My law firm has recently represented several LPC-Supervisors and LPC-Interns before the Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors (TSBEPC) in reference to avoiding or defending against charges that a LPC-Intern is operating an independent counseling practice while earning the 3,000 supervised experience hours necessary for full licensure. The recurrent problem has been that outside a handful of Board Rules, TSBEPC has provided little to no public guidance on how they interpret and apply the bar on LPC-Intern’s operating an independent practice. As a consequence, both LPC-Interns and their LPC-Supervisors have unwittingly become the target of a Board investigation and subsequent disciplinary action.
Board Rule 681.52, located in Title 22 of the Texas Administrative Code, clearly enshrines the fact that “An LPC Intern may not practice within the Intern’s own private independent practice of professional counseling.” The same Rule goes on to specify that an LPC-Intern cannot directly receive payments by a client, client records are not the property of the intern, an LPC-Supervisor cannot be the employee of an Intern, and finally, all billing documents and advertisements must reflect that the LPC-Intern is an intern pursuant to a temporary license and list the intern’s LPC-Supervisor. Outside the above, no further guidance is given to LPC’s as to how to set up a proper LPC-Intern – LPC-Supervisor relationship or what constitutes an independent private practice.
This would be fine except the LPC Board has a particularly idiosyncratic interpretation of this Rule and this includes enforcing requirements that are nowhere apparent on the face of the applicable rules. For example, LPC-Interns and Supervisors need to be aware that according to TSBEPC, LPC-Interns are not allowed to rent- out of their own pocket- office space where they will see clients even if it is in a supervised capacity. In other words, LPC-Interns are expected to see clients in an office space that is provided/rented by their Supervisor or which is rent-free- such as unpaid work at a local mental health center for the disadvantaged.
LPC-Interns are also not supposed to have a Tax ID number even if such a number is retained solely for tax purposes and they are otherwise in conformance with TSBEPC requirements, such as the rule barring the receipt of payments directly from clients. Likewise, the Board appears to believe that LPC-Interns cannot file reimbursement claims with an insurer even if it is a joint filing with their Supervisor and the insurance provider requires that, as the person who provided the counseling services, the Intern must be including in the claim. TSBEPC also maintains that LPC-Intern’s advertising on the Psychology Today databank must include “LPC-Intern” in their profile even though this is usually difficult to accommodate due to the way the website is arranged. Shortened versions like “LPC-I” or “LPC-Int” are not in compliance.
None of the above requirements are necessarily objectionable or unreasonable in and of themselves; the problem is that no one is aware of them unless they have already been actively investigated or disciplined by TSBEPC or know someone who has. The LPC Board needs to either adopt supplemental rules or publically issue guidelines placing LPC-Interns and Supervisors on notice of these interpretations. Otherwise, TSBEPC is simply creating an unnecessary backlog of complaints and licensees are being subjected to investigation and possible discipline based on unpublished mandates.
More importantly, any attempt by TSBEPC to discipline licensees due to such unwritten requirements is likely illegal and arbitrary and capricious under basic principles of administrative law. Unfortunately, an LPC has no easy means to force the Board to apply its rules as they presently exist until they are already far entangled in the complaint and disciplinary process. A subjection of these official but unwritten requirements to the rulemaking process would also allow the Board and stakeholders to come together and find whether such rules are even realistic or practical. As an attorney involved in several of these cases, I have been informed that the Board’s understanding, particularly as to the renting of office space by LPC-Interns, is in direct conflict with what has been the widespread practice among Supervisor and their Interns for many years.
Regardless, it is the LPC-Interns who typically have the most to lose. I have seen the Board prevent an Intern from earning their full license or even disallow thousands of supervised experience hours due to a perceived technical violation of the above unwritten interpretations of Board rules. Anyone who is being pursued by the Board for these type of complaints or who is merely unsure whether or not their practice is set up correctly would be wise to contact an attorney familiar with the LPC Board’s disciplinary practices. Otherwise, a licensee could find themselves involved in a disciplinary matter which could have easily been avoided.