A common question, especially now due to the COVID-19 state of emergency, is whether associates and trainees are permitted to provide services to clients via telehealth.
Note: Associates are individuals who have graduated from their master’s degree program and have registered with the Board to gain their required supervised
experience hours. Trainees are still in their master’s degree program.
Associates and Telehealth
Marriage and family therapist associates (AMFT) and trainees are both explicitly permitted to perform services via telehealth. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) law states the following (Business and Professions Code (BPC) §4980.43.3(i)): §4980.43.3(i) An associate or a trainee may provide services via telehealth that are in the scope of practice outlined in this chapter.
The Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCC) practice acts are silent about the matter. However, associate
clinical social workers (ASWs) and associate professional clinical counselors (APCCs) are permitted to perform services via telehealth because of BPC §2290.5, which defines
a health care provider who performs telehealth as the following:
BPC §2290.5(a)(3) “Health care provider” means any of the following:
(A) A person who is licensed under this division.
(B) An associate marriage and family therapist or marriage and family therapist
trainee functioning pursuant to Section 4980.43.3.
(C) A qualified autism service provider or qualified autism service professional
certified by a national entity pursuant to Section 1374.73 of the Health and Safety
Code and Section 10144.51 of the Insurance Code.
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The reason that ASWs and APCCs are permitted to perform services via telehealth,
even though not explicitly stated, is because BPC §23.8 states that when “licensees”
are referred to in the Business and Professions Code, the term also includes registrants
(associates). This means when BPC §2290.5 defines a “health care provider” as
anyone licensed under Division 2 of the Business and Professions Code, this also
includes all registrants. Therefore, AMFT, ASW, and APCC associates technically do
not need to be specifically listed in the definition of a health care provider in BPC
§2290.5 in order to be permitted to practice via telehealth.
However, the fact that AMFTs are listed in the definition but APCCs and ASWs are not
has led to confusion about whether ASWs and APCCs can perform services via
telehealth. They can, because of BPC §23.8. However, this is a subtle distinction for
those not familiar with law, and it would helpful to clarify it by specifically listing them in
BPC §2290.5 as being able to perform services via telehealth, since AMFTs are
Due to the above, the Board is pursuing an amendment in this year’s omnibus bill to
include ASWs and APCCs in the definition of health care providers who may provide
services via telehealth in BPC §2290.5.
In summary, the law already establishes that all of the Board’s associates may provide
services via telehealth, and the Board is already taking steps to clarify this in the law.
Trainees and Telehealth
The law does not specifically address whether social work interns (the social work
profession uses the term “intern” instead of “trainee”) and professional clinical counselor
trainees (PCC trainees) may provide services via telehealth
These trainees are presumably not included in the definition of a “licensee” in BPC 23.8
like associates are, because they are not in any way registered with the Board and are
not regulated by the Board yet.
MFT trainees are already included as providers who can perform services via telehealth,
because this is explicitly stated in BPC §§2290.5, and 4980.43.3(i). However, social
work interns and PCC trainees are not permitted to count pre-degree hours like MFT
trainees are, and therefore, their supervision requirements are less stringent.
The Committee may wish to discuss whether or not social work interns and PCC
trainees should also be explicitly permitted in statute to perform services via telehealth.
Practicum Clarification: “Face-to-Face” Requirement
Should the Board determine that all trainees may provide services via telehealth, a
question arises about the required “face-to-face” practicum hours required as part of the
degree programs leading to LMFT and LPCC licensure.