A law updating and clarifying rules for Michigan’s licensed professional counselors takes effect today, ending a controversy that threatened the livelihood of many counselors and could have left tens of thousands of patients without their therapist.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed House Bill 4325 in October to resolve the dispute between licensed professional counselors and the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

The bill updates the Public Health Code to specify that licensed professional counselors are allowed to diagnose and treat patients.

Updates were needed because the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs proposed a rule that would have precluded many licensed professional counselors from using counseling techniques and psychotherapy to treat patients.

The rule change could have resulted in an estimated 10,000 licensed professional counselors in Michigan losing their ability to see patients and provide mental-health services in a clinical setting. Licensed professional counselors, who have at least a master’s degree, serve about 150,000 patients in the state, said James Blundo, executive director of the Michigan Mental Health Counselors Association. They are about 30% of the counselors who work for Michigan’s community mental health agencies, working alongside psychologists and clinical social workers.

“LPCs are invaluable to patients and families across Michigan,” said state Rep. Aaron Miller, R-Sturgis, who sponsored the legislation. “My colleagues and I have been committed to improving access to mental health across the state and I’m proud to have had the opportunity to advocate for counselors.

“Special thanks go to former Rep. Jim Tedder, who first introduced this legislation in 2018 but was unfortunately unable to complete the process before the end of his last term. In his final weeks in office he asked me to carry the torch to the finish line to deliver on the promises he made to Michigan LPCs.”

In addition to clarifying psychotherapy and diagnosis as counseling techniques, the law now reflects current training standards that have improved over the past three decades.

“Prior to today, the law hadn’t been updated since 1988. A lot has changed since then – the law needed to reflect modern practices,” Miller said. “Counselors in communities across Michigan advocated for these changes for years. This is a historic day for those professionals.”

Andrea Cascarilla

Legislative Director

Acuitas LLC