Prior to 2016, I never gave much thought to becoming certified or licensed in another country. I mean, why go through all the hard work, pay all the fees and have to maintain a credential in a country that I had no plans of living in, let alone work in? And then it seemed like my world changed overnight.
No, I’m not talking about an election, though truth be told, some of my soul died that night, along with my faith in humanity. (How could “Diamond Joe” Quimby from Springfield not at least carry his state? Sure, he is a womanizing, lying, cheating scoundrel, but he is an entertaining one. Plus he has been a TV regular far longer and more consistently than that other guy. His exploits with The Simpsons were certainly worth some votes). I’m actually talking about two other things that happened in 2016 that got me thinking.
First, the American Counseling Association held a joint conference with our neighbors to the north, the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA), giving all of those who presented a chance to engage with an international audience in an international setting (the ACA Conference typically has an international audience with folks from more than a dozen countries attending). My wife and I were honored to be among those selected to present, and we found our northern friends to be a delight — as well as founts of information.
I also visited Lubec, Maine, in 2016, a place where some of my kin once lived and a place where you can actually see Canada while walking down the main drag. In fact, Canada is but a short walk, swim or boat ride away (literally hundreds of feet). I was impressed with the sign at the public boat landing asking folks from Canada to take a walk down the street or call a number to let the U.S. agents know they were visiting. I guess there is little chance of a wall being built there anytime soon.
I loved the environment and felt at home. I could envision my partial retirement years being spent there, which got me to thinking about how I could treat those who reside on Campobello Island, which is within sight of Lubec. This island, which is part of New Brunswick, Canada, is very noncommercial. In fact, until the 1960s, it had no bridge access; folks needed to take a boat to visit. Even today, it boasts no hospital, clinic or other forms of treatment that I am aware of, and even when entering the United States, you are many miles from such things.
What is international certification?
International certification (or licensure, depending on the country, location, etc.) is similar to what we have here in the United States and often has rigorous requirements that must be met and maintained. Having this credential allows you to become an independent practitioner should you so choose. It also allows you to collect fees from third parties such as insurance companies. Let’s face it — folks like me will never work for someone else, so becoming credentialed is the only way to consider making such a move.
Becoming credentialed in another country may be helpful for some clinicians but not all. Here are some scenarios:
- Those who hope to work in, consult in, present in or one day move to a given country may find that being credentialed in that country eases the transition.
- Maintaining a credential often can be easier than trying to apply for that credential for the first time 20 or more years after attending graduate school because requirements can change a great deal over time. (I was happy to see that my 17-year-old program still meets current requirements both in the United States and Canada, but many would not.)
- International certification may provide a bit more prestige in general but especially to those who consult either in the private sector or as an expert witness in court cases. Being able to state that you are certified/licensed to practice not only in the United States but also in another country may give a boost to your perceived authority and possibly enable you to increase your fee.
- For those attempting to present or publish internationally, review boards may be more comfortable accepting and inviting those whom they know have an investment and understanding of the country in question.
- In the case of my nonprofit, we are considering expanding into Canada if and when it makes sense from a financial and logistical standpoint. Having prior credentials in the country you wish to expand into can help with some of the permit requirements. Getting this done ahead of time can help smooth the transition.
Which countries are best for you?
The answer to this question is highly subjective and depends on several factors, including where you see yourself possibly moving to or working either in the near or distant future. Does the country in question allow for nonresident credentialing? In Canada, you can get credentialed through the CCPA without being a resident. At least one Canadian province also allows a licensure option, but only those who have lived in the country for a substantial amount of time are eligible.
Among other questions to ask: Will this credential benefit you at all professionally? Will it open possible venues that may otherwise be closed to you?
How do I get certified in another country?
This answer depends on the country you select. For this discussion, we’ll focus on Canada because I am in the process of becoming certified as a counselor and counseling supervisor. Surprisingly enough, this process is in some ways easier than it is in the United States (although that may change at any moment). Currently, there is no comprehensive exam requirement. Instead, a comprehensive review of education and experience is required.
To get started, you need to become a member of CCPA. To apply for certification, members download the application and begin the typical process of selecting which track they want to take to certification. Each track offers advantages and disadvantages depending on your date of graduation and experience. Once the track has been selected, you will need to get forms signed verifying your experience, letters of recommendation, a comprehensive background check, official transcripts and, for those from other countries, proof that your college was accredited in your country at the time of graduation. You will also need to provide official course descriptions so they can be compared with the Canadian equivalent.
In my case, getting 17-year-old official course descriptions was far from easy — especially given that I went to a college that merged with another college before being sold to yet another and then finally bought large parts of itself back. Thankfully, I had unofficial copies from when I was a student (I save things). I also had access to the then-director, so when I ran into a hurdle at the original school, I was able to proffer the descriptions via email and had the former director verify their accuracy. As of the time of this writing, official descriptions had been submitted for review by CCPA.
On another note, make sure that you get an FBI background check. I was given a background check by my local police department (located in the same place where I was born, raised and have always lived). This did NOT meet the certification requirements. If you are not required to get fingerprinted during your background check, you likely aren’t getting the one you will need.
After you apply
Just like in the United States, after you apply for international certification you will need to wait — and then possibly wait some more while the application process progresses or stalls. If you’re lucky, there will be a portal that you can log in to to view the progress, and the organization in charge of issuing certification will be prompt in contacting you should something not meet its standards (such as when my local background check was rejected).
In addition, be sure to follow up with your references. Even the most dedicated of colleagues can sometimes misplace or overlook your reference instead of sending it in, or they might make a mistake on it that results in the reference being rejected. Be prepared to submit and resubmit as needed. Stay calm, stay polite and stay focused.
International credentialing may not be for everyone, but for some of us, it can be well worth the fees and time invested. So sit back, close your eyes and imagine in what country you could see yourself in the future. Once you have a place in mind, start the exploration process. Who knows? You just may change your life.
“Doc Warren” Corson III is a counselor, educator, writer and the founder, developer, and clinical and executive director of Community Counseling Centers of Central CT Inc. (www.docwarren.org) and Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm (www.pillwillop.org).
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional resources related to nonprofit design, documentation and related information can be found at docwarren.org/supervisionservices/resourcesforclinicians.html.
Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.