Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 54.1. Professions and Occupations
Chapter 35. Professional Counseling
8/16/2022

Article 1. General Provisions.

§ 54.1-3500. Definitions.

As used in this chapter, unless the context requires a different meaning:

"Appraisal activities" means the exercise of professional judgment based on observations and objective assessments of a client's behavior to evaluate current functioning, diagnose, and select appropriate treatment required to remediate identified problems or to make appropriate referrals.

"Art therapist" means a person who has (i) completed a master's or doctoral degree program in art therapy, or an equivalent course of study, from an accredited educational institution; (ii) satisfied the requirements for licensure set forth in regulations adopted by the Board; and (iii) been issued a license for the independent practice of art therapy by the Board.

"Art therapy" means the integrated use of psychotherapeutic principles, visual art media, and the creative process in the assessment, treatment, and remediation of psychosocial, emotional, cognitive, physical, and developmental disorders in children, adolescents, adults, families, or groups.

"Art therapy associate" means a person who has (i) completed a master's or doctoral degree program in art therapy, or an equivalent course of study from an accredited educational institution; (ii) satisfied the requirements for licensure set forth in regulations adopted by the Board; and (iii) been issued a license to practice art therapy under an approved clinical supervisor in accordance with regulations of the Board.

"Board" means the Board of Counseling.

"Certified substance abuse counseling assistant" means a person certified by the Board to practice in accordance with the provisions of § 54.1-3507.2.

"Certified substance abuse counselor" means a person certified by the Board to practice in accordance with the provisions of § 54.1-3507.1.

"Counseling" means the application of principles, standards, and methods of the counseling profession in (i) conducting assessments and diagnoses for the purpose of establishing treatment goals and objectives and (ii) planning, implementing, and evaluating treatment plans using treatment interventions to facilitate human development and to identify and remediate mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders and associated distresses that interfere with mental health.

"Licensed substance abuse treatment practitioner" means a person who: (i) is trained in and engages in the practice of substance abuse treatment with individuals or groups of individuals suffering from the effects of substance abuse or dependence, and in the prevention of substance abuse or dependence; and (ii) is licensed to provide advanced substance abuse treatment and independent, direct, and unsupervised treatment to such individuals or groups of individuals, and to plan, evaluate, supervise, and direct substance abuse treatment provided by others.

"Marriage and family therapist" means a person trained in the appraisal and treatment of cognitive, affective, or behavioral mental and emotional disorders within the context of marriage and family systems through the application of therapeutic and family systems theories and techniques.

"Marriage and family therapy" means the appraisal and treatment of cognitive, affective, or behavioral mental and emotional disorders within the context of marriage and family systems through the application of therapeutic and family systems theories and techniques and delivery of services to individuals, couples, and families, singularly or in groups, for the purpose of treating such disorders.

"Practice of counseling" means rendering or offering to render to individuals, groups, organizations, or the general public any service involving the application of principles, standards, and methods of the counseling profession, which shall include appraisal, counseling, and referral activities.

"Practice of marriage and family therapy" means the appraisal and treatment of cognitive, affective, or behavioral mental and emotional disorders within the context of marriage and family systems through the application of therapeutic and family systems theories and techniques, which shall include assessment, treatment, and referral activities.

"Practice of substance abuse treatment" means rendering or offering to render substance abuse treatment to individuals, groups, organizations, or the general public.

"Professional counselor" means a person trained in the application of principles, standards, and methods of the counseling profession, including counseling interventions designed to facilitate an individual's achievement of human development goals and remediating mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders and associated distresses that interfere with mental health and development.

"Qualified mental health professional" includes qualified mental health professionals-adult and qualified mental health professionals-child.

"Qualified mental health professional-adult" means a qualified mental health professional who provides collaborative mental health services for adults. A qualified mental health professional-adult shall provide such services as an employee or independent contractor of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services or the Department of Corrections, or as a provider licensed by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

"Qualified mental health professional-child" means a person who by education and experience is professionally qualified and registered by the Board to provide collaborative mental health services for children and adolescents up to 22 years of age. A qualified mental health professional-child shall provide such services as an employee or independent contractor of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services or the Department of Corrections, or as a provider licensed by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

"Qualified mental health professional-trainee" means a person who is receiving supervised training to qualify as a qualified mental health professional and is registered with the Board.

"Referral activities" means the evaluation of data to identify problems and to determine advisability of referral to other specialists.

"Registered peer recovery specialist" means a person who by education and experience is professionally qualified and registered by the Board to provide collaborative services to assist individuals in achieving sustained recovery from the effects of addiction or mental illness, or both. A registered peer recovery specialist shall provide such services as an employee or independent contractor of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, a provider licensed by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, a practitioner licensed by or holding a permit issued from the Department of Health Professions, or a facility licensed by the Department of Health.

"Residency" means a post-internship supervised clinical experience registered with the Board.

"Resident" means an individual who has submitted a supervisory contract to the Board and has received Board approval to provide clinical services in professional counseling under supervision.

"Substance abuse" and "substance dependence" mean a maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress.

"Substance abuse treatment" means (i) the application of specific knowledge, skills, substance abuse treatment theory, and substance abuse treatment techniques to define goals and develop a treatment plan of action regarding substance abuse or dependence prevention, education, or treatment in the substance abuse or dependence recovery process and (ii) referrals to medical, social services, psychological, psychiatric, or legal resources when such referrals are indicated.

"Supervision" means the ongoing process, performed by a supervisor, of monitoring the performance of the person supervised and providing regular, documented individual or group consultation, guidance, and instruction with respect to the clinical skills and competencies of the person supervised.

1976, c. 608, §§ 54-924, 54-932; 1983, c. 115; 1986, cc. 64, 464; 1988, c. 765; 1993, c. 342; 1995, c. 820; 1997, c. 901; 2000, c. 473; 2001, c. 460; 2013, c. 264; 2017, cc. 418, 426; 2018, cc. 171, 375, 803; 2019, cc. 101, 217; 2020, c. 301.

§ 54.1-3501. Exemption from requirements of licensure.

The requirements for licensure in this chapter shall not be applicable to:

1. Persons who render services that are like or similar to those falling within the scope of the classifications or categories in this chapter, including persons acting as members of substance abuse self-help groups, so long as the recipients or beneficiaries of such services are not subject to any charge or fee, or any financial requirement, actual or implied, and the person rendering such service is not held out, by himself or otherwise, as a person licensed under this chapter.

2. The activities or services of a student pursuing a course of study in counseling, substance abuse treatment or marriage and family therapy in an institution accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the Board or under the supervision of a person licensed or certified under this chapter, if such activities or services constitute a part of the student's course of study and are adequately supervised.

3. The activities, including marriage and family therapy, counseling, or substance abuse treatment, of rabbis, priests, ministers or clergymen of any religious denomination or sect when such activities are within the scope of the performance of their regular or specialized ministerial duties, and no separate charge is made or when such activities are performed, whether with or without charge, for or under auspices or sponsorship, individually or in conjunction with others, of an established and legally cognizable church, denomination or sect, and the person rendering service remains accountable to its established authority.

4. Persons employed as salaried employees or volunteers of the federal government, the Commonwealth, a locality, or of any agency established or funded, in whole or part, by any such governmental entity or of a private, nonprofit organization or agency sponsored or funded, in whole or part, by a community-based citizen group or organization. Any person who renders psychological services, as defined in Chapter 36 (§ 54.1-3600 et seq.) of this title, shall be subject to the requirements of that chapter. Any person who, in addition to the above-enumerated employment, engages in an independent private practice shall not be exempt from the requirements for licensure.

5. Persons regularly employed by private business firms as personnel managers, deputies or assistants so long as their counseling activities relate only to employees of their employer and in respect to their employment.

6. Persons regulated by this Board as professional counselors or persons regulated by another board within the Department of Health Professions who provide, within the scope of their practice, marriage and family therapy, counseling or substance abuse treatment to individuals or groups.

7. Any practitioner of a profession regulated by the Board who is licensed in another state, the District of Columbia, or a United States territory or possession and who is in good standing with the applicable regulatory agency in that state, the District of Columbia, or that United States territory or possession who provides behavioral health services, as defined in § 37.2-100, to a patient located in the Commonwealth when (i) such practice is for the purpose of providing continuity of care through the use of telemedicine services as defined in § 38.2-3418.16 and (ii) the practitioner has previously established a practitioner-patient relationship with the patient. A practitioner who provides behavioral health services to a patient located in the Commonwealth through use of telemedicine services pursuant to this subdivision may provide such services for a period of no more than one year from the date on which the practitioner began providing such services to such patient.

1976, c. 608, § 54-944; 1986, c. 581; 1988, c. 765; 1995, c. 820; 1997, c. 901; 2022, c. 275.

§ 54.1-3502. Administration or prescription of drugs not permitted.

This chapter shall not be construed as permitting the administration or prescribing of drugs or in any way infringing upon the practice of medicine as defined in Chapter 29 (§ 54.1-2900 et seq.) of this title.

1976, c. 608, § 54-945; 1988, c. 765.

§ 54.1-3503. Board of Counseling.

The Board of Counseling shall regulate the practice of counseling, substance abuse treatment, art therapy, and marriage and family therapy.

The Board shall consist of 12 members to be appointed by the Governor, subject to confirmation by the General Assembly. Ten members shall be professionals licensed in the Commonwealth, who shall represent the various specialties recognized in the profession, and two shall be nonlegislative citizen members. Of the 10 professional members, six shall be professional counselors, three shall be licensed marriage and family therapists who have passed the examination for licensure as a marriage and family therapist, and one shall be a licensed substance abuse treatment practitioner.

The terms of the members of the Board shall be four years.

1976, c. 608; § 54-933; 1981, c. 447; 1983, c. 150; 1986, cc. 185, 464; 1988, c. 765; 1995, c. 820; 1997, c. 901; 2000, c. 473; 2013, cc. 201, 590; 2016, c. 105; 2020, c. 301.

§ 54.1-3504. Nominations.

Nominations for professional members may be made from a list of at least three names for each vacancy submitted to the Governor by the Virginia Counselors Association, the Virginia Association of Clinical Counselors, the Virginia Association of Addiction Professionals, and the Virginia Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. The Governor may notify such organizations of any professional vacancy other than by expiration. In no case shall the Governor be bound to make any appointment from among the nominees.

1986, c. 464, § 54-933.2; 1988, c. 765; 1995, c. 820; 1997, c. 901.

§ 54.1-3505. Specific powers and duties of the Board.

In addition to the powers granted in § 54.1-2400, the Board shall have the following specific powers and duties:

1. To cooperate with and maintain a close liaison with other professional boards and the community to ensure that regulatory systems stay abreast of community and professional needs.

2. To conduct inspections to ensure that licensees conduct their practices in a competent manner and in conformance with the relevant regulations.

3. To designate specialties within the profession.

4. To administer the certification of rehabilitation providers pursuant to Article 2 (§ 54.1-3510 et seq.) of this chapter, including prescribing fees for application processing, examinations, certification and certification renewal.

5. [Expired.]

6. To promulgate regulations for the qualifications, education, and experience for licensure of marriage and family therapists. The requirements for clinical membership in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), and the professional examination service's national marriage and family therapy examination may be considered by the Board in the promulgation of these regulations. The educational credit hour, clinical experience hour, and clinical supervision hour requirements for marriage and family therapists shall not be less than the educational credit hour, clinical experience hour, and clinical supervision hour requirements for professional counselors.

7. To promulgate, subject to the requirements of Article 1.1 (§ 54.1-3507 et seq.) of this chapter, regulations for the qualifications, education, and experience for licensure of licensed substance abuse treatment practitioners and certification of certified substance abuse counselors and certified substance abuse counseling assistants. The requirements for membership in NAADAC: the Association for Addiction Professionals and its national examination may be considered by the Board in the promulgation of these regulations. The Board also may provide for the consideration and use of the accreditation and examination services offered by the Substance Abuse Certification Alliance of Virginia. The educational credit hour, clinical experience hour, and clinical supervision hour requirements for licensed substance abuse treatment practitioners shall not be less than the educational credit hour, clinical experience hour, and clinical supervision hour requirements for licensed professional counselors. Such regulations also shall establish standards and protocols for the clinical supervision of certified substance abuse counselors and the supervision or direction of certified substance abuse counseling assistants, and reasonable access to the persons providing that supervision or direction in settings other than a licensed facility.

8. To maintain a registry of persons who meet the requirements for supervision of residents. The Board shall make the registry of approved supervisors available to persons seeking residence status.

9. To promulgate regulations for the registration of qualified mental health professionals, including qualifications, education, and experience necessary for such registration, and for the registration of persons receiving supervised training in order to qualify as a qualified mental health professional.

10. To promulgate regulations for the registration of peer recovery specialists who meet the qualifications, education, and experience requirements established by regulations of the Board of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services pursuant to § 37.2-203.

11. To promulgate regulations for the issuance of temporary licenses to individuals engaged in a counseling residency so that they may acquire the supervised, postgraduate experience required for licensure.

1976, c. 608, §§ 54-929, 54-931; 1983, c. 115; 1986, cc. 64, 100, 464; 1988, c. 765; 1994, cc. 558, 778; 1995, c. 820; 1997, c. 901; 2001, c. 460; 2013, c. 264; 2017, cc. 418, 426; 2019, cc. 101, 217, 428.

§ 54.1-3505.1. Continued competency requirements.

The Board shall promulgate regulations establishing requirements for evidence of continued competency as a condition of renewal of a license under the provisions of this chapter. The Board may approve persons who provide or accredit continuing education programs in order to accomplish the purposes of this section. The Board shall have the authority to grant exemptions or waivers or to reduce the number of continuing education hours required in cases of certified illness or undue hardship.

2002, c. 430.

§ 54.1-3506. License required.

In order to engage in the practice of counseling or marriage and family therapy or in the independent practice of substance abuse treatment, as defined in this chapter, it shall be necessary to hold a license issued by the Board.

The Board may issue a license, without examination, for the practice of marriage and family therapy or the independent practice of substance abuse treatment to persons who hold a current and unrestricted license as a professional counselor within the Commonwealth and who meet the clinical and academic requirements for licensure as a marriage and family therapist or licensed substance abuse treatment practitioner, respectively. The applicant for such license shall present satisfactory evidence of qualifications equal to those required of applicants for licensure as marriage and family therapists or licensed substance abuse treatment practitioners, respectively, by examination in the Commonwealth.

Any person who renders substance abuse treatment services as defined in this chapter and who is not licensed to do so, other than a person who is exempt pursuant to § 54.1-3501, shall render such services only when he is (i) under the supervision and direction of a person licensed under this chapter who shall be responsible for the services performed by such unlicensed person, or (ii) in compliance with the regulations governing an organization or a facility licensed by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

1979, c. 408, § 54-935.1; 1988, c. 765; 1995, c. 820; 1997, c. 901; 2009, cc. 813, 840; 2013, c. 264.

§ 54.1-3506.1. Client notification.

Any person licensed, certified, or registered by the Board and operating in a nonhospital setting shall post a copy of his license, certification, or registration in a conspicuous place. The posting shall also provide clients with (i) the number of the toll-free complaint line at the Department of Health Professions, (ii) the website address of the Department for the purposes of accessing the licensee's, certificate holder's, or registrant's record, and (iii) notice of the client's right to report to the Department if he believes the licensee, certificate holder, or registrant may have engaged in unethical, fraudulent, or unprofessional conduct. If the licensee, certificate holder, or registrant does not operate in a central location at which clients visit, he or his employer shall provide such information on a disclosure form signed by the client and maintained in the client's record.

2015, c. 530; 2017, cc. 418, 426.