The LPC Board held a meeting two Fridays back and one of the items on their lengthy agenda was from a part-time counselor/academic who wishes to rewrite a lot of things in the LPC manual and tell me how to run my business. Guess what I think about that?
Download the meeting agenda and scroll to pg 132 for the petition I'm referencing in this post.
My Response to BHEC Petitioner
Before we get into the substance of my response please allow me to clear the table on a few points:
Point #1. Having read the complainant's petition it appears to be based solely on the premise that Supervisors have historically, and are currently, exploiting Associates. I, and the other Supervisors whom take our position as mentors to the next generation of mental health providers very seriously, strenuously object to that lazy assumption.
Her petition claims:
a. That, Supervisors are over-working associates.
b. That, Associates are being over-charged.
c. That, Associates are being forced to participate in a training system riddled with, "system inequities".
On her first point, overworking associates who are trying to log 3000 hours as fast as they can to get credentialed so they can operate as fully licensed counselors, I would ask who's complaining? The associates want to get their hours as quickly as possible and that schedule is between the associate and their supervisor/employer. If it's too much all they have to do is speak up and tailor the schedule. That's between these two parties and I see no need for BHEC or the Board to be telling the associate how fast they can or cannot accumulate their hours. Nothing to see here, let's move on.
On over-charging Associates for supervisory services and/or splits, I charge them a lot less than I'm compensated for a normal counseling session and I give them a sizeable break on my rate. My splits are based upon actual expenses incurred in my practice not on the amount of school debt incurred by the associate. I have expenses to cover, too, and am allowed to benefit from my supervisory services training. If my rates are too high or my splits aren't agreeable or the associate doesn't wish to benefit from the curriculum I offer then they have the option of looking elsewhere.
And, on being forced to participate in a system stacked against them? First, an associate has had 4-7 years to research what the path to licensing looks like and make a decision to participate. No one is forcing them to do anything. Second, the training system you refer to is, if anything, wholly inadequate, for preparing associates to start and operate a practice, in my 30 year opinion. Third, "system inequities" is her own subjective view of things she simply doesn't like or understand.
I submit that she is twisting circumstances to her advantage, gas-lighting those she presents her proposal to (the Board), and has her own personal agenda. If that were not the case then her research and supporting argument would more closely resemble that encountered in the real world, presented further below.
Why Her Entire Petition is VOID Before It Gets Off the Ground
Point #2. The author's group claims to have 3000 members yet only 8% responded to the survey upon which she bases her petition. Roughly 240 responses from a combined LPC/LMFT licensee base of well over 35,000 is not a scientific/representative sampling of all licensees and that alone invalidates the premise of her appeal.
Houston, Do We Have a Problem??
Point #3. The petition's author is a professor in the world of academia. Does the larger world of academia believe this petition has merit? If so, we have a larger problem and that would be the failure of academia to prepare the next-gen counselors to actually run a business. There's far more to this counseling gig than just talking to clients.
Point #4. The fact that someone (especially someone who considers themselves an academic) is telling me, a well seasoned Supervisor and business owner of 30 years how to run my business based on her social justice precepts is abhorrent and I will not remain quiet about it.
Point #5. Neither the Council nor the Boards have jurisdiction over any business to command wages, fee structures, "employment" relationship between Supervisor and Associate, or any other guideline that may relate to the operation of a private business, currently governed by the State Laws of Texas.
Let's Look at This Through the Lens of Experience
If I may outline what I believe to be the true underlying issues behind the petitioners "system inequities", I will then offer some simple solutions.
I do believe there are (3) seminal issues that need to be addressed. Doing so successfully would clear up the issues that are allowing individuals such as this petitioner to gaslight all supervisors and Council/Board members with a mish-mash of twisted facts, opinions and incorrect information, and consequently mislead the next generation of licensees.
1. Bad Information Given to Future Associates at the Academic Level
Graduate students are told that, "all they need is a 10'x10' space and a cheap liability policy and they can expect to make $100k a year". All anyone needs to do to verify that statement is ask a few recent graduates if that is accurate. I do so routinely and the responses I get validate my statement, greatly discourage me, and create panic and chaos in the lives of young professionals and the good supervisors that wish to help them.
Solution: Academia needs to be presenting a more accurate picture of the real world, expenses involved in running a practice, and the path that lies in front of a graduate looking to become licensed in the mental health fields. How this is brought about should be left up to our Board although given it's high-percentage mix of academia members, gives me great pause.
2. Improperly Operated Practices Leading to "Bad Math"
Properly running a practice, whether it be an individual or group practice, requires a number of legal, insurance, and compliance issues be implemented that a large percentage of current practitioners are simply not putting into place. This alone explains the discrepancy between those Supervisors offering 60-70% splits (or more!) and those offering 50-55%.
A few of those areas include:
a. HIPAA Process and Procedures
b. CyberSecurity tools and hardware in place.
c. Adequate liability insurance coverage (not the minimums)
d. Legally reviewed practice forms.
e. A lack of proper Service Agreements in place.
There are many other items needed to properly run a legal and compliant* practice in 2021 and they all have a financial cost associated with them. All of these items must be taken into consideration when determining either a 1099 Service Agreement and the associated splits, or the hourly rate involved when hiring a W-2 employee. Business is a math equation not a social justice issue. Everything has a cost and nothing is free. Someone has to pay for it.
This topic applies fairly to all practices but for this discussion let's assume that we're talking about the Supervisor community. My solution premise is that all Supervisors must either have the list of disciplines above in place for their practice or work for a practice that does. Period.
Solution: Currently a supervisor applicant must take a 40-hour course designed to receive the "S" designation. If a supervisor applicant were required by their Board to have the list of disciplines in place in order to receive the supervisor designation then several things would be accomplished:
a. All (Supervisory) practices would be compliant* with Federal and State Law, and have the required protocols and legal agreements in place (hard to properly teach what you ain't doing!).
b. The large split discrepancies encountered from compliant* vs non-compliant practices would be eliminated. This would level the playing field between counselors competing for new talent, clear up the confusion amongst new graduates, and eliminate the fodder that people like this petitioner use to "gaslight" those they wish to manipulate.
3. Bad Supervisors
Yes, there are some bad supervisors out there. Phillip regularly jokes that Life Tree Counseling should be called, Life Tree Remedial Counseling, given the large number of calls we get from Associates who have encountered a, "Supervisor From Hell", and are looking for help. Mentoring the next generation is far too important to allow just anyone to become a supervisor, or remain one when their performance doesn't measure up. My solution?
Solution: First, all supervisory applicants must be fully compliant* with all Federal, State, Council and Board requirements. Failure to have all of those disciplines in place will either prevent an applicant from obtaining the Supervisory designation or cause a Supervisor to surrender theirs.
Second, there are various Supervisory practices that don't measure up. Some require a reprimand and proper follow-up to ensure compliance*, and some are so egregious as to cause an immediate loss of the designation. My point here is that far more accountability amongst Supervisors is required by their Board. What form this takes is for another discussion but the point is that accountability must be in place to weed out the bad supervisors.
*meaning, "making demonstrable progress" towards "compliance"
Let Experience and Cooler Heads Prevail
While I understand that the petitioner is attempting to address perceived grievances ("systemic inequities") my experience tells me that addressing the foundational issues outlined above would more simply and easily eliminate the grievances she brings up without having to resort to social justice mandates about how counselors should run their businesses.
Plan Smart. Be Safe. Serve Others.
Kathleen Mills, LPC-S, CEAP