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Dual Perspectives

Make sure therapists' backgrounds are clear —

Having been in private practice for many years, we have — become increasingly concerned that the public has not been well-served — regarding licensure of mental health practitioners in private practice. — It is difficult for consumers to make an intelligent health provider selection — because there are innumerable licensed practitioners and an increasing — number of unlicensed "counselors" and "therapists" providing services.

In 1989, the State of Oregon passed a licensing law for — Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors. At that time, — Oregon finally established a regulation to monitor the practice of those — fields with a licensure board bringing it up to par with numerous other — states that had already done so many years prior. However, the Oregon — law fell short of those other states in one important aspect. It continued — to allow the practice of counseling and marriage and family therapy "as — long as the person does not represent to the public by title that the — person is licensed." Within its licensure, the law addresses educational — and training requirements for counselors and therapists and provides ethical — standards as well, whereas such accountability for unlicensed professionals — does not exist.

With the Oregon law in place, people have had better quality — choices available to them. This is not to say that there are not dedicated, — effective, well-meaning "counselors" who are providing help in the counseling — field. Nonetheless, there is no replacement or substitute for substantive — graduate-level education, extensive supervision, clinical training and — experiential expertise. This specified background prepares the therapist — for obtaining licensure through a state examination and assures approval — that he/she has met the required mandates to become a private therapist. — The public might not be aware that presently anyone can be referred to — as a "counselor" or "therapist." Hanging out a shingle can be those who — have no educational attainment or training in the field of counseling — or therapy whatsoever. They may not, however, state that they are a licensed — counselor or therapist. Licensure in a specific area insures that this — professional has met the requirements to treat problems within their prescribed — discipline.

It is incomprehensible that the State of Oregon condones — permitting anyone, in any profession, to be called a counselor and to — engage in counseling with no education of any kind, no requirements, no — applied training, and most importantly, no accountability.

There is an abundant number of "counselors" with credentials — in non-counseling areas who have decided to practice as counselors nevertheless. — People need to be reminded - be aware that emotional problems can be exacerbated — if symptoms are not recognized or treated properly. Is the public well-served — or properly informed in these circumstances? The community at large ought — to question the wisdom of those counselors who accept vulnerable patients — without full recognition of what occurs in the therapeutic process.

Needless to say, counseling and therapy are serious professions, — not to be taken lightly or entered into with innocent naivete. In order — to receive quality care, the public has a right to know what services — are available, from whom, along with their qualifications, training and — licensing information. Because licensure does not automatically ensure — desired results, it is incumbent upon the public to explore and seek out — the appropriate provider to fulfill their unique needs.

Research has demonstrated conclusively the significance — of client choice of a primary therapist upon therapy outcome. We feel — obliged to inform those who seek help about the value of the existing — quality mental health services, since this crucial emotional and financial — investment can fully impact upon the course of their lives, present and — future.

At the current time, under Oregon law, the following mental — health professionals who do engage in private practice with a license — are as follows:

o Psychiatrist: M.D.

o Licensed Clinical Psychologist: Ph.D., doctorate in — psychology

o Licensed Psychologist Associate: M.A. or M.S.

o Licensed Clinical Social Worker: M.A. or M.S., LCSW

o Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist: M.A. or M.S., — LMFT

o Licensed Professional Counselor: M.A. or M.S., LPC

Further information may be obtained by contacting the — various Boards overseeing the individual mental health disciplines.

o Oregon Board of Medical Examiners: Psychiatrists: 1500 — S.W. First Ave., Portland, OR 97201 (877) 254-6263

o Board of Clinical Social Workers: Social Workers: 3218 — Pringle Road S.E., Salem, OR 97320 (503) 378-5735

o Board of Counselors and Therapists: Marriage and Family — Therapists and Professional Counselors: 3218 Pringle Road S.E., Salem, — OR 97320 (503) 378-5499

o Board of Psychologist Examiners: Psychologists & Psychological — Associates: 3218 Pringle Road S.E., Salem, OR 97320 (503) 378-4154

o Concerns and Complaints: John Langenwalter (866) 355-7050, — ext. 34

The primary purpose of all the above boards are for public — protection. In the near future, new Oregon legislation will be introduced — to bring all unlicensed people who practice within these professions under — the jurisdiction of these regulatory boards.

Al and Anne Bodin are retired licensed marriage, family — and child therapists with former practices in Ashland and California.