By Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP
Just the other day, I had a session with a supervisee who wanted to explore if she should get her clinical social work license or pursue certification in a particular bodywork modality that she had started to study. Another supervisee was looking at choices in trauma-informed certification and was seeking feedback about what choice might enhance the credentials she had already earned. A third wondered if she needed to be certified at all.
One of the most frequently asked questions that I get as a supervisor and trainer is about certification, whether relating to psychodrama or other fields and disciplines.
First of all, no matter what the certification, becoming certified is an investment of time, money and energy. It’s good to become really conscious about why you are thinking of becoming certified, what you are hoping to get from the certification and how the certification will benefit you.
Certification is not licensure
Certificates differ from licensure. A license is awarded by the state to legally work with a particular professional title after a test has been passed. A certification is the result of a course of study that gives documentation of your study and may or may not involve testing or any proof of competency.
Anyone can offer a certificate. Certifications are typically offered by continuing education institutes and businesses, colleges and universities, and individual practitioners who have packaged and are teaching their own expertise or model.
And there are zillions of certifications out there. Some of them are rather superficial, taking place on a day or weekend and with talking heads and a slide show, a video or two and information that is dry and tired. Other programs are quite rigorous, offering months or even years of study as well as the opportunity to practice and review your work with a coach or supervisor, taking tests and passing levels of growth.
Here are some general questions to ask yourself:
Focusing on psychodrama, sociometry and group psychotherapy
Because my primary certification is in psychodrama, sociometry and group psychotherapy, and I am able to teach classes with credits recognized by the American Board of Examiners in Psychodrama and Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy, I’ll focus mostly on this credential.
When you archive the credential of Certified Practitioner of Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy, you will know that you have achieved something special. This credential demands 780 hours of training from at least two board-certified trainers, along with one year of supervision of your work with others.
But this is more than just racking up hours. You will be directed to readings and books – and now more videos are available – that help your compare your in-person experiential learning with the theoretical and philosophical base as explained by Dr. J.L. and Zerka Moreno, recognized as psychodrama’s developers, and other trainers.
You also will required to experience the method in a number of ways, including taking the opportunity to address personal issues as a protagonist. This allows you to not only to experience the modality from the inside out but also to address personal and professional issues that, when not addressed, will act as blind spots that will damage your work with the people you work with.
Teacher, mentor, guide and adviser
The trainer that you select will be your teacher, mentor, guide and adviser. He, she or they will work closely with you to direct you to learn and practice the method while also continuing to support you to refine your professional goals, identify what contributions you can offer to the psychodrama community, and ultimately guide you through the certification process, which also means to help you pass the two exams that gets you the credential.
The exams are unusual in that they include a written essay test on several aspects of the method. But because psychodrama is experiential, candidates are also required to pass an on-site exam, which involves directing a full psychodrama from beginning to end with a group.
I’ve been acquainted with many people who have taken years of training but eventually decide not to become certified in psychodrama. Many people find themselves happy with the level of knowledge they have gained that they integrate into their work as psychotherapists, educators, attorneys and the like. Others enjoy the personal growth, professional support and the camaraderie they find in training groups and realize that if they get certified they will give up these advantages.
When not to get certified
However, more advice. Don’t get certified if:
There’s lots more to say on this subject, but let me stop here for now, except to say that we should have more of these conversations about professional goals and the value of certification to make the best decisions on our behalf – and the behalf of the people we serve.
Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP, is the founder of the Lancaster School of Psychodrama and Experiential Psychotherapies in Lancaster, Pa., which teaches transformational learning in a variety of experiential methods and practices, including psychodrama, sociometry, Family and Systemic Constellations, sand tray, group skills and more. Subscribe to her e-letter for professionals and get first notice of training events, Early Bird discounts, helpful links and inspiring and supportive info. You may subscribe here.
Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP, is an author, trainer and psychotherapist who promotes, practices and teaches experiential methods including psychodrama, Family and Systemic Constellations, sand tray, mindfulness and Tarot imagery.