As many of you know Georgia Senate Bill 319 passed and was signed into law by the Governor on April 26, 2016. If a licensee has been independently licensed by April 26, 2016, they are exempt from the psychopathology/diagnosis course requirements related to this ruling 135-12.
The language in SB 319 required the GA Composite Board for Professional Counselors, Social Workers and Marriage & Family Therapists to write rules in fulfillment of the new law. In other words, rules that would explain to us all how to be in compliance.
If you have not read the ruling yet, I highly recommend that you go to the composite board website and read Rule 135-12. At the time of this writing it can easily be found on the homepage. In the future you will find it where all of the board rules are by going to the page “Law’s, Policies & Rules” and following the link “Board Rules.”
The Rule Has Two Parts
The first part has to do with testing and assessment. The language is clear about which categories of assessment instruments counselors can administer and provide, as well as those that social workers can administer, and then MFT’s… The meaning of this language is difficult to comprehend on a practical level. In other words, there is not list of instruments that you can use or not use. It is my best guess that how this rule is applied will unfold over time based on people trying to practice within their scope.
If another practitioner, such as a psychologist, thinks that a licensee governed by the composite board is practicing outside their scope, I imagine they would file a complaint and the board would likely investigate the claim. As many associate counselors work for psychologists helping them administer tests, I imagine they will be providing proper oversight to those licensees who work for them as contractors or employees. Additionally, it seems to me this might call into question which instruments those psychologists can allow someone to administer on their behalf.
If you are a licensee under the GA Composite Board, I think it makes sense to talk to your employer about any testing or assessment instruments you are administering and work together to determine if it is allowable. Additionally, based on the language in the rule, it seems to suggest that you need to have graduate level training or supervised experience that rises to a similar equivalency.
Part 2 – Psychopathology Course Work
The second part of the ruling includes a description of the required education for licensees. There is no mention of pre-licensees or those pursuing licensure who do not yet have an APC (Associate Professional Counselor) designation.
Despite this, we can look to the upcoming board rule updates that will go into effect after September 30, 2018. You can find the updated 135-5 “Requirements for Licensure” on the GA Composite Board website. Basically this rule increases the required course content from 6 out of 9 areas to 9 out of 9.
This means that in prior years some applicants who did not have a course in diagnosis (i.e. abnormal psychology, psychopathology, DSM course) were eligible to pursue licensure. It is notable that some applicants don’t have a Counseling/Psychotherapy Theory class, Ethics class, or Diagnosis class as part of their transcript.
As I speak to those pursuing licensure now or in the future, I have been encouraging them to make sure they have a diagnosis course or take one at a graduate level or from an approved training institute. Training institutes are organizations that offer Marriage and Family Therapy coursework that have been approved to provide the requisite classes for those pursuing the MFT license.
45 Continuing Education Hours
The way I am reading 135-12.02, it seems to me that those who already have a license (like an APC/LPC, LMSW/LCSW, or AMFT/LMFT) are the ones who can take 45 continuing education hours in Diagnosis to meet the requirements of the board.
The 45 CE’s need to be approved by one of our four professional associations:
- LPCA-GA – The Licensed Professional Counselors Association of Georgia
- GSCSW – The Georgia Society for Clinical Social Workers
- AAMFT-GA or GAMFT – The American Association of Marriage & Family Therapy Georgia Division
- NASW-GA – The National Association of Social Workers – Georgia Chapter
It is unclear to me whether or not it is possible for those who are planning to apply for a license, but don’t yet have one, would be able to take the 45 CE hours in lieu of a graduate course. Therefore, I am advising my supervisees who need a diagnosis course to enroll in a graduate course that is at least 3 semester hours.
The deadline for existing licensees who have not completed a 3 hour diagnosis course is to have fulfilled that requirement by the end of 2017. I’ve been saying December 31, 2017 but I think technically it is January 1, 2018.
Because it took time to write Rule 135-12 and then more time for the governor to sign it, many licensees have been taking a “wait and see” approach. While this is a natural reaction to a time consuming and costly requirement, it has placed many licensees behind with regard to compliance.
Many colleagues are asking the question “Will the board extend the rule deadline?” Since I am not on the board, I cannot speak for them. However, it is my sincere belief that would be improbable if not impossible. Senate Bill 319 was passed by the GA State Legislature. It is the law. I think that I am safe in saying that GA Composite Board cannot change it.
So how can you comply with the educational requirements of this rule? I have been advising my counseling supervisees and colleagues to look at a copy of the application they submit it to the composite board. We have been looking to see if they submitted a course under area IX – “Psychopathology.”
I am also reviewing their transcripts to confirm whether or not they had a course that meets the requirements. This includes a 3 hour course in psychopathology, diagnosis or abnormal psychology or a similar course title that covers the DSM and basically teaches the diagnostic criteria, using the DSM, and how to determine a diagnosis.
If you did not have the course and you have not been licensed for more than 10 years by April 26, 2016, then your best recourse is to take the 45 hours of continuing education.
Even if you are behind (i.e. have not registered for a course), there are still options.
I have not heard of the board planning to review everyone’s records to determine if they have met the educational requirements. They are also discouraging people from sending in their course information unless they request it.
Make no mistake: it is of vital importance that you understand anytime you go to renew your license that you are attesting to following all of the Georgia Composite Board Rules.
Therefore, if you renew your license and you are not in compliance with Georgia Composite Board Rule 135–12, then you are submitting fraudulent information to the board which is not only an ethical problem but also a legal one. Because it will mean that you are out of compliance with the law. Furthermore, it could mean that you have been practicing fraudulently.
Approved Diagnosis Related CE’s
It is important that you know that there are modules associated with how these diagnosis CE’s are organized. You need to make sure that you are not just indiscriminately getting hours, but that you are also completing each module. For more information about the modules that LPCA-GA, GSCSW and AAMFT-GA co-created, please download this document – Record of Attendance- Diagnosis CE Content Area Modules.
This may not be an exhaustive list but these are the programs I have heard about. As I list them, I will let you know what I know about the program and my familiarity. I highly recommend that you look at all programs and scheduling to make sure you find an option that works best for your budget and availability.
- I am part of a group of allied professionals offering the 45 CE’s to meet the diagnosis CE requirements. Our program is approved by GSCSW. Our last Introductory module will be offered on Friday, September 29, 2017. However, it is fortunate that a few other colleagues are offering training events. It is very likely that based on your schedule and workshop availability, you should be able to take modules from different providers either in person or online. Please note that one of our facilitators had to bow out of the program. So we are actually recommending 2 options for our neuro-cognitive disorders module, either LPCA-GA’s program or Compassion Cove Counseling (read more below). Our workshops offer an early registration rate of $100 for GSCSW members and $125 for all others (Counselors, Social Workers and MFT’s who aren’t GSCSW members). The goal was to spread out the cost over time. To learn more about the program I have organized alongside links to my colleagues registration pages go to https://www.developmentcounts.com/diagnosis/
- Compassion Cove Counseling is offering a program it includes “in person” and online modules. Their program is approved by LPCA-GA. I am familiar with two of the facilitators and therefore I feel comfortable recommending them. They are offering at least 4 modules online. Their next start date for the intro module is October 13, 2017. The first module is an “in person” event. The price per module (9 modules) is $150 per workshop, however they do offer a discount for registering for the whole program ($900).
- LPCA-GA’s Diagnosis CE event. They have a Fall series that began on September 8, 2017. They have a combination of in person and online course. The total cost if you pay all at once is $1025 for LPCA members and $1225 for non-members. They have a price per class that I believe is $180 if you register one class at a time. I am familiar with the organizer, however I do not know the facilitators. It is my understanding that some of the facilitators are psychiatrists.
- Last but not least, the Brighter Tomorrow’s Institute is offering two different 15 week courses. One is called “Diagnosis in Counseling” the other is “Family Psychopathology.” They are approved by GAMFT. I know the owner Shannon Eller, LPC and feel comfortable recommending this program. The cost is $750. I am not certain, but I believe that the 15 week pace is part of the requirement and that the program is offered online. To learn more, reach out to Brighter Tomorrow’s Institute through their website.
- Lastly, I believe NASW-GA is offering an event to their members at no cost. I do not know if it will be open to others. I also do not know anyone affiliated with that program. Additionally, it does not appear that the logistics for this program are available publicly. They offer e-mail announcements to their members.
I hope you find this useful. There may be other programs besides the ones I have listed. Lastly, I know that there is a fair amount of confusion, disbelief and in some cases suspicion about the CE strategy and even those of us offering the programs. Please know that by and large, these efforts are about offering solutions to our colleagues and peers to meet these requirements. There is a cost to each of us for offering these CE’s, just like there is to the participants.
I wish all of us the best of luck as we navigate this transition.
Copyright © 2017 Ruby Blow. All rights reserved.