Certification vs Licensing

By Stefan A Smith March 5, 2018

As a practitioner of biofeedback or light therapy, you have likely been asked numerous times what it means to be certified in this field, as opposed to being licensed. Non-practitioners, including clients, may use the terms (licensed and certified) interchangeably without realizing the difference. Part of your role as a practitioner is to educate clients about the circumstances through which you can call yourself a biofeedback specialist or a certified light technician, particularly when you notice someone’s confusion about your practitioner status. You will represent your certification status to your clients through the informed consent form that is agreed upon before any professional services begin and perhaps your title will be displayed on your office wall with a framed printout of your certification paper and a desk plaque with your name and title or on an office directory. These public displays will reinforce your certification status to your clients.

How would one describe certification? A professional certification is a recognition that an established standard of competencies or knowledge-based training has been completed. The certification board is a non-governmental agency organization setup to establish practitioner guidelines which would determine what requirements each person needs to achieve in order to meet the baseline of education and experience. That baseline of training becomes the standard that each person would need to achieve as a minimum for obtaining entry with the certification board. The designation of being certified is an assurance that the person certified has met the requirements for certification. A wide range of practices use a certification structure to recognize standards, examples of which include fields such as health care, engineering, science, accounting, management, legal, insurance and real estate. Having certification allows you to portray yourself not just as a practitioner but as a practitioner certified to having met the standards for that particular occupation or specialty.

What if your client asks if your biofeedback certification is the same as a biofeedback license? You should let them know that there is no licensure for biofeedback and in the absence of licensing standard the certification process is the next best option. The certification process is effectively serving the same function of providing an assurance to the client that your training in biofeedback has met the industry standards. You can be licensed as a professional concurrently with your certification, such as a dentist or nurse practitioner and also be a certified biofeedback specialist.

Why is licensure not an option? A licensing regime for biofeedback or light therapy would need to be enacted through state legislation. In the United States the federal government does not have this responsibility. The states have been given a police power through the tenth amendment to the constitution, which leaves matters of welfare, safety and public health to each state to administer. The tenth amendment leaves powers to the states that have not been delegated to the federal government. You will find a licensing board for physicians, dentists, nurses and other health professionals for each state rather than at the federal government level because the federal government has not been given these powers. Should a dentist want to have an office in two states she would need to be licensed to practice in each state. The dental license is a result of the state enacting legislation to regulate the activities that dentists are authorized to perform within the dental scope of practice. Until such time that an effort to lobby state government for legislation to regulate biofeedback or light therapy the states results in regulation like that of licensed professions we will continue to see unlicensed biofeedback and light therapy practitioners. Until then, the best option to represent yourself to the public as an unlicensed practitioner is to achieve and maintain your certification.

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