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The Controversial Pathway to Independent Practice for Texas Licensed Psychological Associates (LPAs)

Texas professional license defense attorneyThe Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists offers four types of licenses to practice psychology in the state of Texas:

  • Licensed Psychological Associate: A license for qualified individuals with graduate degrees to practice psychology.
  • Licensed Specialist in School Psychology: This license is required by law for the practice of school psychology in Texas public schools.
  • Provisionally Licensed Psychologist: A doctoral-level license to practice psychology under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. Prerequisite for licensure as a psychologist.
  • Licensed Psychologist: A doctoral-level license for the independent practice of psychology.

22 Tex. Admin. Code §463.1. A Licensed Psychological Associate holds a graduate degree (Master's degree), while a Licensed Psychologist holds a doctorate degree. Under previous law, a Licensed Psychological Associate (LPA) was not permitted to practice independently and could only practice psychology under the supervision of a licensed psychologist.

Under current law, an LPA may practice psychology independently if:

  • (A) The licensee can demonstrate at least 3,000 hours of post-graduate degree experience in the delivery of psychological services under the supervision of one or more licensed psychologists;
  • (B) The supervised experience was obtained in not less than 24 consecutive months, but not more than 48 consecutive months, and in not more than three placements; and
  • (C) The licensee submits an application for independent practice evidencing proof of the required supervised experience.

22 Tex. Admin. Code §463.8(c)(2). An LPA meeting the requirements of §463.(c)(2) "shall be approved for independent practice, but remains subject to all board rules," meet competency standards, and may only provide those services they have the necessary education, skills, and training to provide. 22 Tex. Admin. Code §463.8(c)(3).

The Controversial Pathway to Independent Practice for Texas Licensed Psychological Associates

The Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologist's decision to create a pathway to independent practice for LPAs was controversial.  Many individuals and professional associations opposed this Rule change. The Board's reasoning was multifaceted and based primarily on market forces and rulings in seminal court cases.

The Board had been challenged in court, became weary of further litigation, and had concerns that the Texas Psychology Practice Act's lifetime supervision requirement for LPAs could be susceptible to legal challenge under federal law. Moreover, the lifetime supervision requirement decreased the public's access to qualified LPAs in a time when the demand for mental health professionals was on the rise. And in theory, opening up a pathway for LPA independent practice could help attract and retain more mental health care providers in Texas.

In its February 2019 Newsletter, the Board published Court Cases, Market Forces Reshaping Psychology by Tim F. Branaman, Ph.D., Board Chair and Texas licensed psychologist. Dr. Branaman states, "I believe professional psychology is best practiced by those who are trained at the doctoral level," and speculates on possible consequences of independent psychology licensing of individuals with only Master's level training.

Accreditation System for Master's Programs by the American Psychological Association

The trend toward allowing licensure of a psychologist with master's degrees rose to the national level last summer when the American Psychological Association (APA) released the statement: APA Appoints Task Force to Study Accrediting Master's Programs. The press release noted that "changes in the field led to a decision by the council of representatives to direct APA to develop an accreditation system for master’s programs in health service areas of psychology."

The Task Force, appointed by the APA's Board of Educational Affairs (BEA), was specifically asked to:

  • Develop a statement that broadly delineates the scope of accreditation for training at the master’s level as contrasted with the current scope at the doctoral level.
  • Prioritize possible pathways for APA to establish accreditation of master’s programs in psychology, and
  • Identify the necessary expertise to comprise the accreditation decision-making body.

In January 2019, the APA published the Report of the BEA Task Force to Develop a Blueprint for APA Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Health Service Psychology. The Task Force stated that for accreditation of a master’s programs in Health Service Psychology (HSP) it must be based on a "formalized curriculum or curricular sequence for that terminal degree, not simply as a transitional degree that is obtained after accrual of a set number of course credits or as a consolation for having not quite completed the degree requirements for a doctorate."

Ultimately, the Task Force recommends that the APA expand the scope of the Commission on Accreditation to accredit master’s programs that provide training in the practice of HSP, with the scope of accreditation for HSP master's programs to be applicable only to programs meeting a set of standards designed to lead to a specific set of professional competencies and outcomes.

Professional License Defense Attorneys

BERTOLINO LLP helps professionals, like you, keep their licenses when those licenses are under attack by a state agency or board. If you are facing disciplinary action from a professional licensing board, contact us today or call (800) 210-0126 and schedule a case evaluation.

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Attorney Tony R. Bertolino is the Managing Partner with Bertolino LLP. Our law firm has been able to help people across the state of Texas. If you need an experienced lawyer to represent you, contact Bertolino LLP today.

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