Article by MMHCA Retained Lobbyist
Andrea M Cascarilla, Legislative Director
Michigan’s Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC) should take notice of the proposed LPC rules changes formally submitted by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) this summer as they have significant consequences and threaten the livelihood of all counselors in the state.
To be clear, some of the rule changes are not contentious and make necessary and appropriate updates. Others, however, are a cause for serious concern to not only those in the counseling profession, but the general public as well.
Despite the unanimous objections of the Board of Counseling Rules Committee, LARA is recommending the repeal of virtually all the rules that define an LPC’s scope of practice under R338.1751. These are rules that have been recognized as part of our scope since they were first promulgated after the passage of our Licensed Professional Counselor statute in 1988. Instead the department insists these definitions should apply only to the educational preparation of counselors and not to counseling practice.
Included in this repeal is the practice of “counseling techniques” and the related ability to “diagnose and identify the problem”. Without these and numerous other definitions, the counseling scope of practice is severely limited. Restricting scope in this way will most certainly reduce the availability of mental health professionals in Michigan and at a time when there is growing demand for these services.
These changes in scope would also put Michigan’s LPCs in violation of the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics (E.5.a. Proper Diagnosis), which requires the proper diagnosis of a client’s mental disorder before treatment, and could subject them to permanent expulsion from the profession. Additionally, insurance companies will likely stop reimbursing for the services of LPCs due to the significant limits on scope these rule changes would impose.
LARA is also pursuing the repeal of the rules identifying the requirements for providing counseling supervision (R338.1757), one of which is specific training in supervision. This training is a national standard for professional counseling.
Again, if this rule is rescinded, counselors who provide supervision without training would be practicing in violation of the ACA’s Code of Ethics (F.2.a Supervisor Preparation). Furthermore, LPCs who received their supervision in Michigan may not be eligible for licensure in other states because their supervisor would not be qualified in the state to which the counselor is moving.
With LARA’s recently filed Regulatory Impact Statement, the clock is quickly ticking on the repeal of these rules and the detrimental impacts they will have on the counseling profession. In fact, the required public hearing on the proposed rules has just been scheduled for October 4. After this public hearing, the rules can be certified and a report submitted to the Joint Committee on Legislative Rules (JCAR).
JCAR, a legislative body, has just 15 session days to review the rules. Their only course of action if they object is to introduce legislation within another 15 days to repeal them. Given session is generally scheduled every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, it may only take five weeks before this 15-sessionday deadline is met. After that point, the LARA Director could adopt the rules and have them become effective immediately upon filing. All said and done these proposed rule changes could be in effect as early as November of this year!
Michigan LPCs should not only actively oppose these rule changes at the forthcoming public hearing, but also immediately urge the legislature to instead pass HB 4325, introduced by Rep. Aaron Miller (RSturgis), which would negate the need for LARA’s rule changes altogether.
Counselors are encouraged to contact MMHCA with any questions they may have regarding the proposed rules repeal or MMHCA’s legislative efforts.