Counselors Practicing Without a License: Is it Legal?

by | Nov 15, 2011 | Counseling Blog | 95 comments

Protecting the Public

Dear Anthony,

I wanted to thank you for writing such an interesting article in the November issue of Counseling Today regarding Life Coaches.  I am a recent graduate in Community Counseling and just passed the LPC exam.

Here in Dallas, a lot of so-called “hypnotist/hypnotherapists” pass themselves off as therapists and life coaches. It’s amazing because they have NO clinical training to practice mental health.  I’m wondering if there are any laws out there to protect the public.

For example, there is a guy in Dallas who is top listed on Google for Hypnotherapy.

The guy claims to be a “board certified hypnotherapist”…but in reality it requires no formal education nor licensure.  If you look at his site, he claims to treat all kinds of clinical issues … including addictions. There are an awful lot of people out there claiming to by hypnotherapists, but are not licensed by the state to perform therapy.  I’m wondering what I can do as a counselor to change this situation?

Sincerely,

Jeremy Porter

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Dear Jeremy,

Thank you so much for reading, and for your comments about my column!

The issue of licensure you describe in a touchy one. I have an answer for you, but I can’t guarantee its 100 percent accuracy in your state.

In Massachusetts, where my counseling practice is, the term “Mental Health Counseling” is regulated. However, the term “psychotherapy” is not (and some say the term “counseling” alone isn’t).

Hence, unlicensed providers can hang a shingle and provide “psychotherapy” without breaking any laws. I last looked into this a couple years ago, and a representative of the board of licensure in MA mentioned that they were trying to regulate the term “psychotherapy.” I don’t think that ever happened. Moreover, even if it did, nothing would stop someone from providing “life coaching”, “mentorship”, “listening services”, “life consulting” or who knows what else.

It seems, you are having a similar experience, with someone providing services under the term “Hypnotherapy.” I can’t speak to the level of regulation the term “hypnotherapy” requires specifically.

I have heard, that in some states, anyone who is practicing in a way that meet the definition of counseling–regardless of what they are calling it–is in violation. However, I don’t know the specifics regarding this, or how well it is enforced. It seems the person below is claiming to treat additions, depression, etc…. I’m not sure if that puts him into any sort of red zone, or not. I often see websites for acupuncturists, chiropractors, yoga studios, herbalists, and massage therapists who make similar claims–and no one seems to bother them.

I think that the best approach for counselors is going to be one where you emphasize your strengths to potential clients. This might include:

  1. Showing the difference in caliber of education and licensure you possess
  2. Being eligible to accept client’s insurance (which unlicensed providers can’t do)
  3. Patient/Client Privilege — The legal protection of clients privacy licensed counselors have, but others don’t.

Jeremy, I hope this helps!!

Sincerely,

Anthony

Dr. Anthony Centore

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