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What Is The Interstate Counseling Compact & What Does it Mean for Me?

what is the counseling compact

The Professional Counselors Licensure Compact Act is designed to increase public access to professional counseling services by providing for the mutual recognition of other member state licenses.

Georgia and Maryland have passed HB 395 and HB 736 respectively allowing for the counseling compact. 

The Counseling Compact is an exciting alternative for both consumers and counselors. It also aims to solve access to care problems for both telemental health and physical out-of-state practice. 

It partially resolves both legal and ethical issues and practice across state lines. 

Good Read:  Ethics and Practice Across State Lines

It would enable professional counselors to practice across state lines if they have a:

1) valid unencumbered state license in their home state and 

2) been approved for the “Privilege To Practice” in the other state. 

This is the fundamental component of the compact . 

The compact was developed by The National Center for Interstate Compacts through $600,000 funding from the American Counseling Association (ACA). 

Why Implementing the Compact Is Difficult.

States Retain Rights to Setting Their Licensing Requirements

As of this writing, two states have passed legislation that includes the compact in their state licensing law. Georgia was the first state to enact Counseling Compact Law followed by Maryland. The legislative efforts in Georgia were led by LPCAGA the Licensed Professional Counselors Association of Georgia. Georgia’s Compact Law becomes effective 7/1/21. Maryland’s Compact law became effective 5/18/21.

When can you begin practicing in other states under the Licensed Professional Counselors Compact Law? 

As of today, you cannot practice under the counselor compact. You must practice through the current means for practicing across state lines–primarily becoming licensed in additional states or various COVID-19 exceptions.

Good Read: The Counseling Compact: What Can I Do In The Meantime?

The compact permits states to enter into the compact and administer it. The law does not repeal current licensing requirements. In order for a state with the compact law to enter into the compact:

Most states are working to move through their legislation the language created by CounselingCompact.org. So states are using that drafted language as a template. 

The primary obstacle to the laws going into effect by states is that states retain all authority over licensing requirements. Under state licensing law, licensing boards must abide by enforcing those requirements. 

For example, Texas and North Carolina Counseling boards require a jurisprudence exam ( a test of license applicants knowledge of their practice law). Georgia does not, however Georgia requires a specific minimum number of years of post masters counseling experience for licensure. Texas requires a specified number of experience and supervision hours but they can be acquired in a lesser time than Georgia. 

Some states allow LPC’s to diagnose. In Tennessee, one must hold an additional clinical mental health designation in order to diagnose. 

As you can see, portability through the counseling compact is quite complicated.

Again, your state retains it’s right to create, establish and enforce requirements for licensure. Therein lies the challenge. Also: 

1) That state may need to determine if their law could prohibit them from entering into the compact due to conflicts with other practice law. 

2) States may opt to not enter the compact.

3) It may require passing of additional mental health practice legislation in order for a state to participate in the compact. 

4) Other reasons.

Generally, counseling and psychology state licensing law is designed to meet the needs of that state. Once law and rules/regulations have been established, state boards are resolute in enforcing them. These are partly the reasons implementing the compact is complex.

The PsyPact Authority to Practice Interjurisdictional Telepsychology

PsyPact for psychologists has already been enacted and implemented in a number of states including Georgia. Of the 26 states that have passed PsyPact legislation, currently 18 of those state boards are participating.

There are currently over 3000 psychologists nationwide who are approved for the Authority to Practice Interjurisdictional Telepsychology.

There are also provisions for temporary interstate face-to-face practice of psychology, but this is a separate application process. 

Can the Counseling Compact Discipline Your State License?

The answer is yes…and no. First, your state must participate in the compact.

All proposed (and passed) bills grant the compact significant power over the Privilege to
 Practice across state lines. It is difficult, if not impossible to know the extent to which state boards will accommodate the Compact Organization. And state boards retain the ultimate power over your state license.

As the law is written, the Compact Organization can suspend your “Privilege to Practice”.

If the compact determines there has been a significant or serious ethical violation of practice across state lines, it would have the power to suspend your Privilege to Practice in all states where you have been approved.

In short, the Privilege to Practice is specific to the component of the law which permits out of state practice.

Who Wrote The Counseling Compact Law?

The National Center for Interstate Compacts in Lexington KY drafted counseling compact model legislation for professional counseling associations and other state stakeholders to use as a guide.

Many states are using this model template and for this reason the compact law and proposed legislation is similar across states.  

10 States Before The Counseling Compact Becomes Effective

Let’s clear up confusion about this:

After compact legislation is enacted in 10 states,

1) it does not mean you can legally practice nationwide.

2) it does not mean you can legally practice amongst within the 10 compact states.

3) many states will need to pass legislation changing their counselor licensing requirements in order to participate in the counseling compact.

4) counselingcompact.org has determined they will increase resources to implement counselor practice across state lines. 

What's On The Horizon For Implementation of the Counseling Compact?

States have long explored counseling reciprocity agreements. Reciprocity is a unique mechanism. It is a written agreement between two states that one will accept the others license. It also first requires those state boards to have the authority under law to enter into a reciprocity agreement. These agreements permit face-to-face practice. 

The Kentucky Board of Professional Counselors and The Tennessee Board for Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marital and Family Therapists, and Licensed Clinical Pastoral Therapists have reciprocity.

Kentucky and The Ohio Board of Professional Counselors, Social Workers and Marriage and Family Therapists have reciprocity. 

So for example, since they already have legal recognition of their licenses, it is possible these three states could enter the interstate counseling compact more quickly. 

You deserve a former licensing board president on your side.

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