Should an unlicensed therapist be assigned to disturbed children/families?

 In your opinion, is it ethical for a QMHP (Qualified Mental Health Professional; Lane County, Oregon) to be “assigned” very disturbed children/families from the Department of Human Services, as well as suicidal clients who are hospitalized? We have a counseling service in our town whose “counselors” with this credential are often automatically assigned these types of high-risk clients. It is my understanding that a QMHP is not a licensed therapist. I don’t think the families of these clients know that their loved ones are not receiving high level mental health care. Should I be concerned?

We should clarify that, while we invited everyone to view our web site, our in-person, telephone, email, and Q&A services are direct to those Massachusetts lawyers whose dues support us (as well as Massachusetts judges and law students and family members). In this case, we actually do not know what kind of education/experience is required to be a Qualified Mental Health Professional, a designation that does not exist in Massachusetts.

In general, community clinics and hospitals do make use of clinicians with lower-level credentials, partly as a way to provide more care within budget. We would think that these clinicians would be operating under the supervision of someone with a higher level of licensure. Sometimes, these individuals become very experienced and savvy over the course of years on the job, and their qualities as sensitive, insightful human beings may outweigh the credentialing issues, just as some people with many degrees have poor interpersonal skills – but, as a consumer, you have no way to ascertain this, so your concern for adequate training is very reasonable. That’s about all we can offer with reference to treatment settings in Oregon.

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