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For the past four years, ACA has been working with the National Center for Interstate Compacts to create and operationalize a compact for counselors—and now the Counseling Compact is moving toward
becoming operational. Twenty Eight states have now passed the Compact legislation and have joined the Commission, which will likely start granting privileges to practice in other Compact states by the end of 2023. The Compact will significantly change
the way counselors can practice and provide continuity of care and the ability to reach underserved populations.
For more information, please contact us.
The Counseling Compact is an occupational licensure compact crafted for the specific occupation of “licensed professional counselors” (LPCs) only and does not cover licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs), licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) or psychologists. Compacts are created for specific professions. Because each of these types of providers is their own distinct profession, they need separate compacts. If your state joins the Compact and uses a title different from but equivalent to LPC (e.g., LMHC, LPCC) for counselors who can independently diagnose, assess and treat, and you hold this license, then you will be able to participate in the Compact.
The Compact allows counselors licensed to practice independently to be granted a privilege, comparable to a license, to practice in another Compact state, to use telehealth in their practice, to practice on a home state license in any Compact state if a military spouse, and to utilize an expedited process to obtain a new home license when they move to another state. To be eligible, counselors must hold an unencumbered license from their home state; be able to practice independently and to assess, diagnose and treat behavioral health conditions; and pass an FBI background check.
States are eligible to join the Compact if their requirements for licensure include requiring a 60-hour degree in counseling or 60 hours in designated graduate coursework, requiring post-degree supervised experience, and passing a nationally recognized examination. Further, the state’s regulation must include diagnostic authority. The Compact does not change initial licensure requirements for states; states continue to set the standards for licensing in their state. However, only states that meet the criteria can participate in the Compact. LPCs or the equivalent licensed in those states that enact the Compact can access a privilege to practice.
The first meeting of the Commission was held Oct. 25-26, 2022. Representatives of all 17 state licensing boards attended the meeting. The Commissioners elected officers to the Executive Committee. ACA was named as an ex-officio member of the Commission as well as representatives from AASCB, NBCC and AMHCA . The Commissioners will spend the next year promulgating the rules needed to operationalize the Compact, developing the budget, implementing the database, and other actions such as designating the required national counseling exam. The Commission cannot go beyond the requirements of the Compact legislation but can provide details and clarity about the regulations.
The National Center for Interstate Compacts uses a three-phase process:
The goal of this phase was to create the compact legislation. To achieve that goal, an Advisory Board was created and convened. They reviewed relevant data about licensing and licensing regulations and made suggestions about the essential elements that needed to be part of the compact legislation. The advisory group consisted of state legislators who are also licensed counselors; leaders in the counseling field with specific knowledge of licensing regulations; practicing counselors who hold a license in more than one state; a representative of AASCB, and executive directors, board chairs, and attorneys for state licensing boards. There were approximately twenty people who comprised the Advisory Group, supplemented by NCIC and ACA staff.
The Drafting Team met for the first time in March 2020. This team consisted of the lawyers who were part of the Advisory Group and the NCIC lawyers who specialize in compacts, along with staff. Using the recommendations of the Advisory Group, the members of the Drafting Team proposed language and created the draft legislation, which went through several iterations. The Advisory Group then had the opportunity to review the draft legislation and give feedback. Over forty stakeholder sessions were held over to the summer to solicit feedback on the draft legislation. During the fall, the Drafting Team finalized the draft legislation, which was then approved by the Advisory Group. The final document was ready for state legislatures January 2021.
The major activities during Phase II focused the development of the Counseling Compact webpage on CSG’s site (counselingcompact.org), virtual legislative summits for interested states (summer 2021) and introducing legislation in states wishing to participate. A comprehensive online resource kit that serves as the principal information resource on the new compact can be found on the compact webpage, along with a copy of the legislation and section analysis. NCIC tracks the legislation and provides testimony and support as needed.
ACA staff worked closely and tirelessly with counselors in the states to identity potential sponsors, provide resources, information and testimony, and support states’ efforts to get the legislation enacted. The Department of Defense is very supportive of this legislation. The staff from the Defense-State Liaison Office, Military Community and Family Policy group, have been instrumental in helping identify sponsors, providing testimony and letters of support.
As of 4/26/22 the legislation has been enacted in 17 states: GA, MD, AL, CO, LA, MS, WVA, UT, FL, ME, KY, OH, TN, NC, NH, DE, and NE, which means that enough states have enacted the legislation to trigger the establishment of the Compact and the Commission.
Bills were introduced in a number of states this past year, but the legislation did not pass both chambers prior to the end of the session. We are currently working with those states and a number of other states that are interested in becoming part of the Compact and are planning to introduce legislation next year.
The inaugural meeting of the Compact Commission was scheduled for October 25-26, 2022, in Washington, DC. Each state that enacted the legislation designated one member of their licensing board to be the Commissioner from that state. NCIC convened the meeting and their lawyers will assist the Commission with developing the rules and procedures.
Funding will be needed to support the Commission; staffing for the Commission; and Commission activities, specifically the database. The Commission will decide where it wishes to be housed. The Commission for the majority of existing compacts resides with the licensing boards group, but funding can come from any group or groups. NCIS recommends that the Commission be housed with the licensing board group, which is what other occupational compacts have done. The Commission is a governmental agency and there are potential legal implications if it resides with an association.
The Commission consists of one representative from each participating state; each state has 1 Commissioner and therefore one vote. The Commission has several tasks that it needs to address:
• Write the rules for the Compact. The rules cannot supersede what is in the legislation but will provide some clarity for how the compact will operate.
• Identify which database will be used or contract with a vendor to develop one or adapt an existing one. There is a possibility one of the existing databases will be available at minimal cost.
• Develop the policies for the operation of the Compact, including a budget, meeting schedule, etc. The legislation allows for up to four national professional associations to be ad hoc members of the Commission; the Commission will select which groups will hold these seats.
It is anticipated that it will take between 9 -14 months to get the Commission up and running before applications will be accepted and privileges granted. Any state that passes the Compact legislation in years 2023 and beyond becomes
part of the Commission but cannot change the rules or polices unless the Commission agrees to the changes.