Florida Mental Health Counselors Association (FMHCA)
Earn 16 CEUs at FMHCA’s 2013 Conference
FMHCA has significantly expanded its annual conference this year, with multiple half-day presentations, a military track, keynote speakers of note, and a two-day supervisor training workshop. The association is anticipating a great turnout for its Feb. 8-9, 2013, conference, according to FMHCA President Elvis Lester, LMHC, NCC, MAC.
The conference theme is, “Professional & Holistic Pathways to Mental Health Counseling.” Keynote speakers for the conference include Allen Ivey, EdD, and Mary Bradford Ivey, EdD, on, “Neuroscience, Stress Management, & Substance Abuse Counseling: Suggestions for Integration,” as well as Nick Hall, PhD, on, “I Know What To Do, So Why Don’t I Do It?! Inflammation & Its Implication for Mental Health Counseling.”
Other conference special events include a lunchtime keynote address on “Are Effective Counselors Born or Made?” by Carlos P. Zalaquett, PhD, LMHC, a DSM-5 workshop, and more than two dozen sessions for clinical mental health counselors.
The conference will be held at Innisbrook Golf Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla. Check out the expanded list of speakers and download a PDF of the schedule. Click here for conference details and to register.
Northern Virginia Licensed Professional Counselors (NVLPC)
Virginia LPCs Take Licensing Concerns to Their State Senator
By Joan Normandy-Dolberg, LPC, NCC
Virginia’s licensing process for mental health counselors is time-consuming and unfair. On Aug. 29, another long-time NVLPC member, Loretta Schulz, LPC, NCC, EMDR-C, and I spent nearly 90 minutes conveying our concerns to Virginia State Sen. George Lincoln Barker and Carter Batey, his legislative assistant, in my Springfield office.
The educational, residency, and supervision requirements for LPC licensure in our state are arduous, we told Sen. Barker. Although the requirements are similar to those in other states, the process in Virginia is significantly more time consuming, which is not only unfair to those seeking licensure, but results in lack of care for individuals who need our services. The poor process also affects our ability to provide services for the large number of military individuals stationed in Virginia, which is especially alarming given the increase in the number of suicides by servicemembers.
One problem is that the state’s licensing office, which is responsible for licensing LPCs, LMFTs, CSACs, and Rehabilitation Counselors, is significantly understaffed. Only 1.5 full-time employees handle the 4,500 individuals in the pre-licensing stage, and the renewals and questions from the more than 6,000 already licensed mental health counselors, according to Virginia Board of Counseling Executive Director Catherine Chappell, in an article that appeared in the August Virginia Counselors Journal [see a related article].
In addition to giving Sen. Barker the more than 50 emails from NVLPC members detailing their licensing experiences and concerns, we also gave him a list of the most common problems reported, which include:
- When an individual calls the VA Board of Counseling office, the recorded message they hear states, “Do not leave a message because we do not return phone calls or emails.”
- Processing of initial applications often takes longer than six months, and sometimes up to a year.
- When an applicant requests clarification of a regulation or a section of the application, the standard response is a “cut and paste” of the regulation being questioned, instead of an explanation or answer to the question.
- Many applications have been lost or misplaced. Because there is no automatic confirmation that an application has been received, many individuals do not even realize their application has been misplaced until almost a year has passed.
- Processing requests for approval of supervisors or sites can take more than six months.
- Use of temporary contract workers to review applications often results in inconsistencies in approval of sites and supervisors.
- Changes in regulations that occur during the pre-licensure process are not shared with individuals already in residency.
- Lack of a list of approved supervisors makes the approval process more difficult and time-consuming.
- Lack of license reciprocity and portability, combined with lack of timeliness, negatively impacts mental health counselors who move to Virginia and already hold a license in another state. This especially affects military families who may only be stationed in one location for three years.
At the end of our meeting, Loretta and I listed the top three issues we would like addressed:
- 1. The Board should immediately, upon receipt of an application, generate a letter stating that the application was received, including the date it was received.
- 2. The Board should be willing to establish a reasonable maximum time (30 days) in which a licensing applicant’s site and supervisor are approved. If more time is needed, applicants should be able to count their counseling hours retroactively, providing their supervisor and site are approved.
- 3. The Board should compile a list of approved supervisors and post it online to make the process of getting a supervisor approved easier and faster for both the Board and the residents.
The Senator agreed that the current licensing process is not acceptable and promised to take up our cause, but reminded us that the wheels in Richmond turn slowly.
Meantime, I am following up with AMHCA and the Virginia Association of Clinical Counselors (VACC), and I will craft a petition to be placed on the Virginia Town Hall forum articulating our suggestions. I invite NVLPC members who are interested in helping launch a campaign throughout the state to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Perhaps if we stand together, we will be able to change this process for the better!