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:

  1.  A psychiatrist, psychologist,psychiatric nurse or social worker as defined in chapters 71.05 and 71.34 RCW;
  2. 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;
  3. 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;
  4. A person who meets the waiver criteria of RCW 71.24.260, which was granted prior to 1986;
  5. 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
  6. 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