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Pennsylvania House of Representatives
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=H&SPick=20170&cosponId=23872
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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: May 9, 2017 04:05 PM
From: Representative Steven C. Mentzer
To: All House members
Subject: Updating the Scope of Practice for Marriage & Family Therapists and Professional Counselors
 
I plan to introduce legislation to protect the delivery of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) and Professional Counseling (PC) in the Commonwealth by amending Act 39 of 1987, also referred to as the Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapists and Professional Counselors Act. This legislation will permit licensed MFTs and licensed PCs to diagnosis solely within their statutorily defined scope of practice and protect the rights of licensed MFTs and licensed PCs to practice independently. Legislation introduced by Representative Miccarelli (HB445), which provides the same protections to licensed clinical social workers, recently passed the House and is under consideration in the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee. My legislation will apply the same protections sought by the LCSWs in HB445 to MFTs and PCs licensed under Act 39 of 1987.

Pennsylvania’s MFTs and PCs were licensed by Act 136 of 1998, which amended Act 39 of 1987. Act 136 enabled MFTs and PCs to assess and treat persons with mental, behavioral and emotional disorders. Specifically, MFTs focus and training is targeted to family therapy and family systems, within the context of individuals, marriage, couples and family systems; while PCs have a much broader scope which includes the application of mental health and human development practices and principles throughout the life span through work with individuals, families and groups. Both MFTs and PCs undergo extensive education and training, clinical fieldwork and must pass rigorous exams to demonstrate professional competency in the delivery of mental health services to Commonwealth clients.

Pennsylvania is currently one of several states that permit licensed MFTs and licensed PCs to diagnose in practice even though their statutorily defined scope of practice does not use the term “diagnosis.” My legislation will codify a definition of diagnosis to ensure that MFTs and PCs can continue to treat mental, emotional and behavioral health clients with the highest ethical standards in accordance with current law. This legislation will also protect the right of sole practitioners of licensed marriage and family therapy and licensed professional counselors to treat mental, emotional and behavioral health clients in private practice settings. This ensures the accessibility of MFTs and PCs to provide critical mental, emotional and behavioral health services at a time when the Commonwealth is in desperate need of qualified mental and behavioral healthcare providers.

It’s been almost 20 years since the General Assembly amended the Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapists and Professional Counselors to require MFTs and PCs to be licensed mental health providers in the Commonwealth. This legislation will update the current statute to better reflect the use of MFTs and PCs professional skills in the delivery of mental, emotional and behavioral healthcare services and likewise protect their right to work independently. Please consider joining me in co-sponsoring this legislation.