EDITORIAL: Not all 'therapists' equal

York Dispatch

Sometimes we just need to talk to someone — a friend, family member or coworker who will listen to our troubles and maybe offer some advice, for what it's worth.

Everyone needs that kind of support on certain days, say, when the boss is a jerk, the kids won't stop fighting and, to top it off, the fridge finally gives up the ghost.

But for potentially life-altering problems — the kind that can end in divorce, hospitalization or even death — many people wisely turn to the professionals.

These are the people who gave years of their lives to the study of mental health and behavior.

They have been tested on their knowledge, they are held to ethical standards, and they can be disciplened or have their licenses revoked based on a complaint or inspection.

Unfortunately, because of a loophole in Pennsylvania law, it's hard to distinguish the pros from the posers in one area of counseling.

Any average Jane or Joe can call themselves marriage and family counselors, even if they've had no training whatsoever.

They are not required to be licensed. meaning they can be unethical and give potentially harmful advice and there's not a thing the State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors can do about it.

Unless a client does a little research, they wouldn't know if their "therapist" is about as qualified give advice as they themselves are.

State Rep. Seth Grove aims to close that loophole with House Bill 603, officially called the Marriage & Family Therapist Title Protection Legislation.

It would make it illegal for anyone not licensed to call themselves a licensed marriage and family therapist or imply that they hold such a permit.

"Individuals and couples often seek counseling services during vulnerable times in their lives," Grove said. "It is important that they have the assurance the therapist they have selected has been vetted and possesses the professional qualification necessary to offer competent care."

The bill overwhelmingly cleared the full House by a 173-17 vote, and we hope it receives the same support in the Senate.

Lawmakers must clear standard for professional therapists in Pennsylvania.