WMHCA is the professional organization working exclusively to meet the needs of Licensed Mental Health Counselors in Washington State. WMHCA, Washington Mental Health Counselors Associations chartered through its national professional organization called as American Mental Health Counselors Associations (AMHCA). The office of WMHCA resides at P.O. Box 31273, Seattle, Washington, 98103. The official website of WMHCA is http://www.wmhca.org.
The mission of WMHCA is to promote quality mental health counseling services, maintain a viable and distinct professional identity, and influence public policy consistent with our professional ethics and values. In order to perform its mission, WMHCA works together with other professional organizations, the state legislature, state regulatory agencies, insurance companies as well as consumers or clients to promote quality in mental health counseling practices. WMHCA sets up standing committees whose focus is to safeguard and advocate for Licensed Mental Health Counselors and their clients.
As a professional organization, there are at least 8 (eight) purposes of WMHCA. The first is to promote and maintain the profession of mental health counseling by stressing high levels of ethical and professional practice. And the second is promoting legislation and administrative rules that recognizes and advances the profession of mental health counseling. The third purpose is to foster cooperation among mental health providers to improve care and services to clients, while the fourth is to position the profession favorably in the healthcare market through marketing and education. The fifth purpose of WMHCA is to encourage the next generation of mental health counselors by supporting the transition from graduate school to professional life. Providing advocacy with insurance companies for contract language that protects licensed mental health counselors and their clients is the sixth. Meanwhile, the seventh is to provide educational programs that enhance knowledge and promote continuing professional growth. The last purpose of WMHCA is providing opportunities for connection and networking among its members for professional development.
In order to keep the professionalism of organization and all internal entities, WMHCA impose a policy not to endorse products or services, including products and services advertised in its publications or website, unless explicitly so stated in the advertisement itself. WMHCA does not endorse also opinions or confirm authenticity of statements contained in material submitted for publication. Additionally, the selection of a venue by WMHCA to hold meetings or host workshops reflects only the suitability of the facility for only the given purpose.
Board Committees, Officers, and Their Responsibilities
WMHCA is currently presided by Kris Goodman replacing the previous president Renee Balodis-Cox. Executive Director is held by Adrian Magnuson-Whyte. There are 7 committees that compose the whole structure of WMHCA organization. They consist of Membership Chair, Board Assistant & CEU Coordinator, Public Policy & Legislation, Ethics Consultant, Professional Development Chair, Treasurer, and AMHCA Western Region Director.
Membership Chair is currently held by Leslie J. Gibb. The main responsibility is to manage and process all membership questions in line with each area of professional service and expertise. The overall process of recruitment of new members as well as any related tasks to the membership affairs would be the responsibilities of Leslie J Gibb in this position.
Unlike Membership Chair, Board Assistant & CEU Coordinator which is held by Jill Colley is in charge for giving the approval for individual counselors to continue education for the sake career development, upgrading competency, and normally income-increase target as well.
As the so-called re-licensure education program is provided for the licensed Mental Health Counselors, Board Assistant & CEU Coordinator will be carrying out ‘fit and proper test’ for individual participant to make sure if the next education level is relevant to the given profession.
Board for Public Policy & Legislation of WMHCA is currently vacant. There is no specific reason why there hasn’t been somebody appointed to fill the position. Meanwhile, Ethics Consultant held by Judy Roberts, is responsible to provide services to entire counselor members and individual applicants in terms of professional ethics understanding, implementation, as well a wide range of practical execution. The consultation about confidential code of ethics can be simply done through telephone call at 206-284-2744 or via email.
Allesandria Goard is currently becoming Professional Development Chair office with the scope of attention to set up, conduct, and evaluate all supporting programs for developing individual members of Mental Health counselors to meet the up to date demand of customers and professional services. For the mean time, office of the Treasurer is held by Denise DeMunnik, in charge for the whole process of accounting, finance, and treasury as well. As WMHCA is a member of American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), the Region Director as a representative of this national organ is placed within the Board of WMHCA. Karen Langer is currently the position of Western AMHCA Region Director.
Strong membership base is the primary concern of WMHCA. Owing the strong membership, WMHCA can work to; first, support relevant legislation, second, write and distribute education materials, and third, advocate for the members. WMHCA believes that the more the members it has, the stronger its voice will be. The benefits of WHMCA membership, as exposed no its website consists of 19 points. They are:
1. Free confidential access to ethical consultations with our ethics chair, Judy Roberts.
2. WMHCA routinely participates in cooperative efforts with the counselor programs division of the Department of Health, and employs a lobbyist to advocate with the state legislature for our interests as mental health counselors.
3. Updated information regarding insurance panels
4. Discounts on WMHCA sponsored events, including required Ethics training, HIPAA compliance training, and licensure prep courses. We have recently begun a series of training courses to meet the new state requirements regarding training for supervisors.
5. Promotion of our profession to managed care organizations, insurance companies and employers.
6. Keep informed about mental health counseling news through issues of Insights, (our quarterly newsletter), special mailings, and online at our website (www.wmhca.org).
7. WMHCA offers educational conferences that meet Washington State Department of Health requirements for Continuing Education Units.
8. WMHCA sponsors workshops to help prepare for the WA State Clinical Licensure exam. These workshops are offered at a 10% discount to WMHCA members.
9. Opportunities to network with other WMHCA members and colleagues through WMHCA’s listserv and monthly meetings.
10. WMHCA advocates for enhanced professional stature and improved consumer choice through efforts to obtain licensure for qualified Mental Health Counselors.
11. WMHCA provides these important services to all mental health counselors in Washington State:
12. Sustains a year-round presence in Olympia to ensure access on critical issues affecting LMHCs— like privileged communication.
13. Builds LMHC credibility so that we are now included by most MCOs, PPOs, and insurers as covered providers of mental health services.
14. Provides free consultation and answers to members’ ethical and procedural questions.
15. Sponsors an annual conference and statewide approved continuing education programs.
16. Maintains cooperative and consistent contact with other professional counseling organizations to assure a strong coalition on matters of mutual interest.
17. Attends and/or monitors state Department of Health agency meetings affecting the regulation of mental health counseling.
18. Maintains this WMHCA website with frequently updated information about issues concerning mental health counseling.
19. Provides a WMHCA listserv to facilitate discussion of professional issues and immediate notification of significant events or issues.
There are three categories of WMHCA membership, including; first, Clinical Members, second, Associate Members, and third, Students Members. Clinical membership consists of those Licensed Mental Health Counselors with the annual fee worth of up to US$100. Associate members contain Mental Health Counselors possessing a master's or doctoral degree with a major or minor in mental health counseling or the behavioral or social sciences. Its annual membership fee is the same as Clinical members.
Students membership consists of students enrolled in an accredited master's or doctoral degree program in mental health counseling or the behavioral/social sciences. Additional 2 year membership extension will be given for Student Associate members who enroll as students with the current rate of membership dues. Submitting applications for Students Membership at WMHCA should be signed by the authorized professor with the annual payment of up to US$50.
The meeting for members is held monthly. The workshops are also organized by WMHCA involving professional panelist and speakers on a wide range of themes relevant to the field of its industry. For instance, on Saturday, July 11, 2009, One Day Summer Retreat entitled “Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy & Native American Traditions” will be held by WHMCA taking place at Medicine Horse Stables, Spokane, Washington. This workshop will be featured by Judy Stanger Houck, Erin LeVan and Sherry Murray. The goal of this retreat is to provide an opportunity for all caregivers to get away for a relaxing day of self-care and to make new social and support connections while also experiencing firsthand equine-assisted psychotherapy and Native American traditions. Individual members can register to participate within this program while non-members are also allowed with a higher rate of registration fee.
As WHMCA is a volunteer organization, members can also take part in some voluntary programs as much or as little as individuals can afford to make. The options of volunteer opportunities include attending Legislative Action Day in Olympia, attending a WMHCA meeting, joining the Board of Directors, participating in the Membership Committee, helping at workshops (to handle registration, hand out certificates, etc.), participating in the Community Mental Health Committee, joining the Graduate Liaison Committee, helping with selecting potential workshop presenters, and answering inquiries regarding established workshops .
Licensure & Re-Licensure Continuing Education Programs
There are several requirements for interested applicants who would like to get the licensure from WMHCA as Mental Health Counselors. These four requirements consist of:
1. Graduation from a master's or doctoral level educational program in mental health counseling or a related discipline from a college or university approved by the secretary based upon nationally recognized standards. An “approved educational program” means any college or university accredited by a national or regional accrediting body recognized by the Commission on Recognition of Postsecondary Accreditation, at the time the applicant completed the required education.
2. Successful completion of an approved examination (i.e., NBCC’s National Counselor Examination for Licensure (NCE) or National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE)).
3. Successful completion of a supervised experience requirement. This experience requirement must consist of a minimum of thirty-six months full-time counseling or three thousand hours of postgraduate mental health counseling under the supervision of a qualified licensed mental health counselor in an approved setting. The three thousand hours of required experience includes a minimum of one hundred hours spent in immediate supervision with the qualified licensed mental health counselor, and includes a minimum of one thousand two hundred hours of direct counseling with individuals, couples, families, or groups.
WMHCA allows the supervision to be provided by an “equally qualified licensed mental health practitioner”. The professionals of this category consist of an individual licensed as a mental health counselor, licensed marriage and family therapist, licensed clinical social worker, licensed psychologist, licensed psychiatrist, or licensed psychiatric nurse. The supervisors will have an authority to assess whether setting of facilities, agencies or private practice where an applicant works with individuals, families, couples or groups. Additionally, “immediate supervision” is defined by WMHCA as a meeting with an approved supervisor, involving one supervisor and no more than two supervisees.
4. Applicants must also complete four clock hours of AIDS education as required in WAC 246-12, Part 8. Since the Department of Health have changed how the NCE/NCMHCE examinations will be administered starting effectively from May 1, 2008, there are three conditions that have to be concerned by individual applicants for Mental Health Counselors, including:
a. Applicants for licensure can now take the examination once they have graduated with a minimum of an MA/MS degree in a counseling-related field
b. Applicants apply directly to NBCC to take the examination and then with the DOH once the necessary post-graduate hours have been completed.
c. The examinations will now be offered by computer during the first week of each calendar month.
Detailed information related to the implementation of four clock education on AIDS conducted by WAC should be confirmed directly to the Department of Health, Health Professions Quality Assurance.
WMHCA provides Re-Licensure Continuing Education programs for individual licensed mental health counselors to upgrade the advancement, extension, and enhancement of the professional competence. The continuing education program has to be relevant to the existing licensed professions. The forms of continuing education programs contain two options; first, programs featured by individual instructors, speakers, or panelists with the approved qualification from a recognized local, state, national, or international organization.
A recognized institution of higher learning and education which provides the relevant education in the same industry is included in this category. The models of education programs might be in the form of seminars, workshops, or postgraduate studies.
The second form of continuing education is distance learning program which is approved by a recognized local, state, national, or international organization or higher education institution. For distance learning program, test of comprehension upon the completion of education is obligatory. In practice, distance learning programs are limited to twenty six hours per reporting period.
WMHCA also includes the training programs sponsored by the agency where a counselor is employed. Yet, such sponsored-training programs have to fulfill the following two conditions; first, the experience can be shown to contribute to the advancement, extension and enhancement of the professional competence of the licensed mental health counselor, second, the training programs are limited to twenty six hours per reporting period.
Other learning experience is acceptable as an alternative form of continuing education program by WMHCA with the following two conditions; first, the experience can be shown to contribute to the advancement, extension and enhancement of the professional competence of the licensed mental health counselor; and second, the experience is limited to six hours per reporting period.
The minimum volume of continuing education programs for the licensed mental health counselors is 36 hours every two years. Six hours of the total duration have to be in professional ethics and law in which topics under RCW 18.130.180 on Uniform Disciplinary Ac are presented. Additionally, the license holders who contribute to lecturing and education for the programs should have to accumulate the same number of hours from the continuing education program, as detailed in WAC 246-12-220. The volume of presenting or lecturing hours on a specific topic may be used for continuing education credit once only during the reporting period.
Standardized acceptable documentations of WMHCA include transcripts, letters from course instructors, certificate of completion, or any other formal certification. The exact number of monthly participants for both licensure and re-licensure education programs is not definite since there is no clear cut finding on it.
Complaint Handling Process
In terms of handling complaints, WMHCA, following the code o ethics from AMHCA, stated on the Principle 2 that a client has the right to complaint the professional misconduct of mental health services, including both in- and out-patients and all state, county, local, and private care mental health facilities as well as in private practice. As stated in the Principle 2, point L, the procedure of complaint is by filing the provided document addressed to the mental health supervisors and/or to the appropriate credentialing body.
The adjudication and investigation process of complaints from clients against professional misconduct of mental health services will be carried out by directly the WMHCA Board of Directors in obedience with the existing state and national rules. Neither the Board of Directors nor the National Committee on Ethics of AMHCA get involved within the adjudication and investigation process. In the event of WMHCA suspended or revoked individual membership of licensed mental health counselors, the AMHCA Board of Directors would conduct the same punishment in accordance with the existing AMHCA’s National By-Laws. For particular reasons, the amount and typicality of monthly complaints are not clearly stated by WMHCA.