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#1
Old 12-02-2011, 05:38 PM
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Ramifications of unlicensed therapists?

In many jurisdictions, there are a smorgasbord of credentials that people practicing talk therapy may have, such as Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Addiction Specialist, Certified Marriage and Family Therapist, etc.

Pick your favorite jurisdictions.

What are the ramifications of a person giving advice but lacking a therapy credential? Assume that the "therapist" in question does not misrepresent themself - perhaps they hang out a sign that says "robert_columbia, therapist. $30 for 1 hour." instead of the (arguably fraudulent) "robert_columbia, PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, $30 for 1 hour."

I can think of the following possibilities:

1) It's actually illegal to give advice to others without therapist credentials. That is, the neighborhood busybody who goes around saying, "Your daughter's boyfriend is going to be trouble...You look stressed, take a vacation.... You might feel better if you asked your sister to come over.... blah blah" can actually be prosecuted for being an unlicensed therapist.

2) It's only a legal problem if you are actually doing it for profit. So, one can give out as much advice as they want, but they can't rent an office downtown and hang out a shingle that says "robert_columbia, therapist" without having at least one therapy credential.

3) They are "optional" industry certifications, but there are no legal ramifications outside of the fact that lacking a "credential" means that you may have difficulty finding customers (if trying to practice on your own), trouble convincing a large clinic or hospital to hire you (if you want to work 9-5 as a therapist for some firm), trouble convincing an insurance company to pay for your therapy when the patient could have gone to a licensed therapist instead. That is, they are practical ramifications. E.g. "I'm not seeing that robert_columbia guy, he doesn't have any credentials except for unrelated science and engineering degrees. I don't understand what you see in him. I'm sticking with Licensed Clinical Psychologists and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists because Consumer Reports says that, overall, they provide a better value on your dollar."

Last edited by robert_columbia; 12-02-2011 at 05:41 PM.
#2
Old 12-02-2011, 07:02 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Eastern Connecticut
Posts: 16,445
Nice question!

I always thought there would be a market for a conversation partner, someone that a person that lived alone and just wanted some form of human contact, they could either call or visit the office of the conversationalist [or the conversationalist could go to their home] and sit and chat for some fee by the half hour, or hour. Nothing dirty, just general chat on neutral topics for the sheer human contact.

I know that when I was doing telephone CS, we would get callers that just pretty much wanted to chat with someone.
#3
Old 12-03-2011, 12:45 AM
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Contrary to popular belief, therapy is not just "giving advice". I don't think anyone could give you grief about marketing yourself as someone who will listen and give advice. After all, that's what Dear Abby does basically. You could call yourself a life coach or something.

Marketing yourself as a therapist probably would get you in trouble though. Often states have specific requirements for what kind of credentials someone has to have to use those kinds of titles. I know for a fact from my days as a psychology major that you can't legally use a term like "psychologist" without the proper training.
#4
Old 12-04-2011, 01:29 PM
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Interesting. Nobody else?

Does any jurisdiction have a working definition of "therapy", "psychotherapy", "counseling", etc. that provides anything near a bright-line definition between casual, unregulated advice (e.g., "Have you thought about a romantic vacation with her to reignite the spark?") from regulated therapeutic practices?

E.g.:

Inmate 1: "So, what are you in for?"
Inmate 2: "Practicing Marriage and Family Therapy without a License. It happened when my brother was having relationship difficulties with his wife. I recommended a romantic getaway and shared my favorite spots, and shared my copy of 'The Idiot's Guide to Awesome Sex' and agreed to help them out with some of the unusual positions in the book by spotting them in the bedroom because I went through the book with my wife last year. Apparently that did it, the court said that sexual coaching can only be provided by a Certified Marriage and Family Therapist, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, or Medical Doctor."
Inmate 1: "Bummer man! But that's good to know. My sister's husband is threatening to leave her and I now know what I shouldn't recommend."
#5
Old 12-05-2011, 01:57 AM
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Location: Philladelphia-Mummer city
Posts: 11,654
I know here in Pennsylvania it's perfectly legal to provide therapy without credentials of any kind. You just have to make it clear that you have no credentials. I believe you're even allowed to call yourself a therapist.
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#6
Old 12-06-2011, 08:43 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2009
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Let's take it a little different way. Have there been any cases (any jurisdiction) where a person has drawn the ire of legal authorities or has been sued due to being perceived as "being a therapist", "practicing therapy", "practicing psychology", etc. when they lacked therapist degrees or certifications, but did NOT falsely hold themselves out has having them.

E.g.:

"
Department of Health Professions 123 Main Street
Dear Joe Robinson:
It has come to our attention that, according to several people in this community, namely Mary Jones and Harold Franklin, you have been exchanging dating advice for money in this jurisdiction during 2011. Please be aware that city statutes require that any person practicing Marriage and Family Therapy in this city have a license to do so. The requirements for a license are at least a Master's Degree in a social science field as well as a passing score on the State Family Therapy Provider Qualification Test. Note that the statute prohibits practicing at all without a license, and that it is no defense that you did not use the term "Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist" in your advertising or otherwise hold yourself off as holding a license. The very act of practicing it is regulated, regardless of what you call it. Please find an application form enclosed herein...."

Last edited by robert_columbia; 12-06-2011 at 08:47 AM.
#7
Old 12-06-2011, 08:53 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 8,791
Quote:
Originally Posted by lavenderviolet View Post
Contrary to popular belief, therapy is not just "giving advice". I don't think anyone could give you grief about marketing yourself as someone who will listen and give advice. After all, that's what Dear Abby does basically. You could call yourself a life coach or something.

Marketing yourself as a therapist probably would get you in trouble though. Often states have specific requirements for what kind of credentials someone has to have to use those kinds of titles. I know for a fact from my days as a psychology major that you can't legally use a term like "psychologist" without the proper training.
Interesting. Is it then primarily based on what you call yourself or your practice, rather than what you do?

E.g. is it legal to practice what most people would call Clinical Psychology, Marriage and Family Therapy, etc. as long as you call it something else (such as "robert_columbia's Getting Along In Life Help", "Advice for Life", "Happy Talk Sessions", "We Discuss Traumatic Experiences Here", etc.)?
#8
Old 12-06-2011, 09:16 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Virginia
Posts: 4,267
Aren't you describing people like psychics and palm readers? You can visit them for advice and they aren't licensed therapists. I've always assumed the "I can read the future" thing was just a fun cover story. What you really get (I assume) is someone to talk to and to maybe tell you what you want to hear.
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