You do need to compare the immense differences in education and training between LEPs/school “psychologists” and bonafide psychologists in order to understand the disservice being inflicted on California parents (not to mention the disservice done to those of us who actually earned the title of psychologist). If you spend a few minutes doing this, you will see that what “our” government is perpetrating here is akin to calling nurses who work in the K-12 system “school physicians and surgeons.”
Like the school “psychologist,” an LEP is typically not a psychologist at all, but merely has a master’s degree and a license issued by the agency for master’s level clinicians: the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS). This is a license that is unique to California; as far as I know there are no other states that issue this license. The requirement for an LEP is a master’s degree. No supervised experience is necessary, just proof of 3 years of working in the educational system. Therefore school “psychologists” with 3 years working at a school can obtain an LEP license if they choose to take the undemanding LEP exam.
LEPs are unfortunately not required to disclose their level of education in their advertising. It is safe to assume that those who do not provide a “Ph.D.” or “Psy.D.” after their name are master’s level. Having a doctorate does not make them bonafide psychologists, by the way — this is why all real psychologists are licensed by the Board of Psychology (BOP).
For myself, possession of the LEP license is redundant, as my Board of Psychology (BOP) license far and away supercedes it. I keep the LEP license because of the above-described misconceptions and misrepresentations.
Another way of understanding the LEP license (since it is unique to CA) is this: Real psychologists (i.e. doctors who are licensed through the BOP) could become licensed for independent practice in another state if they chose to move. The vast majority of LEPs could not.
Consider the following 3 factors when buying services or accepting services for your child:
Level of training: The minimal level of training for practitioners in mental health is a master’s degree in psychology. Weekend courses and training camps are called “continuing education” for those of us who hold professional degrees and licenses, and do not constitute professional training in and of themselves. Beware of those who pump themselves up with meaningless letters after their names. “Ph.D. or Psy.D.” (doctor) and “M.A. or M.S.” (master’s degree) are the letters you are looking for. The rest is fluff.
Licenses: For yours and your child’s protection, be sure that the person holds a license through the California Board of Psychology (doctors) or the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (all others). Mental health licenses in the state of CA are the following: Licensed clinical psychologist, educational psychologist (LEP), social workers (LCSW), marriage and family therapists (MFT).
Specialty area: You should make sure that the person holds a master’s degree or doctorate in psychology, and that the main emphasis of their formal training was with children and adolescents.
If you wish to obtain a diagnosis, choose a doctor (licensed psychologist). Even if subdoctoral-level specialists claim to “diagnose,” be aware that most governmental agencies won’t accept “diagnosis” from sub-doctoral level specialists (e.g. licensed educational psychologists, school psychologists, MFTs, etc.).