Texas We Have a Problem
Here’s the thing. In light of recent events I want to speak to all of the problems Texas has when it comes to providing excellent, accessible, and affordable mental health care. I want to outline solutions, propose law changes, and rally the troops. Texas seems to enjoy competing for 49th or 50th place when it comes to quality mental health care in America and this little blog post probably won’t change that. So, as a counselor supervisor, counselor educator, and practicing clinician, I will talk about what I know. This post is about counselor intern supervision and supervisor training.
For those readers who aren’t familiar with Texas rules governing licensed professional counselors:
- Every Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Texas must spend 3000 hours as a Licensed Professional Counselor Intern under the supervision of a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor (LPC-S).
- There are places in Texas where there are no licensed professional counselors or supervisors (see the white areas in the map below).
- There are strict limits on the number of supervision hours interns can accrue using technology.
Training more supervisors in rural areas and lifting the restrictions on webcam supervision would be easy first steps to helping Texans gain access to quality mental health care.
Counselors and Webcams
Increasing allowable intern supervision hours via technology is a no-brainer. The Telemedicine Wellness, Intervention, Triage, and Referral Project at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center is pioneering the use of technology to screen junior high and high school students, identify those most at risk for committing violence in schools, and intervene before anything happens. Data are already showing that the screenings have helped avert violent incidents and provide students the help they need. Why can’t interns attend supervision using the same technology? Counseling graduates on the fence about where to practice might choose underserved areas if they did not have to travel long distances to receive face to face supervision. Arguments against using technology in mental health are archaic and have become a roadblock to care.
Counselor Supervision Training
Changing the rules about technology and supervision is only a start. Long story short, we need seasoned counselors and counselor supervisors in underserved areas. One LPC Supervisor Course attended by five participants who agree to take on just two interns can impact hundreds of people in need of quality mental health care. Recently I, along with Dr. Christopher Taylor offered a six hour course to twenty participants in El Paso interested in offering their own 40 hour training. How exciting is that? Twenty seasoned licensed professional counselor supervisors near one of the most underserved areas in the state are now trained and willing to provide their own courses. Their impact alone could be a game-changer for interns who feel called to work in underserved areas.
Lifting limits on technology and increasing the number of supervisors won’t solve everything but it’s a start. We still need to give interns the ability to bill Medicaid. We still need to convince the military and Tricare to hire licensed professional counselors. And we need to help Medicare understand that refusing to allow counselors to be credentialed under their plans makes them part of the problem. Texas, we need counselors and supervisors more than ever before. And we need them now.