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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: February 15, 2017 02:26 PM
From: Senator Ryan P. Aument
To: All Senate members
Subject: Updating the Scope of Practice for Marriage & Family Therapists
In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation to protect the delivery of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) in the Commonwealth by amending Act 39 of 1987, otherwise referred to as the Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapists and Professional Counselors Act with language that permits licensed MFTs to diagnosis solely within their statutorily defined scope of practice and that protects the rights of licensed MFTs to practice independently.

Pennsylvania's MFTs were licensed by Act 136 of 1998, which amended Act 39 of 1987, to assess and treat mental and emotional disorders within the context of individuals, marriage, couples, and family systems. MFTs are the only mental health professionals required to receive training in family therapy and family systems, a functionality that is highly effective in treating a wide range of mental, emotional and behavioral health problems. MFTs must undergo extensive education and training, clinical fieldwork, and pass rigorous exams to demonstrate professional competency in the delivery of marriage and family therapy to Commonwealth clients.

Pennsylvania is currently one of several states that permit licensed MFTs 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 can continue to treat mental, emotional and behavioral health clients with the highest ethical standards in accordance with current law. Codifying the long-established authority to diagnose protects licensed MFTs ability to accurately evaluate and effectively treat the thousands of Pennsylvanians that depend on them for guidance, counseling, and healing. My legislation will also protect the right of sole practitioners of licensed marriage and family therapy to treat mental, emotional and behavioral health clients in private practice settings. This ensures the accessibility of MFTs to provide crucial mental, emotional, and behavioral health services at a time when the Commonwealth is encountering a crises-level lack of 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 Act to require MFTs to be licensed as mental health providers in the Commonwealth. The legislation I am proposing updates current statute to better reflect the use of MFTs professional skills in the delivery of mental, emotional, and behavioral healthcare services and likewise protects their right to work independently.

Introduced as SB531