licensure examinations. But once achieved, you realize that the rigorous training you succumbed to in order to attain this milestone is completely worth it.

However, why should you stop there? That question may give the impression that I am unreasonable and maybe even ridiculous, but we all know that to practice psychology, the key requirement is to meet your state’s education and licensure prerequisites and it does not require any type of board or specialty certification. However, with the evolving nature of health care and the demands of the nation’s mounting mental health challenges, it is a question that every licensed clinician needs to ask themselves.

It is a question that I asked myself because after licensure, as a professional counselor, I knew that I needed to evolve as a clinician in order to always provide my patients with the best possible care and treatment through learning new, specialized skills. I recognized that having verification of a requisite amount of knowledge in a specialty area was a great way to advance my professional development, improve my marketability and broaden my career options as a clinical mental health professional.

Since asking myself that question, I have obtained counseling board certification as a national certified counselor (NCC) and have become a board-certified telehealth provider (BC-TMH). I also completed my PhD in clinical psychology with specialty concentrations in forensic, health and neuropsychology.

Certification Gives You an Advantage

Professional certification is an additional voluntary process that can be found in practically every industry. Certification gives you an advantage. Not only does it provide external validation that you have the abilities needed to succeed in a specialized area, but it also aids in the cultivation and recognition of professionals, as it distinguishes you from others in your field.

It demonstrates that as a professional, you are prepared to earn, maintain and authenticate credible professional expertise and proficiency, and that you have the discipline to meet the strict standards set to receive the credential. Certification also keeps professionals on their A-game, as upkeep of one’s credentials shows a devotion to their field and the promise of improvement through continued education and training.   

Telehealth Certification Helps Fill the Provider Shortage

For example, the telehealth arena is a growing specialty which helps to fill the critical provider shortage occurring nationwide. With telehealth services, such as video conferencing and smartphone apps, many more clients can connect with certified practitioners than ever before. The mental health provider shortage has been an issue for years and is only escalating. 

According to the National Rural Health Association, for every 100,000 rural clients, there are only 43 specialists available for care. This is a major reason why these individuals have such difficulty accessing life-saving treatment.  

The National Institute for Mental Health has reported that in a given year, almost one-fifth of American adults have diagnosable mental conditions, and by one evaluation, barely half are treated because the provision of mental health care has been challenging due to inadequate access to the costly services.

That said, with the advent of telecommunication technology, providing mental health care using technology is making it possible to bring life-changing services to populations who previously lacked access.

Consistent with research by Langarizadeh and colleagues (2017), numerous studies have validated the efficacy of telehealth services as a pliable solution to the care of patients with mental health conditions, with promising results. [1] Technology embodies much of the future in health care, and telehealth offers practitioners a wonderful opportunity while completely transforming the industry. This is why, as a licensed professional, you should consider practicing telehealth in a legal, ethical, and clinically effective way by becoming certified.

Telehealth Helps Clinicians and Patients

Telehealth is improving quality of care far and wide with significant benefits. These include: 

1. Increased Access to Care

Internet-based technologies have helped reduce mental health disparities by providing increased access to mental health care for individuals who, for an array of reasons, such as travel distance, finances, and lack of transportation, are not able to meet with a practitioner face-to-face. Telehealth services are filling existing gaps by delivering clinical services to men, women and children who would not otherwise be able to receive treatment.

2. Cost-Effectiveness

Telehealth is a cost-effective approach to mental health care. This is a major concern as costs rise across the board. Telehealth is a way to reduce travel time and any travel-related costs; it also extends a patient’s availability without their having to take time off from work. People who are unable to miss work could end up prolonging care, which could negatively affect their health. It also broadens a practitioner’s flexibility with improved scheduling and possible opportunities to increase their patient loads as there may be no need to commute to an office.

3. Reduced Wait Times

Due to the shortage of mental health providers, both new and long-time mental health care patients have problems finding suitable, timely care. With telehealth services, virtual platforms decrease the frustrating demand for services for patientsby removing the obstacles to see practitioners. Issues can be quickly addressed as practitioners can use telehealth to meet patient needs with a simple online meeting instead of having the patient come to an office for needed care. Additionally, telehealth reduces the time it takes to receive care by offering more accessibility to see another practitioner, as more states are relaxing geographic telehealth restrictions.

4. Increasing Acceptance

The stigmatization associated with mental health disorders and receiving treatment is one of the most pertinent hindrances to persons looking for and receiving help. With virtual mental health services, that stigma is gone. Access to care from the comfort of one’s home is easy and convenient while providing users with complete privacy and confidentiality.

5. Efficacy

Research studies, such as one by Hilty and colleagues (2013), continue to support the effectiveness of telehealth when compared to in‐person services. [2] Video conferencing is as effective as face-to-face treatments, and by offering a multitude of convenient, internet-based technological systems, telehealth is on the rise and well on its way to becoming a very effective substitute for those providing and receiving mental health services.

While telehealth alone is not the answer to all of the difficulties that take place when it comes to across-the-board access to quality mental health care, it does provide a tangible means to an end. By removing obstacles to things like location, privacy, cost, transportation and expediency, the mental health care system can concentrate on key stumbling blocks including the absence of harmonized information technology‐based data resources, inadequate evidence for mental health quality procedures, lack of consistent provider training and support and cultural deterrents to incorporating mental health care within universal health environments. [3]

Making the Next Move

Today there are more ways than ever to determine your next move in life. For those who have decided to take the next step and go beyond licensure, those individuals should make it a priority to find out and understand what is necessary to be able to practice without limitations by obtaining specialized certification. I know I did, and as cliché as this may sound, professionally, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I worked very hard to obtain licensure, and additional certifications provided me with a more significant opportunity. They demonstrated that I am proficient and capable, equipped with expertise and an enhanced understanding of the body of knowledge in my field. Certification signifies a mark of excellence and places you a step ahead of the competition.

It is never too early or too late to think about certification, as the field of mental health is diverse and there are several prospective paths and numerous post-license specialties that can enhance your career. However, the process will take up a lot of your time and energy.

Therefore, before you embark on your journey, be aware that it is hard work, but you will be rewarded with a great asset, a sense of accomplishment, and personal satisfaction that is truly worth the effort.

References

[1] Langarizadeh, M., Tabatabaei, M. S., Tavakol, K., Naghipour, M., Rostami, A., & Moghbeli, F. (2017). Telemental health care, an effective alternative to conventional mental care: A systematic review. Acta Informatica Medica25(4), 240.

[2] Hilty, D. M., Ferrer, D. C., Parish, M. B., Johnston, B., Callahan, E. J., & Yellowlees, P. M. (2013). The effectiveness of telemental health: a 2013 review. Telemedicine and e-Health19(6), 444-454.

[3] Kilbourne, A. M., Beck, K., Spaeth-Rublee, B., Ramanuj, P., O’Brien, R. W., Tomoyasu, N., & Pincus, H. A. (2018). Measuring and improving the quality of mental health care: a global perspective. World psychiatry: official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA)17(1), 30–38. doi:10.1002/wps.20482

Carnell Colebrook-Claude, PhD, NCC

Dr. Carnell Colebrook-Claude holds a doctorate in psychology with emphases in clinical psychology, health psychology and neuropsychology. She is also a national board certified licensed professional counselor, licensed professional clinical counselor, licensed clinical professional counselor, licensed independent mental health practitioner, licensed associate sex offender provider and a board certified tele-mental health provider. She completed her PhD at Fielding Graduate University. Carnell has master’s degrees in professional counseling, clinical psychology, and Christian counseling, as well as a graduate certificate in teaching and learning. She has been inducted into the Psi Chi International Honor Society in psychology, and the Pi Lambda Theta Honor Society in education. She has over 19 years of therapeutic experience and is amongst a small percentage of individuals within the profession to have such an interdisciplinary background combining so many specialty areas. She also enjoys conducting research studies which have resulted in her creating an original assessment tool, the Adolescent’s Internal Environmental Locus of Control (AINELOC).
Carnell Colebrook-Claude, PhD, NCC

Latest posts by Carnell Colebrook-Claude, PhD, NCC (see all)