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Mental Health Counseling Licensure and Certification in Florida Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 18th, 2022

Introduction

In order to practice mental health counseling, an individual requires an appropriate license and can voluntarily obtain certification to ascertain their compliance with professional standards. Certification is provided on the national level by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), and licensure is issued by a particular state and is valid in this state only.

The purposes of licensure and certification are different, but both require a certain set of skills, knowledge, and experience to ascertain that the counselor is a qualified professional. The purpose of this paper is to analyze and compare the requirements and provisions for mental health counseling licensure and certification in Florida and discuss their impact on the public.

Licensure

State licensure is permission issued by a state’s government that allows an individual to practice mental health counseling or identify themselves as a professional counselor. The provisions for the regulation and licensure of counseling services in Florida are set forth by Florida Statue 491 (FS491).

As stipulated in Section 491.004, mental health counseling licensure is performed by the Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling (“Clinical, Counseling, and Psychotherapy Services”, 2019). It was established to guarantee that every mental health care worker meets requirements for safe practice.

The first section (491.002) of FS491 defines mental health counseling as a service that deals with the population’s emotional survival by providing services of a phycological nature. To secure public health and safety, it should be performed only by individuals that have the necessary qualifications that the Statute sets to stipulate. Section 491.003 comprises a list of terms used to refer to different aspects of mental health practice and their definitions.

Section 491.005 lists the requirements that an applicant needs to meet in order to get a mental health counseling license. They include submission of an application, payment of the appropriate fee, a relevant master’s degree, two years of clinical experience, a theory and practice examination, and an appropriate level of knowledge in mental health counseling (“Clinical, Counseling, and Psychotherapy Services”, 2019). Section 491.0065 also adds that, to obtain a license, an applicant is required to complete an education course on HIV and AIDS.

An individual who does not satisfy education or experience requirements can register as an intern, as stipulated in Section 491.0045. According to Section 491.0046, one can also apply for a provisional license that is valid for 24 months and allows them to practice under the supervision of a licensed counselor.

To renew the license, according to Section 491.007, one needs to pay a fee and provide evidence that they have met the requirements for continuous education listed in Section 491.0085 (“Clinical, Counseling, and Psychotherapy Services”, 2019). The license can also be placed on inactive status at the licensee’s request while they are completing education requirements or are involved in an investigation, and reactivated for a fee, as stated in Section 491.008.

For professionals who have a license issued in another state and need to endorse it in Florida, Section 491.006 applies. The requirements include the payment of a fee, demonstration of the sufficient level of knowledge in mental health counseling, possession of an active valid license received through examination, and 3 to 5 years of practice (“Clinical, Counseling, and Psychotherapy Services”, 2019). The applicant should not be under any investigation, and the license should be held in good standing.

Section 491.009 includes a list of reasons for denial of a license or disciplinary action. Sections 491.0111 and 491.0112 specifically address the subject of sexual misconduct and the applicable penalties, stating that counselors committing sexual misconduct with the client are charged with a third-degree felony (“Clinical, Counseling, and Psychotherapy Services”, 2019). Section 491.012 lists violations regarding the unsanctioned use of titles and licenses, with the exceptions stipulated in Section 491.014.

Sections 491.0141, 491.0143, and 491.0144 address the subject of controversial therapy practices: hypnosis, sex therapy, and therapy of juvenile sex offenders. The statute allows all licensed counselors to practice hypnosis (“Clinical, Counseling, and Psychotherapy Services”, 2019). Practicing sex therapy requires meeting certain qualifications set by the board. In order to treat juvenile sex offenders, special training and coursework are required from a licensed counselor, with specific qualifications determined by the board.

The confidentiality of patient information is addressed in Section 491.0147. It states that any communication between a licensed counselor and a patient is confidential. However, this privilege may be neglected when criminal and disciplinary actions are concerned. The counselor has the right to disclose information to a law enforcement agency if a patient threatens to commit a crime against a person, or the counselor makes a clinical judgment that they have such an intention.

Sections 491.0148 and 491.0149 address the formal requirements for licensed mental health professionals: maintaining records and displaying of license and registration. Counselors are entitled to conspicuously display their license and include the words “licensed mental health counselor” on their promotional materials (“Clinical, Counseling, and Psychotherapy Services”, 2019). Each counselor needs to keep records in accordance with the rules determined by the board and can transfer these records to other therapists only with the client’s consent.

Supervision is addressed in Chapter 64B of the Florida Administrative Code. Section 2 defines supervision, establishes the aims, types, rules, and procedure for providing guidance to an intern, and comments on the subject of the conflict of interest (Florida Administrative Code R. 64B4-2).

Section 31 lists the requirements for a supervisor, who should be a licensed mental health counselor with five years of clinical experience and complete a course in supervision (Florida Administrative Code R. 64B4-31). It also provides a list of courses that are considered relevant for application for a mental health counseling license under Section 491.005 of FS491.

Certification

Mental health counseling certification is a credential issued by the NBCC to ascertain that an individual meets the national standards set by the counseling profession. These standards include the completion of a graduate degree, the successful passing of a national examination, relevant work experience, and adherence to the professional code of conduct.

Certification is voluntary; it does not substitute a state-issued license and is not required for practice. It identifies counselors who have met the established professional standards and continue to fulfill the requirements for continuing education and renewal of certification. An NBCC certificate enhances one’s professional reputation and credibility and increases their opportunities for career advancement.

The NBCC offers a number of benefits for certified counselors. It publishes and updates professional materials, such as a peer-reviewed journal, a newsletter, and the Code of Ethics. Certified counselors can earn free continuing education courses and get priority enrollment on international opportunities (“Benefits of being an NCC”, n. d.). The NBCC also has an online portal that allows counselors to track their continuing education. Certified counselors are provided with professional liability insurance that protects them from bearing the full cost of defending against clients’ claims and lawsuits.

The flagship certification offered by the NBCC is the National Certified Counselor (NCC) that is a generic certification for professional counselors that does not designate a specification. To apply for the NCC certificate, one must ensure they meet the requirements concerning education, coursework, supervision, professional endorsement, and work experience, and adhere to the NBCC’s ethical policies (“National Certified Counselor (NCC)”, n. d.). An applicant also needs to pass the National Counselor Exam or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination and pay an application fee.

Another certification issued by the NBCC is the Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC), which is a premier certification for mental health care workers. It establishes that an individual is a highly skilled professional who adheres to the highest standards of practice and has met stringent requirements.

In order to obtain the CCMHC certificate, one needs to be a National Certified Counselor, have relevant education, complete clinical training in supervised field experience, obtain a professional endorsement, and have sufficient work experience (“Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor”, n. d.). They also need to pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination and pay a fee. The CCMHC is issued for five years, and, to maintain it, a practitioner has to meet the ongoing requirements for continuing education and ethics attestation.

Licensure and Certification: Similarities and Differences

NBCC’s certification is a voluntary credential issued to ascertain that a mental health practitioner meets national professional standards, while state licensure is permission to practice counseling. Certification is issued by the NBCC and is valid across the entire country, while licensure is provided by a particular state and works in this state only. Different states have different application processes and requirements for obtaining the license.

Board certification and state licensure both set professional standards and are used to define mental health care workers, but their purposes are different. Certification helps to recognize qualified professionals who voluntarily adhere to national counseling standards and provides a mechanism for dealing with claims and concerns (“National Certified Counselor (NCC)”, n. d.). Licensure is intended to legally define professionals who can provide counseling services in a particular state.

In Florida, the requirements for obtaining licensure and certification are similar. They include relevant education, a period of supervision, work experience, the appropriate level of knowledge, and the successful passing of an examination. In order to obtain certification, an individual needs to pass either the National Counselor Examination or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination. To issue a license, the state board purchases the examination from the Professional Examination Service of the National Academy of Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselors or similar organization.

Impact of Licensure and Certification on the Public

Certification and licensure standards for health care professionals are both established with the purpose of protecting public safety. Section 491.002 of Florida Statute 491 states that mental health counseling deals with an individual’s emotional survival that affects physical survival, and, therefore, should be strictly regulated and practiced only by qualified professionals (“Clinical, Counseling, and Psychotherapy Services”, 2019). The NBCC requires strict adherence to the professional Code of Ethics to provide high-quality services.

Both FS491 and the NBCC’s Code of Ethics are undertaken to protect patients’ privacy and confidentiality of personal information. Section 491.0147 of FS491 states that any communication between a licensed counselor and a client is confidential (“Clinical, Counseling, and Psychotherapy Services”, 2019). NBCC’s Code of Ethics stipulates that the NCC should take any means required to protect the patient’s confidentiality and prevent unnecessary invasion of privacy (National Board for Certified Counselors [NBCC], 2016).

Exceptions include the cases when the client communicates a threat to commit a crime, or when the release of information is required by a court order. In this case, patient information should be disclosed only to the extent required by the situation. When dealing with licensed and certified counselors, patients can be sure that their personal data is protected and will not be transferred to a third party.

The standards established by FS491 and the NBCC’s Code of Ethics also aim to protect the public from professional misconduct. FS491 includes a list of reasons for the withdrawal of licensure and disciplinary action, including the penalty for sexual misconduct (“Clinical, Counseling, and Psychotherapy Services”, 2019).

The NBCC also prevents counselors from engaging is sexual or romantic relationships with clients and discourages all other forms of ethics violations (NBCC, 2016). NBCC acts as an intermediary between counselors and clients in claims and lawsuits. Both licensure and certification ensure that an individual can expect strict adherence to professional standards from a counselor and can take necessary actions in case of misconduct.

Conclusion

FS491 and Chapter 64B4 of the Florida Administrative Code stipulate the provisions for obtaining and maintaining mental health counseling licensure in Florida. It is required to legally define a professional counselor and ensure that they adhere to professional guidelines and are accountable for their actions.

The NBCC issues voluntary certification for mental health practitioners that is not obligatory for practice but is used to acknowledge that an individual meets the national standards set for the counseling profession. Both licensure and certification are aimed to protect patients’ interests, their privacy, and confidentiality of personal information. Strict adherence to the standards set by the NBCC and the state regulations ensures safe and effective counseling practice.

References

Benefits of being an NCC. (n. d.). National Board for Certified Counselors. Web.

Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor. (n. d.). National Board for Certified Counselors. Web.

Clinical, Counseling, and Psychotherapy Services, Flor. Stat. § 491.002– 016 (2019). Web.

Florida Administrative Code R. 64B4-2. Web.

Florida Administrative Code R. 64B4-31. Web.

National Board for Certified Counselors. (2016). [PDF document]. Web.

. (n. d.). National Board for Certified Counselors. Web.

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"Mental Health Counseling Licensure and Certification in Florida." IvyPanda, 18 Sept. 2022, ivypanda.com/essays/mental-health-counseling-licensure-and-certification-in-florida/.

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IvyPanda. "Mental Health Counseling Licensure and Certification in Florida." September 18, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/mental-health-counseling-licensure-and-certification-in-florida/.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Mental Health Counseling Licensure and Certification in Florida." September 18, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/mental-health-counseling-licensure-and-certification-in-florida/.

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