Diagnose/Testing for LPC SW and MFT in GA > 2016 Law

georgia counselor social work diagnose rules law

Can Georgia LPC SW and MFT’s legally administer psychological testing and diagnose mental conditions? GA SB 319 amending the Composite Board of Professional Counselors, Social Workers and Marriage and Family Therapists law was passed legislative session 2016. Follow this page for breaking reports on rules, regulations and law impacting therapists.

The Amended 2016 GA Composite Board Law Title 43-10A

The driving force behind the amendments to recent law was the professional association that represents Licensed Professional Counselors in the State of Georgia, the Licensed Professional Counselors Association of Georgia. The law contains many other elements and changes that impact everyone licensed by the Composite Board- GA Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors.  The primary issues in addition to diagnosing are related to continuing education requirements and the various instruments used for psychological testing. See below for breaking updates on what you need to do to be in compliance. The Composite Board and Psychology Board are discussing rule changes that interpret the new law for diagnose and psychological testing. The current georgia counselor social work diagnose rules lawComposite Board Rules.

9/21/17: Rule Chapter 135-12 Testing and Assessment Now in Effect

The new rules concerning counselors, social workers and marriage and family therapists diagnosing and performing psychological tests and evaluations are now effective.

8/18/17: Governor Signs “Certificate of Active Supervision”

The new diagnose and testing rules have been approved by the governor. They will be in effect 21 days from 8/18/17. This document is entitled “Certificate of Active Supervision” and is a reference to that section of the Georgia Law–not our Georgia therapist practice law– that grants the governor duties to actively supervise all of the professional licensing boards. So don’t confuse this with supervision as it applies to our licensing. You can view Nathan Deal’s signed document here.

Many questions remain regarding the Composite Board’s enforcement of these rules. The board has not yet determined how they will be enforced. Therefore, the board has not provided the public with information on:

1) Specific titles of graduate courses that will be acceptable as ‘diagnose’ courses.
2) Which psychological tests or testing activity is prohibited.

5/5/17: Board Votes Unanimously to Accept 135-12 Proposed Rules

Have the new diagnose and testing rules officially passed? Not quite–the rules will be sent to the governor who has 90 days to approve, change or veto them. They will then be sent back the the Board Executive Director and once received after 21 days will become effective. It could be August 2017 or later when the rules are official. Stay tuned for developments on how the board begins to enforce this new rule.

4/10/17: Composite Board Public Rules Hearing: May 5 2017, 2:20 pm, Macon Georgia

The most recent version of the diagnose and testing rules has been confirmed by the Attorney General’s office and has been posted on the Secretary of State Professional Licensing board website.  The May 5th hearing is open to any member of the public. There have been several versions of rules drafts that the board has considered. They could be changed again.

It is important to note that the board has enforcement power over our practice law and they then write rules to interpret that law. Sometimes the board will exercise discretion and enforce a rule differently than written. It is a complex and fluid process and partly why it is difficult to predict how the board will enforce any aspect of regulating our practice.

The previous rules draft was scheduled for a possible vote on 3/10/17. The vote was again tabled. This partly owed to administrative and other work on the rule having not been completed. In effect, we are therefore still regulated under the old/current rules. Until rules are passed, there is nothing factual that can be stated regarding any additional licensee requirements or legality of practice activity under the new law.  All of the recent rules drafts have contained diagnose course curriculum, completion of a graduate level course which includes DSM content or exemptions for those licensed 10 years or more, and revised language addressing psychological testing, but the rules could still undergo further revisions. For now, obtain a copy of your graduate transcript, descriptions directly from the school bulletin of any courses that include diagnosing, and course syllabus. Retain these in the event the board requires you to produce them. When passed, it is not possible to know precisely how the board will enforce the new rules. The logistics of enforcement of new rules can be a challenge for board members as well as staff.

2/15/2017: Rule Changes Still in Discussion.
Has been placed on the March 2017 Meeting Agenda

The outcome of the meeting will be reflected in the minutes which should be posted within a few weeks on the Secretary of State licensing board website. I will try to post here any other updates asap.

2/8/17: Rule changes focusing on psychological testing

First and foremost, the board enforces our practice law–no one else. There is no way of knowing what is legal under this new law until new rules are passed. The board has significant discretion in the interpretation of this law. Your main concern at present is to be certain you are not representing yourself as a psychologist.

  • Any new diagnose course requirements which could be passed for LAPC/LPC will become moot when an existing rule becomes effective after 9/30/2018 requiring a course in diagnose as part of an acceptable graduate degree. In essence, you will automatically be in compliance if you have completed that course and that course is required by most CACREP and other board approved degrees.
  • There may be CEU requirements, but the law allows the board to accept experience in lieu of educational requirements. It is not known whether the board will write the rules to allow that.
  • In essence how the new law will be enforced is unknown at this time. It is possible that the Board of Examiners of Psychologists will attempt cease and desist orders with individuals who are engaging in certain activities. However, most of psychology board’s cease and desist orders on Composite Board licensees are related to advertising.
  • The Composite Board has it’s February 2017 meeting on 2/9/2017 to further discuss SB 319 and rules drafts.
  • Don’t panic. As usual, adhere to GA composite board code of ethics 135-7. Avoid the use of any form or derivative of the word “psychology” in your practice or any information you publish or advertise through print and the internet or social media unless you are also licensed by the GA State Examining Board of Psychologists. This is regardless of how the proposed rules are passed. Beside that, there is no way of knowing what you will need to do to be in compliance with this law until the Composite Board begins to enforce it and new rules are passed.

Update: 11/21/16- The 2016 Law and Pending Composite Board Rules

If you are licensed by the Composite Board, avoid the use of any form or derivative of the word “psychology” in your practice or any information you publish or advertise through print and the internet or social media unless you are also licensed by the GA State Examining Board of Psychologists. This is regardless of whether the proposed rules are passed.

Update: 11/10/16- Proposed Rules to Be Presented at the December 2016 Board Meeting

At present the board is proceeding with posting new rules for public input. The proposed rule change appends a new section 135-12-.01 at the end of our current rules.

“I have heard that it had been illegal for LPC’s in GA to diagnose–is this true?”

False. Whereas programs–for example Medicare and Tricare–may choose which credentials are acceptable to them, determining their legality is outside of their jurisdiction. Healthcare licenses are issued by states therefore states determine which practice activities are legal. Despite the absence of the word diagnose in the law, the composite board has always determined that under the law, LPC’s MFT and Social workers may engage in the activity of diagnosing. Still, the inclusion of the word diagnose is also important as it is a credibility issue in a concrete sense. Courts and other entities sometimes question mental health licensees opinion on clients’ mental conditions by attempting to challenge whether they are qualified to diagnose.

Can LPC diagnose in GA ? I have heard it was only legal for LPC’s to make diagnostic impressions, but diagnosing mental conditions was illegal–is this true?

Again, this is false. The term “diagnostic impression” is used in many different ways, but it did not form the basis for legality of diagnosing in Georgia.

States that include “diagnose” in their counselors licensing law.

Please read the following before proceeding: 1) This listing is intended to provide the law as it reads. In practice, states may enforce it differently. 2) Issues related to diagnose may differ by state. 3) This is quoted law, not rules. Rules are written to clarify and interpret the law. 4) Most of the following is primary source and quoted directly from each state’s official statute. Due to access restrictions, some of the quoted law is from licensing board websites–reliable information but secondary source. 5) Some of the quoted law is from current statute–some older. 6) The title of the license may differ i.e. LPC, LMHC, LPCC and others. As much as is possible, this list compares “apples to apples”. 7) Other license requirements and board rules vary widely among states. For example, many states issue licenses for addiction counseling. Georgia does not and addiction counselors work only under state or national certification.


“…diagnose and develop treatment plans but shall not attempt to diagnose, prescribe for, treat, or advise a client with reference to problems or complaints falling outside the boundaries of counseling services.”


“..may diagnose or treat, other than through the use of projective testing or individually administered intelligence tests…”


” diagnosis and treatment of individuals, couples, families and groups.”


‘Diagnose’ is in the Social Workers law, however it is not in the Marriage and Family Therapists and Counselors laws.


“…the application of counseling interventions and psychotherapeutic techniques to identify and remediate cognitive, mental, and emotional issues…”


Will provide information as it becomes available.

“I have heard that it was illegal for LPC’s in GA to diagnose–is this true?” False. Whereas programs–for example Medicare and Tricare–may choose which credentials are acceptable to them, determining their legality is generally outside of their jurisdiction…the Georgia composite board has always determined that under the law, LPC’s MFT and Social workers may engage in the activity of diagnosing.


“…evaluation, assessment, analysis, diagnosis and treatment of emotional, behavioral or interpersonal dysfunction or difficulties that interfere with mental health and human development.”


“… methods or procedures and the diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional disorders to assist individuals in achieving more effective personal and social adjustment.”


“…practice of mental health counseling includes methods of a psychological nature used to evaluate, assess, diagnose, and treat emotional and mental dysfunctions or disorders…”


“…utilizes counseling and psychotherapy to evaluate, diagnose, treat, and recommend a course of treatment for emotional and mental problems and conditions…”


“…The assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of, and counseling for, mental and emotional disorders;…”


“…prevent, assess, and treat mental, emotional or behavioral disorders.”


“…diagnosing for the purpose of establishing treatment goals and objectives…”


“… to evaluate and treat emotional and mental problems and conditions in a variety of settings…”


“…“Mental health setting” means a behavioral health setting where an applicant is providing mental health services including the diagnosis, treatment, and assessment of emotional and mental health disorders and issues…”


“…may engage in the independent practice of professional counseling and is authorized to diagnose and treat mental disorders…”


“…methods, and procedures, including assessment, evaluation, treatment planning, amelioration, and remediation of adjustment problems and emotional disorders,…”


“…means rendering offering prevention, assessment, diagnosis and treatment…”


“…means assisting individuals, families or groups through the counseling relationship to develop understanding of intrapersonal and interpersonal problems, to define goals, to make decisions,…”


“… methods in the diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and amelioration of psychological problems and emotional or mental conditions…”


“… includes, but is not limited to, assessment, diagnosis and treatment, counseling and psychotherapy, of a nonmedical nature of mental and emotional disorders,…”


“…a service involving the application of clinical counseling principles, methods, or procedures for the purpose of achieving social, personal, career, and emotional development…”


“…the implementation of professional counseling treatment interventions including evaluation, treatment planning, assessment, and referral;…”


“…Counseling/Psychotherapy involves diagnosis, assessment and treatment by use of the following:…”

All 50 states LPC laws and Diagnose will be posted soon.