Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/08/2003 01:36 PM L&C

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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.                                                                                                                   

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