Does My State Accept Live Online Counseling Webinars?

Does my state accept counseling webinars?

Live webinars for counselors–are they online or face-to-face ces?

If you are a social worker, marriage and family therapist or other licensed counselor you have to deal with the dread continuing education hours. That’s right. It’s time to renew your license. You’re in a mad rush to complete those 30 or 40 NBCC or NASW ce hours. Sometimes you want the ease of completing your hours online. So…does my state accept online counseling webinars?

Webinars are a form of online learning and most state boards accept webinars for counselors and social workers to meet online continuing education requirements. But do states accept webinars as face-to-face ce activity?

Many states require you to complete some of your continuing education face to face. Typically, face to face means sitting in a physical classroom. If you can’t touch the person next to you, it isn’t accepted as live education. That is now gradually changing.

Webinar Vs Webcast

I am frequently asked about whether webinar vs webcast is accepted by Georgia’s board. So, what’s the difference between a webinar and a webcast? 

When course participants are interacting live with an opportunity to ask questions and discuss among each other in real-time, this is a webinar. A webinar is live and face-to-face interaction, but it is still two dimensional. In other words, regardless of the extent of interaction it is happening on a screen or monitor.

If that webinar is then recorded and broadcast, it becomes a webcast. It is no longer live. You can view it anytime. Webcasts are essentially internet broadcasts. Webcasts are often live but are usually passively viewed. Like a television program.

Choose a webinar and you will find that an increasing number of counseling and social work boards accept them as live face-to-face contact hours.

The No-Mans Land Between Face-to-Face and Online ces

Online counselor continuing education has been available for many years. Typically, you read the material online and take an exam. If you pass, you pay and receive your certificate of completion. As internet connection speeds increased, courses became available as pre-recorded video. Again, view content, pass the exam, pay, print your ce certificate.

In efforts to create an enhanced learning experience, online courses were streamed through live video conference. Streaming media requires a high speed internet connection usually WiFi. The seminar or workshop is scheduled at a specific date and time and you connect to the presenter and workshop and view a live performance. Just like the evening news.

Fast forward, technology now supports a full classroom experience. Not only the presenter, but all participants are on-screen and can view and communicate with each other in real-time. It is about as close as you can get to sitting in your old 3rd grade class with the pencil sharpener in the corner of the room.

These are called webinars and are the no-man’s land of mental health professional continuing education. Why?

The Gap Between Old State Rules and New Technology

First, some states licensing requirements are in state law. Others clarify their law by writing rules. Continuing education requirements law requires the Georgia Composite Board to establish continuing education requirements and gives the board discretion on what content areas should be required. Nothing more is stated. So it was necessary to write detailed requirements in the rules at Chapter 135-9. Relatively, Georgia has minimal content requirements.

It takes time and bureaucracy to pass state licensing board rules. Some state’s continuing education rules are 15 years old…or more. Live real-time webinars are not defined and don’t even exist in the rules. States have had to improvise (exercise legal “discretion”) how they enforce their continuing education laws and rules because they have not kept pace with learning technologies.

Live Webinar Ethics Continuing Education Requirements

Most states require specific content in ethics ce requirements. Check your licensing board rules because many allow you to obtain counselor ethics via live webinar. I provide a “Live Webinar, Ethics and Trends in Interstate Telemental Health Practice”.

Sampling of States’ Webinar Definitions

State licensing boards rules frequently change. Sometimes board rules are not actually changed but the board simply chooses to enforce those rules differently. This information does not substitute for reading your state’s rules on ce requirements. *Please visit the board websites as many of these ce requirements have changed since this COVID-19.*

Georgia Composite Board of Professional Counselors, Social Workers and Marriage and Family Therapists

Georgia’s Composite Board of Professional Counselors, Social Workers and Marriage and Family Therapists enforces that any form of continuing education that is not live as online. *Update: Georgia’s board now accepts live interactive webinars as equivalent to face-to-face-Webinars continuing education.*

Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling

The Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling uses a term, “real-time” in their ce requirements. Both live classroom and webinar meet this definition.

Alabama State Board of Social Work Examiners

The Alabama State Board of Social Work Examiners uses two terms: “organized learning experience” to define all accepted continuing education activities and “live classroom event”. There are minimum ce hours requirements for live classroom event(s). The rule is silent on live web activity.

Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling

For all three of the above licensing specialties, “There are no limit on the number of hours earned through home study courses.” However, Florida’s licensing board has detailed workshop content requirements.

North Carolina Board of Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselors

“…direct participation in a structured education format as a learner.” That’s all. Again the rule is silent on the format of the workshop. This suggests that webinar, online and face-to-face may all meet this definition but contact NC counseling board directly for clarification.

Final Words on Counseling Webinars and Webcasts

The information provided comes directly from state rules and statutes. My intent is to provide information that will help you understand various legal mechanisms your state is using to address that their continuing education rules are not current with technology. States may actually enforce how they address webinars differently than is stated in their rules.

You can expect changes to which states accept live interactive counseling webinars as face-to-face. Specifically, more states accept webinars as face-to-face than previously.  You can expect that trend to continue.

You deserve a former licensing board president on your side.

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