What Do You Specialize In? Oklahoma LPCs, Be Careful!
Many Licensed Professional Counselors choose to continue their education after graduate school and pursue specialized training in areas such as EMDR, Play Therapy, Trauma, or Cognitive Behavior Therapy. After spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on additional training, it is understandable that the LPC would want to advertise their expertise while marketing their counseling practice.
However, the Oklahoma Board of Behavioral Health Licensure has specific rules against LPC clinicians advertising specialties in a specific area of counseling.
In the PROFESSIONAL COUNSELOR LICENSURE ACT it states
§59-1917. Specialty designation.
A. A professional specialty designation area may be established by the State Board of Behavioral Health Licensure upon receipt of a petition signed by fifteen qualified persons who are currently licensed as licensed professional counselors, and who meet the recognized minimum standards as established by appropriate nationally recognized certification agencies; provided, if a nationally recognized certification does not exist, the Board may establish minimum standards for specialty designations.
B. Upon receipt of credentials from the appropriate certification agency, the Board may grant the licensed professional counselor the appropriate specialty designation. The licensed professional counselor may attain specialty designation through examination. A licensed professional counselor shall not claim or advertise a counseling specialty and shall not incorporate the specialty designation into the professional title of such licensed professional counselor, unless the qualifications and certification requirements of that specialty have been met and have been approved by the Board and the appropriate certification agency.
The rule prohibiting the LPC from advertising or claiming a specialty is stated again in Oklahoma Administrative Code TITLE 86. STATE BOARD OF BEHAVIORAL HEALTH LICENSURE
CHAPTER 10. LICENSED PROFESSIONAL COUNSELORS
SUBCHAPTER 3. RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT
(d) Specialty. LPCs shall not represent themselves as specialists in any aspect of counseling, unless so designated by the Board.
The term “specialty” may be unavoidable at times. For example, Psychology Today’s Therapist Finder, a popular marketing outlet for mental health therapists, displays a clinician’s “Specialty and Expertise” on their directory page.
While the LPC does not have control over the layout of the Psychology Today directory page, they do have control over the terms they use when speaking with other clients, professionals, and the content on their own webpage.
Instead of the phrase “I specialize in treating trauma”, an LPC may instead use phrases such as “I have extensive training in treating trauma.”
While it may seem a matter of semantics, imagine a disgruntled client filing a complaint with the Oklahoma Board of Behavioral Health. In the client’s complaint, they state that “the therapist told me that they specialized in treating trauma, but I didn’t get better, I only got worse”.
The Oklahoma LPC may be able to defend their competence to the Oklahoma Board of Behavioral Health by showing records of their advanced training and supervised experience in the treatment of trauma, but would not be able to defend against their use of the term “specialty”.
While the Oklahoma State Board of Licensed Social Workers, Oklahoma Board of Alcohol and Drug Counselors, and even the Oklahoma Board of Behavioral Health’s rules and regulations for Oklahoma Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists do not have rules regarding the use of the term, for Oklahoma LPCs using “specialty” or “specialist” should be avoided.
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