Is this legal? Questions from Around Florida

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Is this legal? Questions from Around Florida

I get emails and calls asking if certain behaviors of our colleagues are legal.  Here are a few examples:

1.  This notice was in a church bulletin:

Process Group, for emotional and relational healing, meets at the church office during the 9:00 a.m. service (north side of the parking lot). Led by licensed therapist, Firstname Lastname. Open to all.

[clw]: What do you see is missing or inappropriate?  The questionable item I see that is that Firstname Lastname should have the initials LMHC or words Licensed Mental Health Counselor (substitute LCSW or LFMT and those titles written out) after the name – not the words ‘licensed therapist’. Here are the sections of Law and Rules that are applicable.

491.0149 Display of license; use of professional title on promotional materials.—

. . . 3.  A licensed mental health counselor shall include the words “licensed mental health counselor” or the letters “LMHC” on all promotional materials, including cards, brochures, stationery, advertisements, and signs, naming the licensee.

64B4-5.005 Minor Violations, Notice of Noncompliance.

. . . (i) Failure of a licensed mental health counselor to include the words “licensed mental health counselor” or the letters “LMHC” on all promotional materials, including cards, brochures, stationery, advertisements, and signs, naming the licensee as required by Section 491.0149(1)(b)3., F.S.

[clw]: If you see someone advertising their services in any public manner, please contact that licensee and suggest that he/she comply with the law in future advertisements of the group or service before taking any other action.  If the person refuses to comply (hopefully that won’t happen) then you have an obligation* to report the clinician to the Board by filing a formal complaint.

*F. A. C. 64B4-5.000(y) [clw: our Rules]Except as provided in Section 465.016, F.S., failing to report to the department any person whom the licensee knows is in violation of Chapter 456, Part II, Chapter 491, F.S., or the rules of the Department or the Board.
(Section 456.072(1)(i), F. S.)

2.   I have a question regarding something about to happen at my private practice.  I rent the space as an independent contractor.  The owner/clinician is bringing in another renter on the weekends and the evenings, when I primarily have clients.  The new renter is a Registered Clinical Social Work Intern.  The owner of the practice does not work evening and weekends.  She wants me and another licensed person to be in the office when the registered intern will have sessions.  I do not want to do this and plan on having a conversation with her.  However, if she decides that she plans to move forward with it anyways, what is my liability in the office and with the intern?  What are some things I need to consider and am I obligated to anything?

[clw]: While it is not stated in the laws or rules for our profession it is best practice to have an agreement with any Registered Intern.  In the same vein Registered Interns working in a private practice setting should initiate an agreement with any licensed mental health professionals they count on as their person to reach out to in the event of an emergency, i.e., possible need for involuntary commitment, suicidal or homicidal ideation, risk of abuse, neglect or exploitation of a client, etc.  The agreement should outline each of your expectations, responsibilities and limitations.  For example, if you are going on vacation and you are the registered intern’s back-up, then, the registered intern should not see clients when you are not on the premises.  It is conceivable that an agreement with both of you licensed persons in the practice could be arranged and someone would always be present when the registered intern is seeing clients.

Liability is related to the extent to which you are willing to be of assistance to the registered intern.  How risky do you think it would be to be available for consultation when he or she wants to run something by you?  You could ensure that the registered intern’s agreement/contract with his or her qualified supervisor includes ALWAYS contacting the supervisor in the event of involuntary commitment, suicidal or homicidal ideation, and risk of abuse, neglect or exploitation of a client.  I require that in my supervision agreements.  Even if the registered intern is working for an agency and has an onsite supervisor, I want to be called and informed about any situation that requires a professional decision and action to protect any person(s).  That just seems good practice to me.  I found that sometimes registered interns are left to deal with situations and were reluctant to “bother” me.  I want to be bothered so that I can reassure, guide and help new practitioners when they are feeling the most vulnerable.

3.   I am a Qualified Marriage and Family Therapy Supervisor.  How do I obtain the needed qualifications to supervise an LCSW or LMHC?  Is it a course you provide?

[clw]: If you are already a Qualified Supervisor for Registered Marriage and Family Therapy Interns there is no other course that a Continuing Education provider can offer to help you meet the requirements to supervise outside of your profession.  You need to provide documentation of having completed graduate coursework from an accredited Masters of Social Work or Masters in Mental Health Counselor program.  The categories of training needed are identified on page four of the Qualified Supervisor’s Affidavit form found at: http://floridasmentalhealthprofessions.gov/forms/form-qualified-supervisor-affirmation-statement.pdf  No matter what your profession you must now have proof of graduate course work from an accredited masters program in other professions in order to become Qualified to supervise registered interns from another profession.


– Catherine L. Waltz, PhD, LCSW is an adjunct professor in the graduate program of the School of Social Work, Barry University. She is a continuing education provider in the state of Florida providing courses on professional ethics, laws and rules, supervision, mental health error prevention and is a specialist in domestic violence.

legalscalesThe educational commentaries provided by Dr. Waltz do not constitute a legal opinion. If legal advice is needed, it is recommended that contact be made with an attorney qualified in the jurisdiction in which you practice or is applicable to your case. We recommend that you use your knowledge of the law and your code of ethics in conjunction with this and any other information when deciding upon your course of action.

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