IMPORTANT NEW LAW STRENGTHENS CONNECTICUT’S PROFESSIONAL COUNSELING LICENSE

* New requirements for graduate education and fieldwork
* Addition of ethics requirement for continuing education

On July 1, 2017, Governor Malloy signed in to law Public Act 17-94, An Act Concerning Educational and Professional Standards for Professional Counselors (“P.A. 17-94”). P.A. 17-94 – a copy of which is posted on the CCA website – was the result of a long process, backed by CCA, to strengthen the educational standards for Connecticut LPCs. The new statute’s impact will be different for counselors and aspiring counselors depending on their current license and/or educational status.

* Current license holders
The provisions of the statute concerning educational standards do not affect currently licensed counselors. For current LPCs, the primary impact of the statute is the addition of mandatory training in professional ethics as a part of their continuing education requirements.

* Applicants for licensure who were matriculating students “on or before July 1, 2017”
The new statute provides an exception for any applicant who, in the words of the statute, “on or before July 1, 2017, is a matriculating student in good standing in a graduate degree program at a regionally accredited institution of higher education in one of the fields required under [the provisions of the earlier LPC statute] on or before July 1, 2017.” The statute essentially provides that applicants in this category who are students on or before July 1, 2017 or (as of that date) are graduates already working to-ward 3000 post-graduate hours “but who cannot reasonably complete the requirements. . . prior to January 1, 2019, as determined by the commissioner, may apply for a license under [the licensing statute as it existed prior to July 1, 2017] on and after January 1, 2019.” If you are a student or graduate in this category, you should carefully review the statutory language to determine its applicability to your case. Remember that it is the Department of Public Health that will make the decision regarding your status as a “matriculating student” on or before July 1, 2017 and the reasonableness of whether you can complete your requirements prior to January 1, 2019.

* Students who matriculated after July 1, 2017
For counseling students commencing their education after July 1, 2017, the new education standards for licensure can essentially be described as two paths which lead to the same license. Please note that reference to different “paths” is only for the purpose of description; the statute itself does not refer to paths. It is also not meant to suggest an endorsement by or preference of CCA for a particular path, but is intended only as a shorthand way of explaining the statutory language.

Path One to licensure is for those applicants who receive graduate degrees in clinical mental health counseling from programs of higher learning accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (“CACREP”). Applicants with such degrees would also have to pass an exam prescribed by the Commissioner of Public Health (that exam is currently the NCE or the NCMHCE) and acquire “three thou-sand hours of postgraduate experience under professional supervision, including a minimum of one hundred hours of direct professional supervision, in the practice of professional counseling, performed over a period of not less than two years.” “Direct professional supervision” has now been defined as requiring “face-to-face consultation between one supervisor. . . and one person receiving supervision that consists of not less than a monthly review with a written evaluation and assessment by the supervisor of such person’s practice of professional counseling.”

For Path Two applicants, the postgraduate requirements (test and supervised experience) are exactly the same as for Path One. Path Two is for applicants who earn a graduate degree (and complete at least sixty graduate semester hours) in counseling or a related mental health field (defined as “social work, marriage and family therapy or psychology”) at a regionally accredited institution of higher education. For Path Two, the educational and fieldwork requirements have been spelled out in greater detail than for Path One. This was by design, to ensure that, going forward, all licensed counselors in Connecticut have graduate-level training comparable to that provided by CACREP-accredited programs.

Thus, Path Two applicants will have to demonstrate that they completed coursework in each of the following areas: Human growth and development; social and cultural foundations; counseling theories; counseling techniques; group counseling; career counseling; appraisals or tests and measurements to individuals and groups; research and evaluation; professional orientation to mental health counseling; addiction and substance abuse counseling; trauma and crisis counseling; and diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional disorders. (These last three fields are among the new standards that CCA considered vital in order for Connecticut LPCs to be adequately trained to meet today’s complex mental healthcare landscape.)

The earlier statute also lacked a requirement for fieldwork as part of an applicant’s graduate education. That has now been changed; Path Two applicants must demonstrate completion of a one-hundred-hour practicum in counseling taught by a faculty member licensed or certified as a professional counselor or its equivalent in another state, and completion of a six-hundred-hour clinical mental health counseling internship taught by a faculty member licensed or certified as a professional counselor or its equivalent in another state.

Because the changes to the licensing statute will primarily affect those who are now entering graduate programs as students, the Connecticut Association of Counselor Education and Supervision (“CACES”), a division of CCA, will be working to inform Connecticut’s graduate programs of the changes and the importance of educating students about the new requirements. CCA leaders, including Trip Hartigan (President) and Louisa Foss-Kelly (Past-President) are also available to CCA members to discuss the statute and its implementation. It is important to emphasize, however, that CCA’s role in educating its members about these statutory changes must be considered in light of the primary role of the Department of Public Health in interpreting and applying the new law. We strongly urge all counselors and aspiring counselors to review and understand the licensure statute and its applicability to their own situation. We look forward to working with you as we move forward under this greatly strengthened licensing law.

 

CCA will continue its legislative efforts to ensure that LPCs remain an integral part of Connecticut’s network of mental health service providers. We’ll update you soon on our continuing work.

 

Trip Hartigan, CCA President 2017-2018