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That Which We Call An LPC…

Monday, February 24, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Eve Rogerson, MA, NCC, LCMHCA

What’s in a name? If you have been keeping up with North Carolina legislative changes happening at the beginning of 2020, you’ll know that the title Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) has been officially changed to Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC). Senate Bill 537 was adopted by the General Assembly on October 31 2019 and was subsequently signed by the Governor, going in effect on January 1, 2020.

 In addition to changing the name of “licensed professional counselor” to “licensed clinical mental health counselor”, the bill will also allow the Licensing Board to establish a program for licensees who may be experiencing substance use disorders, burnout, compassion fatigue, and other mental health concerns and allow the Board to refer any licensee to the program as part of the disciplinary process.

 Other than being a bit more of a mouthful (and adding two extra letters to our official designations!), what does this mean for our work as counseling professionals? As a freshly minted LCMHC-A, obtaining my license in December 2019, I have been watching with interest as we explored the importance of a definitive title for our profession and the decision made in North Carolina to move from LPC to LCMHC.

 From a practical standpoint, aligning with the nomenclature used in Medicare bills is more likely to allow LCMHCs to be approved Medicare providers for enrollees seeking medically necessary covered services as and when such bills are made into law. It follows that, from a social justice lens, this increases access to mental health services for those who may have previously been denied services provided by trained, licensed counselors. The use of the LCMHC designation also aligns with the wording used by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC), which should again reduce confusion and increase the likelihood of license reciprocity between states.

 The other important objective for this name change is to highlight the particular benefits that LCMHCs provide (American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), 2019). By further defining and clarifying our professional identity, we distinguish our profession from the other three mental health professions (Psychologists, Clinical Social Workers, and Marriage and Family Therapists) and accurately inform the public, insurers, state and federal agencies, and employers about the clinically skilled capabilities of LCMHCs. The work LCMHCs do “helps meet the need for effective treatment of mental health conditions along with the desirability of integrated health” and LCMHCs are “rigorously qualified to provide a wide spectrum of services” (AMHCA, 2019, p. 2) through graduate education, supervised experience, and state licensing to treat a plethora of psychological concerns.

 Finally, creating an official process for impairment prevention and protection of counselor resiliency reflects two of our core principles as counselors: non-maleficence and fidelity. We have a duty to not engage in actions that may inflict harm on our clients - such as practicing while impaired - and our fidelity is critical for protecting a trusting therapeutic relationship, something that is put at risk should the counselor leave obligations unfulfilled. Furthermore, acknowledging the humanity inherent in counselors and the need for self-care for all humans is a practice of authenticity and humility. I would also link this to hopefully reducing the stigma associated with seeking mental health support, as counselors specifically and by modeling this behavior in general.

 By any other name, then, an LCMHC would not be the same mental health professional. The new designation has the potential to increase the ability of LCMHCs to provide services to a broader spectrum of clients, especially those who may have previously been denied mental health services; it reduces ambiguity for multiple stakeholders; and it intentionally protects core values of the profession while distinguishing our work from that of other mental health professionals. I for one am a proud LCMHC-A who is excited to have a title that reflects my clinical training and values.

 American Mental Health Counselors Association (2019). Essentials of the clinical mental health counseling profession: Including the key components of the profession and a career development guide. Prepublication edition, Alexandria: VA: Authors: Joel E. Miller, Executive Director and CEO; H. Gray Otis, PhD, LCMHC, Director of Program Coordination; Kathleen McCathy, Editor.


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