Can Counselors Diagnose At The Associate Level?


Can associate level licensed counselors legally diagnose mental disorders? This depends on the particular state and other factors. 

Critical Factors To Consider Determining If You Can Diagnose.

Mental Illness State Law Versus Board Rules

Table of Contents

Sorting through a state’s diagnosing rules and policies.

1) Stated explicitly in Board Rules.

2) Does the law or board rule say nothing about diagnosis.

3) Does the rule allow diagnosing despite state law to the contrary.

All of these are possible. 

For example, Tennessee law says nothing about diagnosing, but of the several licenses issued by the Tennessee board, rules state that only LPC-MHSP (Mental Health Service Provider) can diagnose. Not under state law, but under board rules. One still cannot know with certainty how the Tennessee Board for Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marital and Family Therapists and Licensed Clinical Pastoral Therapists is actually enforcing this rule.

This means if a Tennessee LPC requires a diagnosis, they must refer to an LPC-MHSP. There are instances this may not be feasible.

It is very important to confirm your situation with various boards because they may enforce these differently as stated in rules. 

Does Associate Level Prepare them To Diagnose

Again in Tennessee, The policy to allow diagnosing is related to the experience level of the counselor. This is also true in many states.

Can Associate Counselors Work in a Private Practice

Georgia law permits LPCs to diagnose. The law says nothing about APCs.

The scope of practice of both as stated in law are the same. 

So Georgia’s Composite Board is permitted under law to allow an APC (provisional license) to diagnose. And that is how it has usually been enforced by Georgia’s Board of Professional Counselors, Social Workers and Marriage and Family Therapists.

Does the State Restrict Their Clinical Work

Difficulties in sorting through a state’s diagnosing rules and policies.

1) Explicit in Board Rules.

2) Does the rule say nothing about diagnosis.

3) Does the rule conflict with state law.

All of these are possible. 

The Purpose and Type of Diagnosis

1) Insurance reimbursement- most third party payors do not permit provisionally licensed to diagnosis simply because they will not allow them to be network providers.

2) Some states will not permit anyone other than psychologists (or maybe psychiatrists) to diagnose medical/mental and developmental disorders.

3) Some states only permit psychologists to diagnose personality disorders.

4) Sometimes a counselor wants to make a working diagnosis as a framework for treatment.

5) A provisionally licensed counselor may want to document a diagnosis made by a professional who is licensed to legally diagnose. This is most always the preferable solution.  

"Does My State Allow Me To Diagnose?"

There are many different scenarios, but if you go to this page I provide direct links to many states’ general rules.

Finding My State Law

This can be difficult, but here step-by-step are ways to locate state law.

1)  A link to the counseling law can usually be found somewhere on the board’s homepage. You need to look carefully.

2) Sometimes it will be an external link to Lexis-Nexis and requires you to confirm you are not a robot–the primary reason I’m unable to provide you direct links to all state’s laws.

3) The law is usually under a code section, “Professions and Businesses”.

Good luck and contact me through my live chat if you need more assistance. 

You deserve a former licensing board president on your side.

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