SUMMARY OF: A Sunset Review of the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development, Board of Professional Counselors, November 2, 2004.

Purpose of the Report

In accordance with Title 24 and Title 44 of the Alaska Statutes, we have reviewed the activities of the Board of Professional Counselors (BPC). As required by state law, the legislative committees of reference are to consider this report when considering whether to extend the termination date for BPC. Currently under AS 08.03.010(c)(17), the board will terminate on June 30, 2005. If the legislature does not extend the termination date for the board, BPC will have one year to conclude its administrative operations.

Report Conclusions

In addition to developing our conclusion regarding extending the termination date for BPC, we also analyzed the operating costs and other factors related to the operations of the board. Various nonfinancial factors were considered in order to assess the advisability of consolidating BPC with other behavioral health boards. Further discussion of our conclusions follows

BPC should be consolidated with the Board of Marital and Family Therapy

In our opinion, BPC should not be reestablished by the legislature. Rather, we recommend the licensing of qualified professionals be continued through consolidation with the Board of Marital and Family Therapy (BMFT). We base our recommendation, which in part stems from circumstances involving BMFT, on the following factors:

  1. Number of BMFT licensees has significantly declined.
  2. Some BPC licensees also hold licenses with BMFT.
  3. Scope of practice and educational requirements are similar for therapists and counselors.
  4. BMFT is in a chronic-deficit position.
  5. Survey results show mixed reactions to consolidating boards.
  6. Similar professions on a board enhance public representation.
  7. Combination of these two professions under a single board is the most common regulatory model.

The new consolidated board should be established for four years.

In our opinion, the termination date for the consolidated board covering professional counselors, along with marital and family therapists, should be established for June 30, 2009. Both boards have been actively working in the public’s interest by promoting the competence of individuals who hold themselves out to the public as marital and family therapists or professional counselors.

BPC has consistently carried out its responsibilities in the public interest and has demonstrated an ability to conduct its business in a satisfactory manner. The board continues to propose changes to statutes and regulations improving the proficiency of practitioners licensed in Alaska.

Alaska Statute 08.03.010(c)(17) requires BPC to be terminated on June 30, 2005. If the legislature takes no action, under AS 08.03.020, the board has a one-year period to administratively conclude its affairs. We recommend the legislature combine BPC with BMFT and establish June 30, 2009 as termination date for the new board.

If the legislature elects not to consolidate the board, we recommend the Board of Professional Counselors be extended to June 30, 2010.

Findings and Recommendations

Recommendation No. 1

The Board of Professional Counselors and Board of Marital and Family Therapy should be combined into a single oversight and licensing board.

BPC was created by the 1998 Legislature. At that time there was interest expressed by various legislators of placing professional counselors’ licensing and regulation under the already existing BMFT. After legislative discussions and questioning, it was decided to create a separate Board of Professional Counselors – in part because of concern that one-time “start-up” costs should be borne entirely by counselors rather than made part of the costs paid by marital and family therapists.

As part of the sunset review we considered the merits of combining BPC with one or more of the boards involved with behavioral health, such as BMFT, the Board of Psychologist and Psychological Associate Examiners, and the Board of Social Work Examiners

Based on our review we recommend that the Board of Professional Counselors and Board of Marital and Family Therapy be consolidated into one board maintaining licensure of each profession separately. However, at some future time because of the similarity of education and practice, a combined board may want to consider a single counseling license with an endorsement to practice a specialty – such as marital and family therapy.