Continuing education units, or CEU’s, can sometimes feel like just another thing to fit into your already busy day. But used effectively, CEU’s can help you stay informed about mental health research, trends, and treatments. Moreover, CEU’s are mandatory for therapists. If you don’t complete the CEU’s required by your state, you risk having your license suspended and being temporarily unable to practice.
CEU requirements for therapists vary by state, but typically range between 20 and 40 hours. Some states require CEU’s be completed annually, while others are on a 2-3 year cycle. In addition, many states mandate that providers complete a certain number of hours in specific content areas like ethics and antidiscrimination. You can see a full list of CEU requirements for psychologists here. State licensing board websites contain more information about the number and types of CEU’s required for each discipline.
Where can therapists find CEU’s?
Most CEU programs are offered online, either on-demand or streaming live. However, if you prefer attending a class or conference “IRL,” in-person presentations are also available. Here are some of the most popular CEU providers:
The PESI website separates CEU’s into 3 categories: live seminars, online learning, and educational products like books and videos. It also allows you to search by keyword, topic area, or speaker. There is even a mobile app you can download for learning on the go!
Apa.org (American Psychological Association)
The APA offers its own continuing education programs, searchable by topic, type, or number of credits. There are article and book-based exams as well as online courses. But note that not all states accept all forms of CEU’s– check with your state’s licensing board to verify before purchasing!
Social Work Online CE Institute
The NASW (National Association of Social Workers) also offers CEU’s. Membership dues entitle you to free or discounted courses, and there is an optional CE tracker that notifies you of license renewal requirements and deadlines.
American Counseling Association (ACA)
The ACA has a product catalog that allows you to search by category, format, year, and number of credits. In addition, the ACA offers its members 12 free CEU classes each year, (one per month).
National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC)
The NBCC keeps a list of approved CEU providers on its website, searchable by state.
Local hospitals, universities, or mental health agencies
Hospitals, universities, and mental health agencies also frequently offer CEU’s. These programs are more likely to be offered for free or at a reduced cost, since the institution gets the benefit of marketing its programs and services through the training.
How much do CEU’s cost, and what is the best way to find discounted CEU’s?
CEU’s with a video component (live or on-demand) typically run between $120 and $200 for 6 credit hours. There may be an additional charge to receive a CEU certificate. If you do the math, based on the average CEU requirement of 20-40 units, you’re looking at an investment of anywhere between $2,400 to $8,000 per cycle– not exactly pocket change!
Luckily, there are a few ways to score CEU discounts. Membership in a professional organization like the ACA or NASW entitles you to reduced rates for CEU courses. In addition, sites like PESI often have sales offering 50% off or more. If you join the PESI email list, they will automatically inform you of these promotions.
What happens if I don’t complete my CEU’s on time?
Consequences vary by state, but you can expect that your license will be registered as expired or “delinquent” by your state’s licensing board. You can apply to reinstate a delinquent or expired license, but there is a time limit (typically within 1-2 years of expiration), and you will need to pay an additional fee. It is illegal to practice with an expired or delinquent license, so you will need to cease providing services to patients while you await reinstatement.
Continuing education units are a way for therapists to stay abreast of new research, trends, and treatments. But CEU’s often require a significant investment of time and money. Completing CEU’s online or via a mobile app can be an efficient way to meet your state’s requirements. In addition, there are discount programs through various websites and professional organizations. While CEU’s might feel like yet another “to do” squeezed into your already busy schedule, both your professional license and ability to practice depend on timely completion of CEU’s.