E-News from Washington | Vol. 09-04
January 30, 2009
DC Council Legislation Clarifies Counseling Scope of Practice
On Wednesday, January 28, 2009, Beth Powell, the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCAs) Director of Public Policy and Professional Issues, and Peter Atlee, Legislative Representative for the American Counseling Association (ACA) testified before the Health Committee of the District of Columbia City Council, in support of B18-34, the Practice of Professional Counseling and Addiction Counseling Amendment Act of 2009.
The legislation, sponsored by David Catania, Chair of the Health Committee, clarifies that Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) in the District are qualified to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders. Powell and Atlee testified to support the efforts of the District of Columbia Mental Health Counselors Association (DCMHCA) and the District of Columbia Counseling Association (DCCA). There are more than 1,100 LPCs currently practicing in the District of Columbia.
The current statute licensing counselors in the District does not specifically state that counselors are authorized to diagnose, treat or provide psychotherapy to their clients. The changes made in this legislation will allow LPCs to practice within the boundaries of their education, training and experience and are necessary to improve access to mental health services to District residents, especially those served by the Medicaid program.
To be licensed as an LPC in the District, counselors are required to have a 60-hour masters degree in counseling, complete 3,500 hours of post masters supervised training, pass a national exam, and adhere to a strict code of ethics. Clinical training for LPCs is comparable to training for other master's level therapists, including licensed independent social workers and marriage and family therapists, both of which are authorized to diagnose and treat mental disorders under District law.
AMHCA and ACA have been working on this issue in collaboration with the DCMHCA, the DCCA, and the District of Columbia Behavioral Health Association for more than a year. The lack of specificity in the counselor licensure law has been an impediment to Medicaid beneficiaries seeking mental health treatment. We are hopeful that passage of the legislation will encourage regulatory reform that will allow LPCs to serve as independent Medicaid providers and help to increase consumers ability to access mental health services in a timely manner.
Along with AMHCA and ACA, the legislation is supported by the District of Columbia Behavioral Health Association, the District of Columbia Mental Health Counselors Association, and the District of Columbia Counseling Association.
For more information contact Beth Powell with AMHCA (800-326-2642 x105, firstname.lastname@example.org or Peter Atlee with ACA (800-347-6647 x242, email@example.com
Director, Public Policy and Professional Issues
American Mental Health Counselors Association
The only organization working exclusively for mental health counselors
801 N. Fairfax Street, Suite 304
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: 703-548-6002, ext. 105
800-326-2642, ext. 105