Therapist Qualifications

The last post presented findings from a nationwide survey on the core elements of exemplary IFPS programs, specifically regarding therapists. This week we take a closer in-depth look at the qualifications of therapists. Let’s start with the job description.

Job Description

Two IFPS programs, one in Tennessee (new program) and one in Washington State (longest-running program in the nation), provided job descriptions for therapists. The basic job responsibilities for both programs are very similar and also reflect the core elements of exemplary IFPS programs:

  • Worker meets with the family within 24 hours
  • 24/7 availability of the worker
  • Worker availability on evenings/weekends
  • Low caseload (2–4 families), brief length of service (4–6 weeks)
  • High number of face-to-face hours spent with families (32–40+ hours)

You can view/download the complete job descriptions below:

How do you know if someone is not a good fit for the job?

The Tennessee program lists the following red flags:

  • Inability to work with diverse families
  • Inability to connect in an interview
  • Highly structured world view without the ability to consider others beliefs and opinions
  • High desire for office-based work
  • Strong desire to do “only therapy” (some therapists do not enjoy the case management and hands-on aspects required by IFPS)
  • Inability to take constructive feedback
  • Judgmental attitude toward people with DCS involvement/substance abuse/poverty
  • Lack of adequate transportation, inability to go to a crisis “on a moment’s notice”

Interview Process

And that brings us to the interview process. The following is a list of questions that the Tennessee programs uses in the first interview:

  • Review résumé, ask about experience areas
  • Ask behaviorally specific questions, such as, “Talk about a time when you had several projects to complete. What was the situation? How did you get all those things done? And what lessons did you learn?”
  • Give positive feedback in interviews as this sets people at ease and we tend to get a more realistic view of who they are.
  • Another question: Talk about a time when you had a conflict with a supervisor. What was it and how did you handle it? What was the resolution?
  • Question: What is your theoretical orientation? What attracts you to that ideology? (Ask enough questions to see if the applicant knows what they are talking about.)
  • Question: What are your beliefs about families?
  • Question: How will you feel working with a diverse population of families? Some might have a religion very different than yours, might have same-gender parents, might be mixed-race couples, might have many animals, etc. Talk about your feelings on diverse families.
  • Question: What kinds of families or clients might be hard for you to work with?
  • Question: Talk about your beliefs about people and parents who abuse substances. How might you address a relapse or someone you work with?

In the second interview, the Tennessee program does a role-playing and writing exercise with candidates. You can view/download the role-play details below:

So, how does your agency job description and interview process compare to those provided in this post?

Special thanks to Cindy Cothran, Clinical Supervisor and Project Director of TIES, and to Charlotte Booth, Executive Director of Institute for Family Development, for contributing material for this post.

Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director


One thought on “Therapist Qualifications

  1. The job description for the supervisor position is not used as frequently, but is equally important. It can be especially challenging to hire a supervisor who does not already have experience in providing IFPS. Here is a link to a current job announcement for a supervisor position in Washington. Hopefully it is helpful as a sample. (DOCX, 135 Kb)

Comments are closed.