Iowa is a marriage and family therapist’s wasteland. Or, in the words of a local therapist, “the state had a marriage and family therapy program once, but it just kind of… died.”

Or, in the words of another therapist, “I once knew a girl who got her MFT degree in California, then moved back to Iowa, never found a job, got frustrated, and gave up. Poor thing. I wonder what ever happened to her…”

Like I mentioned before, my first glimmer of hope was when I met with a therapist who I thought was interviewing me for a position at his clinic, which I’d read about online and seemed pretty impressive. Only to find out, once I arrived, that this clinic did not exist. But he said I could join his private practice if I found all my own clients and paid him 70% of my earnings. He told me to think about it really hard and e-mail him in about two weeks.

I spent the next three weeks trying desperately to find an actual job. What I found was a woman (through Craigslist) who was interested in hiring me as a therapist to work in schools. Then she called the day before my interview to say that she’d just found out that she needed to hire someone with a full license (can’t get fully licensed until I have two more years of experience—can’t get two years of experience until I get someone to hire me).

So I closed my eyes, breathed in deep, and e-mailed the original man to let him know that I’d thought hard, and was interested in his offer. So we set up another meeting and had literally the exact same conversation we had the first time, and ended it the same way (“I want you think really hard about this and e-mail me again in two weeks.”) Not sure exactly what game we’re playing with each other. Maybe we will continue to get together to do this every two weeks until the end of time?

Meanwhile I’m sending out applications constantly, but the only response I ever get is from the Army National Guard.

One day I started an online application to be a mental health specialist for the army—though I couldn’t bring myself to continue after reading that this position “could one day qualify you to be a psychiatrist’s assistant, a nurse’s assistant, or even go on to college!” (Also when I learned that I would have to go to boot camp and firearms training. Because, really? Me with firearms?)

But one day, out of a sheer inability to spend one more second watching Glee or clipping my kitten’s nails, I took the army’s word knowledge and math tests (the next step in the application process). I did really well and the army has been calling me several times a day ever since, like a needy ex-lover. But, like I said, me with firearms?

Meanwhile, I occasionally call Iowa’s licensing bureau to ask questions about how to get my temporary license. Exactly one person works there, let’s call her Elaine, and I’m pretty sure she has Alzheimer’s. A typical conversation will go something like this:

Me: Hi Elaine, it’s Julia again. You know… just finished graduate school, moved to Iowa, and am trying to get my temporary license in marriage and family therapy. My question for today is this. These forms that I have to get my old supervisors to fill out… I see they are written in the future tense, but they are referring to my past supervision, correct?

Elaine: In Iowa you must have two years of experience before you get your full license. You can get your temporary license before that. You must already have a degree in marriage and family therapy.

Me: Um.. yeah. I know. I’m wondering about the tense of these forms.

Elaine: Your temporary license will expire in three years, unless you apply for renewal. You must get 3,000 hours of experience and 200 hours of supervision. Apply for renewal thirty days before it expires.

Me: Yeah, well, first I’m wondering about these forms, because I can’t get my temporary license until I send in these forms, so that’s kind of my first step.

Elaine: Did you attend an accredited program?

Me: Yes.

Elaine: Let’s look up your program and see if it’s accredited.

Me: Well I already know that it is.

Elaine: What was your school? Let’s just look it up.

Me: Northern Illinois. I know for a fact it’s accredited. We checked it last time we were on the phone, and I knew it even before that, too.

Elaine: And what was your major?

Me: Well, I didn’t have a major, because it was a Masters degree. With a specialization in marriage and family therapy.

Elaine: Oh! MFT!

Me: *#$@^&#@$(#@$

Incidentally, I would like to mention that none of the jobs I’m applying for require a Masters degree (except the ones that require a full license) and I’m pretty close to taking graduate school off my resume altogether because I think it’s making me overqualified. (Remember, in college, when everyone insisted that you had to go to graduate school to be a therapist…?)

Anyway. It’s probably not as bleak as I make it all sound. I actually had a real interview earlier this week that went fairly well, except that I accidentally giggled when the interviewer asked if I’d be comfortable talking with my clients about things like bowel movements and vaginas. Oops.

And anyway, I’m not technically unemployed. I sell very overpriced merchandise for a sports team I didn’t know existed a few weeks ago. Although today I did get scolded by my boss, because one of our “secret shoppers” last week caught me chatting with another co-worker behind the counter, which is apparently a pretty serious offense. And that, in a nutshell, is my life.