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Opinion

Call To Action | Protect Michigan’s Mental Health Counselors

By Shelly Papinaw

Michigan counselors are in dire need of your help. As I write this, the livelihoods of 10,000 Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC’s) and the 150,000 mental health clients they serve in the state of Michigan are in jeopardy. 

Licensing and Regulations Affairs (LARA) is aiming to update the rules for Michigan LPC’s. While some of these updates are not concerning, there is one that could be devastating to the profession and to the mental health community. They plan to move the language “diagnosing” and “psychotherapy techniques” out of the counselors’ scope of practice section and move it into the education section of the rules. 

What would this mean exactly?

It would essentially mean counselors would no longer legally be able to diagnose clients or provide psychotherapy techniques since the new rules would state that counselors learned about it, but are not able to perform these tasks as part of their job. 

Photo credit: James Madison University

Let’s put this in perspective.

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Diagnosing and providing psychotherapy is what counselors do, and what they have been doing for the 30+ years the profession has been in existence. Counselors are not asking to increase their scope of practice. They just want to keep doing the job they have been doing all these years. Without being able to legally perform these tasks, they cannot do their job, the job they were rigorously educated and trained to do. 

Many clients cannot afford to pay out of pocket for the counseling sessions they need and depend on their insurance to help cover the cost. However, insurance reimbursement only happens when the counselor can provide a billable diagnosis. If counselors are unable to provide a diagnosis, the insurance companies cannot reimburse, simple as that. 

What would that mean for mental health?

We are already experiencing a crisis in the mental health community. With so many people going through struggles such as mental illness, suicidal ideations, substance abuse, self- injury, and trauma there is already a lack of treatment providers to assist these vulnerable and growing populations. If counselors are taken out of the game, that could put more burden on an already overburdened system, greatly reducing the ability for people in need to receive the help they deserve. 

Time is running out.

A court hearing is scheduled for October 4th in Lansing to update these rules. Counselors have hope in a bill that has been devised to maintain counselors ability to diagnose and provide psychotherapy techniques. It is a common-sense bill that needs to be pushed through ASAP. It is HB4325 and it’s our saving grace. The bill was passed unanimously out of the House Health Policy Committee and has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee. A hearing and vote for HB4325 is expected on October 2nd.  If HB4325 is not passed, it is probable that LARA’s rules will go into effect, and would then only be a matter of time before 10,000 counselors may be out of work and their clients without their mental health clinician.

What can you do to help? 

1. Contact our legislators with your concerns and ask that HB4325 be passed into law. 

2. Join the Michigan LPC’s for HB4325 & Against LARA SOP Changes – Counselors and Allies Facebook page, which provides support and action steps in helping preserve LPC’s ability to practice. 

3. Sign the petition to protect LPC’s licensure

4. Attend the hearing on these proposed rules on October 4th at 9 am at the G. Mennen Williams Building Auditorium, 525 W. Ottawa Street, Lansing, MI 48893

5. For more detailed information on this issue and all the ways in which you can help, visit the news tab of www.mmhca.org.

Useful contact information:


Shelly Papinaw has a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and works at BWC in Fort Gratiot as a professional outpatient mental health counselor. She also does work as an adjunct online professor for Madonna University, supervises limited license counselors working toward full licensure, and is an independent consultant for the natural and organic spa line, Lemongrass Spa.

She is also the author of the following books: “The Misadventures of Maggie and Lou: My Boston Terrier Bandits”, “Tales of a Dreamer”, “Selling Your Soul to the Dissertation Process” under the name Pandora H. Dellinger,  and the children’s book, “A Baby Brother for Maggie and Lou.”

She resides in the City of Port Huron with her husband, two young sons, and two Boston Terriers.  Her passions include reading, writing, running, yoga, and completion of various bucket list challenges.

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