Why Therapists Are Getting Licensed in Multiple States

Getting licensed in multiple states used to be relatively uncommon. But a number of social shifts are making it so that an increasing number of mental health professionals pursue and maintain licenses in two or more states at once. While holding multiple licenses isn’t for everyone, many find that the expanded pool of potential clients that comes with an additional license is well worth the cost of maintaining that extra license. 

Typically, you don’t need to live in—or even have an office in—a state to get a license there. You just go through the application process for the licensure pathway most relevant to your current professional standing. Those pathways can be different depending on whether you’re prelicensed, currently licensed, or have a specific national credential. When considering getting licensed in multiple states, there are certain opportunities that come along with it.

Larger Clientele with Telehealth

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a massive shift in mental health service delivery from in-person care to telehealth. Clinicians have realized that, in many cases, they don’t need a physical office. And providing telehealth services to a client in a different town isn’t especially different from providing services to a client in another state or country.

Adding licenses in other states allows you to expand your telehealth practice. It means more prospective clients can benefit from your services. Of course, you want to make sure you’re following all applicable legal and ethical rules for telehealth when providing services online. Many states have specific telehealth requirements, which can vary by state and license type.

A telehealth practice doesn’t just mean that your clients can be elsewhere—it means you can be too. Instead of being tethered to your physical office, you may find that providing services via telehealth expands the places you can work from, giving you new opportunities to travel without losing out on practice income. 

Better Opportunity for Specialization in Your Practice

Closely linked to telehealth is the ability to deeply specialize. Even in a large city, hyperspecialization can be difficult with an in-person practice. At any given time, there may just not be that many people close to you who fit your specialization and are looking for services. But with telehealth and a multi-state practice, you may find that you can specialize in extremely narrow problems and populations and have a thriving practice. 

Especially if you’re focused on providing care to marginalized populations, you have a greater reach into some of the most vulnerable parts of those populations that may not have access to metropolitan areas with a greater density of providers. 

Greater Chance for Continuation of Care

Simply put, people are moving every year, with 2020 showing a considerable uptick in people moving out of state—no doubt a result of the pandemic. And with licensure being a known barrier to continuing one’s career in a new state, some clinicians have become proactive in seeking licensure in states they may move to in the future. That way, when they do move, they will not suffer a delay of up to several months in setting up their practice in their new home state.

States are also understanding that when licensed professionals move, it’s better for both the professional and the public when that professional can get to work quickly in their new home state. California’s Board of Behavioral Sciences recently made major adjustments to their licensure process for those with active licenses in good standing in another state. 

If you’re a master’s-level professional and you’ve been licensed for two years in your home state before moving to California, you no longer need to have your degree and supervised experience reevaluated, or retake a clinical exam. Other states are pursuing similar changes. And professional groups are working on a variety of interstate compacts such as PSYPACT that can further simplify the process of earning the right to practice in multiple states.

Consider Getting Licensed in Multiple States

The common pathways to additional-state licensure depends on where you are in your career journey. It’s important to understand the specific process in your state as well as knowing which states have some of the greatest demand for licensed professionals. As a consequence of the pandemic, there are quite a few projects going on around interstate compacts. While each board’s process can be a bit different, there is a shared understanding of the benefits of allowing professional portability—and real movement in the right direction on the issue. 

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