The purpose of this paper was to discuss the laws that govern marriage and family therapy in Connecticut. An individual who intends to work as a marriage and family therapist (MFT) in Connecticut must have a postgraduate degree and work experience of at least one year in order to be licensed.
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MFTs are allowed to disclose confidential information about their clients when ordered by a court. Similarly, privileged communication can be disclosed if the client is likely to harm himself or others. Although MFTs are allowed to provide confidential information to third parties as a warning, the duty to warn is not a requirement in Connecticut.
This paper will focus on marriage and family counseling or therapy profession in Connecticut. In this regard, it will discuss the licensure process and the scope of practice in Connecticut. In addition, it will discuss the state’s limit to confidentiality, privileged communication, and the duty to warn or protect.
Process of Obtaining Licensure
The first step in obtaining a license to practice in Connecticut is to meet the following requirements. First, the applicant must have a postgraduate degree in marriage and family therapy. The degree program must be approved by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).
Second, the applicant is expected to provide evidence of having participated in supervised internship in the field of marriage and family therapy during his or her training (DPH, 2014). Third, the applicant is required to have work experience of at least 12 months after completing a postgraduate degree program. During the 12 months, the applicant is expected to gain practical skills by interacting with clients directly to offer counseling services.
However, applicants who are already licensed in other states are not required to show evidence of prior work experience. Third, the applicant must take and pass the National Examination in Marital and Family Therapy. The examination is normally provided by the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Board.
After meeting all the requirements, the applicant is expected to send his or her request and the application fee to the Professional Counselor Licensure Board (DPH, 2014). In addition, supporting documents such as transcripts must be sent to the board by the institution in which the applicant received the relevant training in marriage and family therapy. Once the application is verified and approved by the board, the applicant gets a license to practice.
Limitation to Confidentiality
MFTs are required to maintain confidentiality by avoiding unauthorized sharing of the information about their clients with third parties. However, the client’s right to confidentiality is limited under the following circumstance. To begin with, MFTs are allowed to disclose information or records pertaining to their clients for diagnosis and treatment purposes.
In this case, a MFT can share the information about the client with professionals such as physicians and mental health practitioners to help them select the right medical intervention. A court order can also lead to the disclosure of the information or records of the client. In this case, a MFT may be required to provide confidential information as evidence that is admissible in a court. However, the information will only be used for the purpose of determining the case to which the client is a party.
Privileged communication refers to the “exchange of information in the context of a professional relationship in which the recipient is protected from compelled disclosure in a court proceeding”. This means that MFTs cannot be forced by a court to disclose any privileged communication without the consent of their clients. In Connecticut, privileged communication is limited under the following circumstances.
First, privileged communication can be disclosed in the event of a court-ordered examination. This applies when a court requires information about the client’s mental or physical condition during a court proceeding. Second, the client’s information can be shared if the client claims that his or her mental or physical condition has to be taken into account during a court proceeding.
In this context, the opposing party has the right to disagree with the client about the claim. As a result, the court and the opposing party will have to access information about the client’s mental or physical condition. Finally, privileged communication is not protected if the MFT believes that the client is a danger to himself and others.
This means that a MFT can disclose privileged communication to the police or potential victims to protect them from being harmed by the client. However, further disclosures are prohibited after the MFT provides adequate information to protect others. This helps in protecting the clients’ privacy before they commit a crime by causing harm.
Duty to Warn
Duty to warn refers to the MFT’s obligation to caution or notify third parties or law enforcement officers about a client who is likely to harm himself and others. According to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-146 p(c) (2), a MFT is expected to issue a warning if he believes in good faith that withholding confidential information about a client poses health and safety risks to the public.
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In this respect, a MFT does not have to seek the client’s consent to disclose information that is considered confidential. The main limitation in applying the duty to warn principle in Connecticut is that issuing a warning is not mandatory. Specifically, the law permits but does not compel MFTs to warn third parties about clients who might be violent or dangerous.
Thus, MFTs can opt to withhold confidential information about their clients without breaking the law. In addition, the law does not define the recipient of the information. Thus, MFTs can choose to share the information only with the people who they perceive to be vulnerable to attacks by the client.
Ethical complaints are usually handled by the Connecticut Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (CTAMFT). After receiving a complaint concerning the violation of AAMFT’s ethical standards, CTAMFT examines the grievance to determine its merit and compliance with jurisdiction and filing procedures.
If the complaint is deemed to have merit, charges have to be drafted and presented to the chairperson of AAMFT’s ethics committee (AAMFT, 2014). Once the chairperson approves the charges, the committee will launch investigations to collect facts about the complaint. In addition, the complainant is informed about the ongoing investigations by the committee.
However, the committee can terminate or postpone the investigations if the case lacks merit. Generally, the complainant is required to give consent for the use of his or her personal information during the investigations. Upon the completion of the investigation, the committee discusses the findings before making a decision on the case (AAMFT, 2014).
If the accused is found guilty of violating the ethical standards, the committee must take disciplinary actions. The action taken usually depends on the severity of the violation. Severe violations can lead to termination of membership in CTAMF (AAMFT, 2014). Moreover, the accused can be prosecuted in court if the violation constitutes a criminal offense. However, the committee usually takes lenient actions such as rehabilitating the accused if the violation is not serious.
Scope of Practice
According to the Practice Act (1979), marriage and family therapy refers to the evaluation, counseling, and management of emotional problems that arise within families or marriages. Thus, the scope of MFT practice in Connecticut is mainly limited to identification of emotional disorders that might be cognitive or behavioral in nature.
Since the statute does not include treatment in the scope of practice, the interventions provided by MFTs mainly focus on managing clients’ conditions. The therapy or counseling services can be provided to individuals, couples, and families. This gives the clients the opportunity to get the best service quality without compromising their confidentiality.
MFTs in Connecticut are also allowed to use psychotherapeutic techniques to deliver the required services. In particular, MFTs can provide nonmedical psychotherapy with the aid of appropriate psychiatric resources. This includes the use of psychiatric tests to examine their clients’ attributes such as intelligence and addictions. MFTs are also expected to refer their clients to professionals such as doctors to enable them to access specialized treatment.
AAMFT. 2014. The ethics complaint process. Web.
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-146 p(c) (2).
DPH. 2014. Marital and family therapist licensure requirements. Web.
Gurman, A., & Kniskern, D. (2013). Handbook of family therapy. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Practice Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 20-195(a)(3) (1979).
Thorona, N., & Winawer, H. (2013). Crtical topics in family therapy. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Tran, A. (2008). A comparative analysis: MFT scope of practice across the nation. Therapist, 1-7.