Since the qualifications for each of the psychotherapy professions is largely consistent across state lines, it makes sense for the professions to do what they can to make it easier to take your license from one state to another. In recent months, there have been a handful of advances in license portability. Here’s where each of the professions stands today.
Several states are considering religious freedom bills that would directly impact therapist training and licensure, and clients’ ability to access appropriate mental health care.
As has been the trend for several years now, these bills — also commonly referred to as “conscience clause” legislation — are being framed as protection of the rights of religious people to act in accordance with their moral or religious beliefs, free from government interference. The bills tend to be broadly written, though there have been at least a few instances of bills being written specifically to apply to mental health (including one this year — see discussion of Tennessee below).
I’ve talked a fair amount in this blog about the need for better license portability across states. True license reciprocity, where one state automatically recognizes another state’s licensure, is rightly the long-term goal of some professional associations in mental health. (I’ve argued that telehealth will help us get there.)
The state legislatures in Montana and West Virginia have each now passed bills (Montana bill | West Virginia bill) that would create Marriage and Family Therapist licensure in those states. If Montana’s bill is signed by the governor, the country could be complete: MFT licensure would exist in each of the 50 states, and the District of Columbia.
The governor of West Virginia has formally approved the MFT bill there. It is unclear when the state will actually begin issuing MFT licenses, because the board has some rulemaking to do, but it may happen as early as next year.
The Montana bill was sent to the governor April 22; he has 10 days to sign or veto it, or it becomes law automatically. It’s not fully clear, at least from what I can find, whether the governor will sign it; the Montana chapter of NASW has opposed MFT licensure there, and the governor has been busy with his veto pen. Still, improving public safety in mental health services, as well as access to care, through MFT licensure would be a good way to demonstrate to Montana residents that mental health issues are important, even when budget limitations prevent expanding services.