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Final TRICARE Rules More Beneficial to Licensed Professional Counselors

by Amber McLaughlin | Jul 18, 2014
Many Licensed Professional Counselors will benefit under the Final Rule published by the Department of Defense (DoD) on July 17, 2014. The Final Rules apply to the TRICARE Certified Mental Health Counselors (TCMHC) category. Several provisions included were those advocated for by the American Counseling Association over the last several years.
The Final Rule will finally allow LPCs meeting specific criteria to operate as independent practitioners under TRICARE. This has been a key component in ACA’s efforts to demonstrate parity among those providing mental health services. In addition, TRICARE is extending the transition period for meeting education, examination, and supervised clinical practice criteria to January 1, 2017. Without this extension, the window for eligibility would have ended in just over five months on December 31. With the extension, our members will have had five full years to meet the criteria which include:
  1. Possession of a master’s degree or higher from a mental health counseling program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Education Programs (CACREP) and passage of the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE); OR,
  2. Possession of a master’s degree or higher in counseling from a regionally accredited institution and passage of the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE).

“DoD made the right choice in allowing LPCs to become independent practitioners in TRICARE, and with the extension of the time in which to meet the criteria,” said Robert L. Smith, ACA President.

Another provision of the Final Rule will allow those in the Supervised Mental Health Counselor (SMHC) category to continue beyond the current December 31, 2014 deadline. The SMHC works via physician supervision and referral. Those counselors in this category were going to lose that status and no longer be able to practice within TRICARE. These practitioners will now have an indefinite extension.

“We were very pleased that DoD made the wise decision to continue the SMHC category of provider. This move is congruent with many state licensure laws and helps to ensure that more LPCs will be able to practice under TRICARE,” said Richard Yep, ACA Chief Executive Officer.

Many of the changes in the Final Rule encompassed the recommendations which were advocated by ACA. “Our goal was to work diligently to ensure that the final rule was less exclusionary, and therefore would allow our members to provide help to service members and their families,” said Art Terrazas, ACA Director of Government Affairs.

More details on the Final Rule will be coming soon but rest assured that ACA will continue to work for all LPCs to ensure they find a place within TRICARE. Please stay tuned to ACA communications channels for more updates. Read the final rule here.