Legislature(2003 - 2004)
05/08/2003 01:36 PM L&C
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 135-MARITAL & FAMILY THERAPISTS CHAIR BUNDE announced HB 135 to be up for consideration. REPRESENTATIVE PEGGY WILSON, sponsor, said that HB 135 is just a simple bill. The law that established the Board of Marital and Family Therapists has been in place for 10 years and it's time to update the language within the statute. This bill will bring state statutes up to the same standards as other counseling services in the state and to the national marriage and family therapy statutes. She explained: Section 1 adds the Board of Marital and Family Therapists to the list of boards that may request the Division of Occupational Licensing to contract out for substance abuse and treatment under licensed therapists. It just gives more options for treatment. Section 2 gives the board authority to order a licensed marital and family therapist to submit to a reasonable physical or mental examination if the board has gotten word somewhere that there was sufficient evidence to conclude that the therapist's physical or mental capacity to practice safely is at issue. Section 3 allows for individual client contacts to be used as hours toward licensing. Section 4 requires the therapist to communicate to a potential victim or law enforcement officer if there is a threat of imminent serious physical harm to an identified victim that had been made by one of their clients. Section 5 imposes disciplinary sanctions in regard to a therapist's sexual misconduct. Sexual misconduct between client and therapist is probably the biggest problem in any kind of therapy type situation. This just makes sure the client is protected. Section 7 is just disclosure information and consumer protection. CHAIR BUNDE referred to the provision that requires communication about danger to a potential victim or to law enforcement and suggested saying "and law enforcement." He asked if that had been considered. SENATOR FRENCH guessed that about 90% of the reports would be to a domestic partner and that victims might not take any steps to protect themselves for all sorts of reasons. He thought it would be a good idea to let law enforcement know if the threat is that serious and imminent. REPRESENTATIVE WILSON said that section allows the therapist to break the confidentiality agreement. TAPE 03-31, SIDE B SENATOR FRENCH asked how other board-controlled occupations deal with confidentiality between the doctor and patient and threat disclosures. REPRESENTATIVE WILSON said she thought they do so in a similar manner. MS. SUSAN ARENTH commented that this issue was talked about in another committee. She said even if a threat isn't imminent but seems likely, she believes any therapist would inform the victim and she didn't see any reason not to inform law enforcement. CHAIR BUNDE guessed that would require law enforcement to use professional judgment too. MS. CAREN ROBINSON, Marriage and Family Therapist Association, said that therapists are required, just like all other professional counselors, to report child sexual abuse and this bill would not change that at all. She explained that in some situations, a victim who was notified may become so fearful that she may pull out a gun and kill the person who is coming to her house, thereby becoming the perpetrator. She felt it's in the best interest of the therapist in the counseling session to determine which is the right place to call. In other hearings most therapists have said generally speaking they would call the law enforcement agency first if they really felt someone's life was in danger. CHAIR BUNDE asked Ms. Robinson if she had input from people who prosecute domestic violence cases. He added that he wanted to give her an opportunity to investigate this question. MS. ROBINSON responded that the legal professionals she has spoken with said that right now therapists don't have the ability to notify either and are quite thrilled that the marriage and family therapists have brought this issue forward. CHAIR BUNDE agreed and said he didn't want to destroy the good in search of the perfect but wanted her to talk with some prosecutors. SENATOR STEVENS asked her to also address Section 3 on page 3, line 7, that removes the timeframe of three-years after a master's degree and another "and or" question where it says "practice marital and family therapy including frequent hours of direct contact with couples, individuals and families." He asked if a person has to work with individuals to get a license or work with all three types. REPRESENTATIVE WILSON commented that sometimes three years is not enough time to get the necessary hours. Previously, hours couldn't be counted when individuals were counseled separate from other family members if they were also being counseled together. CHAIR BUNDE said the committee would bring the bill up again next Tuesday.