This private group of TX associates is at it again and this time they want BHEC and the LPC Board to rewrite the rules so that associate practice ownership is kosher. Here we go, again! Let me get a few things off my chest first then I’ll tell you what I really think about associate practice ownership.
About This Associate Group...
We know what this associate group wants, it's all about the money and you know what? We're fine with that! We get that. But make no mistake here, this petition-effort is all…about…the money, and only pays inexperienced lip-service to the protection of Joe Citizen.
This group, specifically their leadership, likes to focus on the 20% of all supervisors who do this strictly for the money and/or do a poor job mentoring, then project those negative attributes onto the rest of us. I’m here to tell you that the 80% are highly offended by that deceptive little tactic.
Most of us do this to “pay-it-forward”. We could make more money seeing clients so it’s not about the money.
In fact, the more you study their proposal the more obvious it is that they want Supervisors to pay for, and bear the brunt of, their prior bad financial decisions and any future, bad business decisions they may make as an Associate. All so they can walk away with more money right out of school.
What Supervisors Want for Associates
Do we want them to be successful? Yes, absolutely, as quickly as possible, as long as Joe Citizen doesn’t suffer from their escalated timeline.
Do we want them to pay off their debt? Yes! The better Supervisors encourage Associates to get on a debt-free budget during their time together to reduce obligations they accrued during their time with academia. But I’m not going to pay it off for them by being guilted into lowering my rates, working for free, or assuming their business risk.
Do we want them to own their own practice asap? If that’s their dream, you bet! It is absolutely not for any Supervisor to say whether another legal adult can own a business or not.
As an associate, you do whatever the Board will allow you to do even if that includes associate practice ownership, as long as your decisions do not negatively affect your Supervisor and their business. Unfortunately, right now the Board rules make your Supervisor responsible for your (the associate) actions while under their care. Know that my willingness to stick my neck out for you (the associate) ends when you think you know enough to take on all of the risk that owning your own business entails.
Their Solution Isn't a Win-Win
In order for this group to get what they want (3) things have to happen:
1. They have to be allowed to own their own practice; associate practice ownership,
2. They have to be allowed to own client records, and
3. They have to be allowed to take direct payments from clients.
Why is associate practice ownership not a good idea?
Joe Citizen will be compromised by the associates' lack of clinical and business skills, things that come much later in the development of a solid clinician. BHEC must decide if 300 practicum hours is an acceptable benchmark for LPC Associates to be in business for themselves (I believe this is a laughable argument, especially if we lose half of our better supervisors to this movement).
You want your Supervisor to be liable for the activities of your business? Not this Supervisor. Section 681.93 makes Supervisors liable for any/all “activities”. What Supervisor with any business sense is going to yield to this type of liability? None of them will, and you can see where that will leave our next generation of associates, can't you.
I recently had a consult with a Supervisor and, because of this movement's dogma, she lost an Associate who was trained to see the Supervisor as a roadblock to her objectives. She is currently practicing on her own while her new Supervisor lives half the state away and cannot possibly monitor what is going on.
This petition is going to open a Pandora’s Box of unnecessary complaints, legal actions, criminal actions and who knows what else. As a Supervisor, I am not willing to risk or sacrifice my practice, my license, my income, or my family, and I am hell bent against going through this with any Associate for any reason. This can and probably will destroy lives and careers.
Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with owning a business. If the Board thinks Joe will be fine, and will let you, and you can find a supervisor dim enough to go with you and assume your risk then you go for it!
Why is ownership of client records by associates not a good idea?
A lack of Chapter 611 training is going to yield an increase in improper release of records requests and complaints. This is a step backwards for the safety of Joe Citizen.
Because Supervisors are being held 100% liable for the “associate's activities”, I will not be supervising associates that insist upon ownership of client records.
But, if the Board will let you, and you think you know the ins and outs of the TX Health & Safety Code Chapter 611 Release of Records then you go right ahead. You’ll want to keep several thousand dollars on hand for your first improper release of records complaint, though.
Why is taking direct payments as an associate not a good idea?
A lack of business finance and bookkeeping training usually leads to financial issues and will most likely result in complaints, possibly even criminal charges. How does this help Joe Citizen?
Because Supervisors are being held 100% liable for the “associate's activities”, I will not be supervising associates that insist upon taking direct payments. I don’t need the risk.
But, if the Board will allow it and you feel you have the necessary financial, accounting, and bookkeeping skillsets and experience needed then you go for it. Just make sure you maintain a first-name relationship with a good attorney.
What if We Eliminate Supervisor Liability?
Removing the supervisor's liability wouldn't solve the issue, it would make things worse. It would further weaken the Supervisor-Associate relationship and empower the rogue elements. Either a tight, accountable, risk-controlled training environment exists, or it doesn’t. Besides, one little sentence in the Board rules absolving the Supervisor of all liability isn't going to prevent some attorney from slapping my name on a law-suit if he thinks he can squeeze any money from me. I'll still have to pay good money to defend myself and I'll never get that money back regardless of the outcome.
Are We Here to Protect Joe Citizen or Not??
Their short-term solution to their personal financial issues, associate practice ownership, brings with it several insurmountable objections:
- First, it fails to protect Joe Citizen to the same extent that the current set of rules does.
BHEC was formed out of the Sunset Commission’s mandate to strengthen and improve the quality of care received by Joe Citizen. Both BHEC and the LPC Board have an obligation to answer this question truthfully:
“Does granting the petitioners’ request improve the care Joe Citizen receives, or do him harm?”
If the answer is determined to be the latter, then BHEC and the Board are obligated to deny the requests. It’s GAME OVER, and it’s that simple. Only if you grant them their associate practice ownership request will you even need to consider the (2) points below.
2. It exposes the Supervisors to civil, criminal, and professional liability actions of another business owner.
3. It totally and completely undermines and weakens the supervisor-associate training relationship. This will decimate the ranks of the better Supervisors.
It’s simply criminal of us as the elder generation to knowingly create an environment in which our next generation, and the public, are sent walking into a trap. We must pass them a profession upon which they can safely build their lives and careers and serve the public; one better than we found it. We are morally obligated to protect Joe Citizen and properly train associates, even if they don’t like it.
Plan Smart. Be Safe. Serve Others.
Kathleen Mills, LPC-S, CEAP
Got An Opinion?
This post is my opinion based on almost 30 year practice as a mental health provider. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to leave your civil, constructive comments below. You do not need to be logged in to leave a comment.