North Dakota Mental Health Counselor's Association

Legislative Updates

North Dakota Board of Counselor Examiners Makes Changes to Licensure Requirements

As of July 1, 2017, all applications for licensure will require a 60 hour Masters in Counseling.

For more information about licensure in North Dakota, visit http://www.ndbce.org/


Final TRICARE Rules More Beneficial to Licensed Professional Counselors

Many Licensed Professional Counselors will benefit under the Final Rule published today by the Department of Defense (DoD). The Final Rules apply to the TRICARE Certified Mental Health Counselors (TCMHC) category. Several provisions included were those advocated for by the American Counseling Association over the last several years.

The Final Rule will finally allow LPCs meeting specific criteria to operate as independent practitioners under TRICARE. This has been a key component in ACA’s efforts to demonstrate parity among those providing mental health services. In addition, TRICARE is extending the transition period for meeting education, examination, and supervised clinical practice criteria to January 1, 2017. Without this extension, the window for eligibility would have ended in just over five months on December 31. With the extension, our members will have had five full years to meet the criteria which include:

1. Possession of a master’s degree or higher from a mental health counseling program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Education Programs (CACREP) and passage of the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE); OR,

2. Possession of a master’s degree or higher in counseling from a regionally accredited institution and passage of the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). “DoD made the right choice in allowing LPCs to become independent practitioners in TRICARE, and with the extension of the time in which to meet the criteria,” said Robert L. Smith, ACA President. Another provision of the Final Rule will allow those in the Supervised Mental Health Counselor (SMHC) category to continue beyond the current December 31, 2014 deadline. The SMHC works via physician supervision and referral. Those counselors in this category were going to lose that status and no longer be able to practice within TRICARE. These practitioners will now have an indefinite extension. “We were very pleased that DoD made the wise decision to continue the SMHC category of provider. This move is congruent with many state licensure laws and helps to ensure that more LPCs will be able to practice under TRICARE,” said Richard Yep, ACA Chief Executive Officer. Many of the changes in the Final Rule encompassed the recommendations which were advocated by ACA. “Our goal was to work diligently to ensure that the final rule was less exclusionary, and therefore would allow our members to provide help to service members and their families,” said Art Terrazas, ACA Director of Government Affairs. More details on the Final Rule will be coming soon but rest assured that ACA will continue to work for all LPCs to ensure they find a place within TRICARE. Please stay tuned to ACA communications channels for more updates. Read the final rule here.


AMHCA/ACA/NBCC Update: The Department of Veterans Affairs Recognizes Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselors!

Washington, DC - October 4, 2010 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has issued qualification standards formally recognizing licensed professional counselors as mental health specialists within the Veterans Health Administration. The standards, released internally to the VA late on September 28th and available online, are the culmination of years of work by the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), the American Counseling Association (ACA), and the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) to open up mental health provider jobs within the VA to professional counselors. This is a landmark step forward for the counseling profession as well as an important means of expanding the pool of mental health service providers available to meet the growing treatment needs of our nation’s veterans.

The new standards set categories and criteria for employment within the VA. The standards establish several levels of employment within the GS-101 series for counselors-entitled "Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselors" (LPMHC)-similar to and on par with the positions currently in place for clinical social workers:

  • GS-9 Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselor (Entry Level – for individuals with a graduate degree in counseling but who have not yet become licensed)
  • GS-11 Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselor
  • GS-12 Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselor Program Coordinator
  • GS-12 Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselor Supervisor
  • GS-13 Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselor Program Manager
  • GS-14 LPMHC Program Manager Leadership Assignments

The regulations require counselors to have a master's degree in mental health counseling or a related field from a program accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Examples of related mental health counseling fields include, but are not limited to addiction counseling; community counseling; gerontology counseling; marital, couple, and family counseling; and marriage and family therapy. A master’s degree in mental health counseling is the only degree that will be recognized under the new standards. There are no substitute degrees authorized.

The regulations also contain specific information regarding the employment of counselors who at the time of appointment have not completed all of the requirements to become state licensed. At the time of appointment, the supervisor will provide the unlicensed counselor with the written requirement to obtain licensure, the date by which the license must be acquired and the consequences for not becoming licensed by the deadline. Failure to become licensed within two years from the date of appointment will result in removal from the GS-101 LPMHC series and may result in termination of employment. Once licensed, counselors must maintain a valid and unrestricted license to independently practice mental health counseling, which includes diagnosis and treatment.

We are continuing to work with the VA to obtain a government Occupational Series from the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM). This General Series would be specific to the counseling profession and would affect all federal agencies. It would facilitate hiring of counselors in the VA and throughout the federal government, and will not slow the VA implementation.

These qualification standards are a major accomplishment and a historic step forward in federal recognition of counselors. While it is the last formal step in the VA employment process, it will take time for counselors to be fully integrated into the system. To help us ensure the process is working, we strongly encourage counselors to contact us to share their experiences in seeking positions within the VA under the new standards. We will be monitoring implementation of the new law to ensure that licensed professional counselors are being adequately recognized for-and hired in-mental health specialist positions within the VA.

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