Remembering Scope of Practice
With the rise of mental health advocates among social media influencers, it’s an exciting time to see mental health care being spoken of so frequently and in such a positive and nonjudgmental way. Within my own practice clients more regularly come prepared to talk about things like red and green flags, breathing exercises, links between mind and body. Just recently someone spoke about navigating personal minefields. We talk about books and watch videos and reels that they’ve found and it’s great to have a pre-established set of ideas that work. New treatment methods pop up regularly, with seemingly endless options for workshops on new and trendy topics.
While anything that reduces stigma, emphasizes wellness, and increases access to care is positive, it’s important that we remember our duty to our scope of practice. Florida statutes along with a variety of codes of ethics all speak to practicing within our experience, competency, and general scope. Clients understanding mental health and having ideas about methods they want to use is helpful. However, it’s still our duty to ensure we are not creeping outside of our legal and ethical areas of practice.
Another area to check on is the way you’re identifying yourself with your clients and also the services for which you’re billing. One example is coaching. Some may prefer coaching services to therapy simply because of preferring to see a “coach” rather than a “therapist”. It’s easy for therapists to market themselves as coaches, as coaching doesn’t require the same level of education, certification, or regulation as therapy. Coaching allows for a great amount of flexibility and clients report often seeing immediate improvement. But it’s most definitely not the same as therapy and it’s up to us to know the difference. Furthermore, we cannot agree to provide coaching services and then bill for therapy.
Similarly, we must be careful in how we represent ourselves and titles we use. Florida statute (491.012) tells us that we cannot abbreviate internship status in anyway. RSWI, MHCI, and RMFTI are not legal credentials. Unless you are fully licensed you may not use terms that include marriage counselor, family therapist, mental health counselor, mental health therapist, mental health consultant, clinical social worker, etc. It’s actually a misdemeanor to use the terms if you aren’t licensed. The list is actually even longer than this brief summary.
The full list of services we can and cannot provide as well as how we can and cannot identify ourselves can be found in multiple places. The Florida statutes fully describe all requirements, our 8hr Florida Laws and Rules Course (required as part of initial Florida licensing) and our 3hr Florida Laws and Rules Course (required every 3rd renewal period) summarize the requirements, and practicing within scope is addressed in our 3hr Ethics and Boundaries course (required every other renewal period).