Counseling centers in military communities are closely watching for Tricare to release its new policy on mental health providers this summer.
An interim policy set to start Jan. 1 would require licensed professional counselors to have — among other requirements — a master’s degree or higher from a mental health counseling education and training program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.
It’s unclear now if the final policy will differ from the interim policy published in December 2011.
“The public comments received during the rule-making process underscore the importance of balancing provision of quality mental health services with the preservation of continued ready access to licensed mental health professionals for our beneficiaries,” said Kevin Dwyer, spokesman for the Defense Health Agency.
Formed in 1981, the organization accredits post-graduate counseling programs at universities across the country. More than 650 programs at more than 290 institutions are accredited, according to information provided by CACREP.
Texas A&M University-Central Texas has post-graduate counseling programs, but is not listed on CACREP’s website as one of the 33 programs accredited in Texas.
Albert Hernandez, co-owner of Arete’s Mental Health Counseling in Killeen, said he is watching the policy closely.
“It definitely affects me,” he said.
He estimated more than 75 percent of the center’s clients use Tricare, and he has two licensed professional counselors on staff who could be impacted.
“I’m just trying to comply with all the requirements,” he said.
The policy does allow for providers to be grandfathered in if they didn’t graduate from an accredited program.
According to CACREP, a random sample of licensed and nonlicensed counselors used in the 2010 National Counseling Examination job analysis study showed that 71 percent of counselors are CACREP graduates.
Of the remaining participants, 17 percent indicated they graduated from a nonCACREP program and 12 percent reported they earned a degree before CACREP was formed in 1981.