We've gotten so many questions from our members on this issue, that we decided to add this article from WMYCA's Summer 2017 insights to our "Recent News" section for your reference...
How Long Must I Keep Counseling Records?
Attorney & Licensed Mental Health Counselor; WMHCA Ethics Consultant & AMHCA Ethics Committee member
I’ve received several recent inquiries regarding the requirements for maintaining client records. Of course nearly all mental health professionals understand that we have an ethical and legal obligation to maintain client records safely and confidentially. What is often unclear is exactly how long these records must be kept.
In Washington there are a few different answers to this question. First, Mental Health Counselors, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Social Workers must keep client records for five years after “the last visit.” This rule can be found in WAC 246-809-035(4). The same five-year standard also applies to Certified Counselors, Certified Advisors, Agency Affiliated Counselors, and Hypnotherapists. Their rule can be found in WAC 246-810-035(4). The same five-year rule applies to both minor and adult clients.
Dear members of the mental health community:
On behalf of the Washington Mental Health Counselors Association (WMHCA), I am pleased to announce that, as of April 1, 2016, the new definition of MHP (Mental Health Professional) is effective!
This designation allows LMHCAs and LMFTAs that work with clients who are receiving Medicaid/Apple Health, to assess and diagnose clients.
Historically, two years of experience for Licensed Mental Health Counselor Associates (LMHCAs) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associates (LMFTAs) has been required prior to being granted the MHP designation. Yet, this same requirement did not apply to master's level social workers (MSWs). Despite the similarities in scope of practice among these three professional designations, the discrepancy created barriers to employment for graduates from mental health counseling programs and marriage and family therapy programs across the state of Washington.
You may recall that in October 2014,WMHCA and the Washington Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (WAMFT)worked together to address this discrepancy by working with the Department of Social and Health Services to change the rule and make it equally applicable to all master’s-prepared mental health professionals.
And our efforts have paid off! The Secretary of the State has accepted the request for rule-change, and, by April 1 of 2016, all graduates of mental health programs are eligible for an associate license, and, now, all graduates who elect to become licensure associates following their graduation will automatically be considered MHPs once the associate license is granted.
According to newly adopted WAC388-865-0238, the definition of a “Mental Health Professional” means:
- A psychiatrist, psychologist,psychiatric nurse or social worker as defined in chapters 71.05 and 71.34 RCW;
- A person who is licensed by the department of health as a mental health counselor, mental health counselor associate, marriage and family therapist, or marriage and family therapist associate;
- A person with a master's degree or further advanced degree in counseling or one of the behavioral sciences from an accredited college or university. Such person shall have, in addition, at least two years of experience in direct treatment of persons with mental illness or emotional disturbance, such experience gained under the supervision of a mental health professional;
- A person who meets the waiver criteria of RCW 71.24.260, which was granted prior to 1986;
- A person who had an approved waiver to perform the duties of a mental health professional that was requested by a regional support network and granted by the mental health division prior to July 1, 2001; or
- A person who has been granted a time-limited exception of the minimum requirements of a mental health professional by the division of behavioral health and recovery.
Thanks to all who joined in this important effort.
Ellen K. Carruth, PhD, LMHC, NCC, ACS WMHCA President Emeritus
Dear WMHCA members,
Please consider contacting Governor Bill Haslam’s office to voice support for his veto of SB1556 and HB 1840. This is a last ditch effort to prevent legislation passing that would allow counselors to refuse services to clients on the basis of their personal beliefs and values, which runs contrary to the ACA (2016) Code of Ethics, section A.11.b. This legislation would allow counselors to refuse to see clients based on the counselor’s personal beliefs, and to refer them elsewhere on the basis of issues such as identifying as LGBTQQIA. This bill has been described by the American Counseling Association as an “unprecedented attack” on the counseling profession. Tennessee is the only state to pass such a law.
It is fairly easy to voice your support for Governor Bill Haslam’s veto. Please call his office at the phone number below, and ask for a message to be sent to his office in support of his veto of SB 1556/HB 1840. Remember that TN is 2-3 hours later (Central Time or Eastern Time, depending on the part of the state), so try calling no later than 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time. You can also email the Governor’s office using a contact form available at the website below.
Phone number to Governor Haslam’s office: (615) 741-2001
Email contact form: http://www.tn.gov/governor/topic/contact
Thanks for taking action on behalf of the counseling profession!
Thom Field, PhD, LMHC, NCC, ACS
WMHCA President, 2015-2017
We have some exciting news for counselors in Washington State! The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has proposed rule making for the CDP chapter in the Washington Administrative Code (WAC). The DOH has written draft language to establish standards and procedures for alternative training programs so that licensed professionals (including LMHCs) whose scope of practice includes treatment of chemical dependency can obtain CDP certification via an expedited training process. The major change in the proposed legislation can be found in the new section WAC 246-811-077: Educational requirements to apply for chemical dependency certification with alternative training. Instead of requiring all CDPs to complete 30 semester/45 quarter credit hours at the associates-level, licensed professionals described in WAC 246-811-076 (including LMHCs) only require 10 semester/15 quarter credits in chemical dependency training, with course work that addresses specific topic areas described in WAC 246-811-077. This would assist LMHCs to obtain the CDP credential, hopefully resulting in more counselors specializing in the treatment of co-occurring disorders. Currently, mental health and substance abuse services are somewhat disconnected, and important Federal legislation such as the Affordable Care Act is mandating more integration of services. Thus, the DOH draft legislation is believe to help connect mental health and substance use services.
If you are in support of this legislation, WMHCA encourages you to make a public comment in support of the legislation. The comment period for the proposed rule will be open until the day of the public hearing. The public hearing on the proposed rule will be held at 9:30 a.m., April 28, 2016, at the Department of Health, Town Center 2, room 158 in Tumwater, WA 98501. The public is invited to review and provide comments on the proposed rule on the Department’s Rules Comment webpage at https://fortress.wa.gov/doh/policyreview/
If you have any questions, feel free to contact the WMHCA President, Thom Field, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WMHCA members are encouraged to be diligent in accepting payment from clients who are outside of the country seeking counseling services. In general, WMHCA advises its members to carefully consider the situation when providing counseling services to clients who are not located within the U.S. state where the counselor holds an active license (some states have laws about this, and it may be unethical/illegal to practice in a state where you are not licensed or are unfamiliar with the laws around counseling services). The same applies to providing technology-assisted counseling services to persons residing in a foreign country. AMHCA members are encouraged to read the AMHCA Standards, which includes standards for the practice of technology-assisted counseling services.
In that context, a WMHCA member recently was involved in a situation whereby a faux-client claiming to reside in a foreign country attempted to scam the counselor through the use of fraudulent checks. This “client” sent the counselor a fake check for payment, and later claimed that they wanted their “money back” as they did not intend on coming to the U.S. after all. WMHCA members are encouraged to ignore any phishing emails from clients who are seeking services from abroad and attempt to pay via check. It is recommended that counselors accept payment only after services are rendered and those who are providing technology-assisted counseling services to foreign clients use a form of secure monetary transaction.
Last week, a bill passed the House and is sitting in the Senate that would rescind a rule in the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) that persons who identify as transgender may use facilities (such as bathrooms) that are consistent with their gender expression/identity rather than their birth gender. Currently, Washington is the only state that provides this right to transgender persons. The Bill SB 6443 seeks to rescind this rule and thus remove this right for transgender persons. More info can be found here:
If any WMHCA members feel strongly about this issue, they could email their legislative representatives and advocate for WAC 162-32-060 to not be rescinded. If members do contact their representatives, please voice your opinion as a public member (rather than represent yourself as a member of the WMHCA).
Jacqueline Webster is a graduate student under the direction of Professor Andy Carpenter in the College of Doctoral Studies at Grand Canyon University. She is conducting a research study to evaluate the relationship between racial attitudes and cultural competency. She is recruiting behavioral health counselors, therapists, clinicians, or social workers working in a behavioral health agency or private practice that provides direct therapy or counseling to clientele to complete an online questionnaire. The questionnaire includes three survey instruments that will be accessed through the online survey software and questionnaire tool, SurveyMonkey. Completion of the full questionnaire that includes all three survey instruments typically takes no more than 30 minutes. Your participation in this study is voluntary. If you have any questions concerning the research study, please call Jacqueline Webster at (623) 670- 4792. If you are willing to participate, please click on the following link:https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/racialattitudes_gcu
Culled by Whitney Meyerhoeffer, AMHCA Director of State Chapter Relations
2016 Marks the 40th Anniversary of AMHCA
Watch our 40th Anniversary AMHCA Playlist on Youtube from Past President Dr. Stephen Giunta.
AMHCA Advocacy Update
President's New Gun Rules Alter HIPAA
On January 6, 2016 the Department of Health and Human Services issued final rules modifying the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). These final rules make explicit that certain HIPAA-covered entities may disclose certain information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a national data system maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to conduct background checks on persons who may be disqualified from receiving firearms based on prohibited categories under state or federal law. The FBI reports that more than 2 million guns sales have been prevented since NICS was created in 1998, and most records in the database come out of state civil court systems and are not protected by HIPAA. The information that would be disclosed would include the identities of individuals who are subject to a federal “mental health prohibitor” that disqualifies them from shipping, transporting, possessing, or receiving a firearm.
AMHCA will continue pressing for inclusion of our Medicare provider status bill in the broader “Murphy bill.” The most effective way to make this happen is to generate more grassroots messages to congressional offices urging cosponsorship of our Medicare provider status bill (S. 1830/HR. 2759). Congressional offices tell us they need to hear more support from their constituents for these bills. AMHCA members should continue to use our action alert and resources to prepare grassroots messages in support of Medicare recognition.
AMHCA 2016 Annual Conference Registration is Now Open!
Accelerated Resolution Therapy – with Kevin Kip, PhD, FAHA and Diego Hernandez, PhD
The Nature, Causes and Management of Suicidal Behavior and Related Disorders – Thomas Joiner, PhD
Thomas Joiner, PhD
Maureen Duffy, PhD
Art Therapy and Expressive Arts in Therapy in Trauma-Informed Practice and Integrative Approaches to Health – with Cathy Malchiodi, PhD, LPAT, LPCC, ATR-BC, REAT
Workplace Mobbing and School Bullying – with Maureen Duffy, PhD