Legislature(1997 - 1998)

04/17/1998 01:40 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
           SB 331 - PROFESSIONAL COUNSELOR LICENSING                           
                                                                               
MS. BETH HAGEVIG, staff to SENATOR GARY WILKEN, presented SB 331,              
a bill to license professional counselors. MS. HAGEVIG reported the            
bill broadens the career options of counselors, increases                      
counselors' ability to keep client information confidential and                
allows counselors to be covered under many employee assistance                 
programs (EAPs). MS. HAGEVIG said the bill is good for Alaska                  
mental health consumers since it establishes minimum educational               
and experiential requirements and will partially eliminate the                 
"buyer beware" situation that now exists. She said the bill also               
institutes grievance procedures and provides legal recourse for                
clients who feel they have been wronged. MS. HAGEVIG said the bill             
has the support of numerous professional organizations.                        
                                                                               
MS. ANNE HENRY, a professional counselor, said Alaska is one of                
only six states that do not currently license professional                     
counselors. In one of those states, legislation is pending to do               
so, and similar legislation is being debated at the federal level.             
MS. HENRY said the bill is a title restriction and not a license               
restriction bill; if people do not want to get the license they are            
not forced to, they are simply disallowed from calling themselves              
licensed professional counselors.                                              
                                                                               
MS. HENRY said the bill has similar educational requirements as                
those that exist in other states and allows professional counselors            
to become an integral part of available mental health services. She            
urged the committee's support for the bill.                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR noted that SENATOR WILKEN, Pamela Watts and Robert             
Lane have corresponded regarding this issue and are concerned there            
are insufficient course work requirements to help prepare                      
professional counselors to treat serious mental disorders of to                
administer complex psychological testing measures.                             
                                                                               
MR. GARY CLEMENT, a mental health clinician for the Juneau Mental              
Health clinic, said he works in an emergency room and administers              
psychotherapy every day. MR. CLEMENT said he does not do testing               
other than that for which he has been trained in the field of                  
substance abuse. MR. CLEMENT said he does not believe testing is               
the issue here, and all mental health providers are trained to deal            
with serious mental illnesses.                                                 
                                                                               
MS. HENRY added that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, (DSM               
IV) is used by virtually every mental health care provider and sets            
the standards for any type of mental health disorder. The manual               
standardizes the terminology and criteria used in diagnosis. MS.               
HENRY said this bill requires either a MA or a Ph.D. from an                   
accredited program as well as practical experience and 2,000 hours             
of supervised work.                                                            
                                                                               
MS. HAGEVIG noted that there is a limitation of practice in the                
bill, allowing a person to provide only those services which he or             
she has been appropriately trained to perform.                                 
                                                                               
Number 231                                                                     
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR mentioned there had also been concern expressed                
about the lack of specific educational course work requirements.               
MS. HAGEVIG said the bill is fairly consistent with other statutes             
in place for  social workers and associate psychologists. She said             
the degree requirement is in the bill, but the course work for that            
degree is not specified.                                                       
                                                                               
MS. HENRY indicated that the organizations that accredit these                 
programs are national organizations that are very particular in the            
programs they accredit.                                                        
                                                                               
SENATOR PARNELL asked about the confidentiality provision and what             
it is meant to protect.                                                        
                                                                               
Number 261                                                                     
                                                                               
MS. HENRY replied that rule 504 is fairly standard and mandates the            
confidentiality of information provided to a counselor unless there            
is a threat of harm to the client themselves or to others.                     
                                                                               
MS. HAGEVIG said much of the language in this bill was borrowed                
from the legislation enabling the licensure of marriage and family             
therapists. SENATOR PARNELL noted that those counselors who are not            
licenced must divulge information if they are subpoenaed. MS. HENRY            
replied this was correct and specified that the privilege belongs              
to the client and can be waived if they so desire.                             
                                                                               
Number 306                                                                     
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR said the file indicates there is concern from the              
Alaska Psychological Association (APA) about the use of assessment             
techniques. AMA would like to see the use of assessment techniques             
limited to those "consistent with each counselor's formal education            
and training, licensed professional counselors may administer and              
utilize appropriate assessment instruments which measure and/or                
diagnose problems and/or dysfunctions within the course of human               
growth and development . . . appraisal techniques shall not include            
the use of projective techniques . . . nor the use of psychological            
or clinical tests designed to identify or classify abnormal or                 
pathological human behavior, nor the use of individually                       
administered intelligence tests." MS. HENRY said counselors do not             
do these types of tests and she believes the prohibition on                    
projective testing already exists in the bill. MS. HENRY again                 
referred to the limitation of practice provision.                              
                                                                               
MR. CLEMENT explained that deciphering the subtleties of tests like            
the Rorschach (ink blot) test was more of an art than a science,               
and if he wanted to use a Rorschach he had evaluated, he would get             
his psychologist to "sign off on it." CHAIRMAN TAYLOR noted the                
issue seemed to be a turf battle of some sort.                                 
                                                                               
MS. HENRY said it was not the intent of the bill to allow anyone to            
do anything they are not trained to do and the bill allows a person            
to complain if they believe this is happening.                                 
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR said it seems that existing counselors don't have              
to comply with the provisions in the bill. MS. HAGEVIG said the                
bill does contain a grandfathering provision for people currently              
practicing who have either a MA or a Ph.D. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR asked if            
the degree has to be in counseling and MS. HENRY said counseling or            
a related field.                                                               
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR announced his intent to take up the confirmation               
hearing at this time.                                                          
           SB 331 - PROFESSIONAL COUNSELOR LICENSING                           
                                                                               
Resuming the discussion of SB 331, CHAIRMAN TAYLOR again noted that            
there seemed to be a turf battle over the bill between                         
psychologists and counselors. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR thought he heard                 
someone say that if these counselors had the appropriate post                  
graduate work and training they could be psychologists themselves.             
                                                                               
MR. CLEMENT stated the name of the program is precisely what                   
prevents this. He said they do in fact have the same training, just            
under another name. MS. HENRY agreed, saying the name on your                  
degree must match  the name on your license. MR. CLEMENT specified             
that a degree in "community psychology" might not be treated the               
same as a degree in "psychology."                                              
                                                                               
Number 444                                                                     
                                                                               
SENATOR WILKEN thanked the committee for hearing the bill, saying              
it originated from a constituent who had been wronged by someone               
who claimed to be a counselor. He said he approached this issue                
from a consumer protection standpoint but he's happy if it happens             
to benefit counselors as well.                                                 
                                                                               
MS. SHEILA CLARSON Ph.D., representing the Alaska Psychological                
Association (APA), testified via teleconference from Anchorage and             
said the language of the bill is too broad, though she does support            
counselor licensing.  MS. CLARSON said the training of counselors              
differs from that of a psychologist or a psychological associate               
and the bill does not accurately reflect that.                                 
                                                                               
MS. CLARSON said course work is generally specified for different              
types of licences by regulation. She said MR. CLEMENT's comments               
about testing illustrated APA's concern about testing. She said                
appropriate use of testing and accurate diagnoses are important                
issues that keep her from supporting the bill at this time.                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR asked if there had been an amendment contemplated              
to deal with the testing issue. SENATOR WILKEN said he also thinks             
it is a turf battle and the sides have compromised all they can. He            
thinks the bill has reached a workable point at which the public               
interest is served. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR asked MS. CLARSON if she was               
aware of the changes that had been made to the bill and she replied            
she was.  MS. CLARSON maintained her concern about the use of                  
testing by counselors due to the fact that the results of such a               
test can make a big impact on a person's life. She concluded that              
she recognizes there is room for both psychologists and counselors,            
she just wants the bill to reflect the difference between the two.             
                                                                               
Number 400                                                                     
                                                                               
MS. ANNE HENRY said the scope of counselors practice is defined in             
the bill and was modeled after the statute which licences marriage             
and family therapists. She said the bill has been changed to                   
accommodate the concerns of psychologists.                                     
                                                                               
MS. HAGEVIG made the point that psychologists have regulations                 
defining who can do what and this same thing will happen for                   
counselors under this bill. She indicated if there is a board of               
counselors set up, they will set the regulations to flesh out what             
is allowed in statute. She said the original licensure state for               
psychologists was no more specific than this bill.                             
                                                                               
Number 387                                                                     
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR commented that a board of counselors defining what             
counselors can do would understandably want to define those limits             
broadly.                                                                       
                                                                               
MS. CATHERINE SIMON, a member of the American Counseling                       
Association, testified via teleconference from Anchorage to her                
support of the bill.                                                           
                                                                               
Number 360                                                                     
                                                                               
MR. ALLEN MOROTTI commented that the bill will allow a board of                
counselors to be set up. Currently, there is no board and no type              
of oversight at all over people who call themselves "counselors."              
                                                                               
MR. LLOYD CARY supported the bill due to a case he was aware of in             
which a pastor falsely claimed to be a psychologist and was                    
practicing counseling. He supported licensure for the protection of            
the public.                                                                    
                                                                               
SENATOR PARNELL moved SB 331 with individual recommendation.                   
Without objection, the bill moved from committee and they were                 
adjourned.                                                                     

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