The July/August issue of Family Therapy magazine focused on the value and purpose of licensing for mental health professionals. I am both an LPC/S and an LMFT/S in South Carolina. And what I find distressing in our state is the blatant misrepresentation on the part of various persons with an LPC license who promote themselves (and are seemingly recognized) as marriage and family therapists. When, of course, the purpose of a license in any profession is to both inform and protect consumers of whatever the professional service.
Even if I am supervising a post-graduate student for an LPC license, I am supervising from a systemic perspective, which is a more comprehensive theoretical and ethical orientation; LPC training being thus subsumed under the more comprehensive systemic perspective reflected in an LMFT credential. Even such persons as I may have supervised are not, however, legally or ethically entitled to promote themselves as qualified marriage and family therapists unless they hold an LMFT license. At least according to the Practice Act, which defines the distinct LPC and LMFT licenses in our state.
The contrast between how many more mental health professionals in South Carolina possess an LPC license with how fewer LMFT licenses are held reveals how less demanding the LPC license is. Not that I haven't supervised some persons who have qualified for both licenses. Yet, some of the most capable students I have taught in graduate school who have passed the LPC exam have failed the LMFT test.
The LPC Code of Ethics in South Carolina prohibits LPCs from practicing outside of their "Scope of Practice" (#s 6 and 7) and from promoting themselves as qualified to offer such services (Section F, #s 1 and 3).
Recently, I explained to the administrators of one of the graduate programs in clinical counseling in our state who was hiring an LPC to teach "Family Systems Theory," that such a person was not qualified to teach such a course according to our state's distinctive licenses.
Their response was that licensing does not apply to academia; even though this particular graduate program claims to be preparing students for licensure. And they added, so "we can get by with" hiring this person.
At which I asked, "Is that the kind of ethical principle you want to teach your students? Whatever the matter, if you can get by with it, it's okay?"
Is that what makes something ethical—whatever you can get by with?
The Reverend Robert Marsden (Monty) Knight, DMin, has been a pastoral counselor in Charleston, South Carolina for the past 41 years. He is an AAPC Fellow and an AAMFT Clinical Fellow and Approved Supervisor. www.drmontyknightcounseling.com