NASHVILLE — State Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) announced today that he has introduced legislation requiring the State Board of Professional Counselors to promulgate their own code of ethics to be used for licensure requirements under Tennessee law. Senate Bill 1 would change the current state requirement that automatically accepts the code of ethics from the American Counseling Association (ACA), a private organization headquartered in Alexandria Virginia, which has branches in the U.S., Europe and Latin America.
Johnson is sponsor of legislation passed by the Tennessee General Assembly in April which protects the rights of counselors to refer a client to another therapist when the goals, outcomes or behaviors for which they are seeking counseling are a violation of his or her sincerely held beliefs. The new law does not apply if the individual seeking or undergoing counseling is in imminent danger of harming themselves or others.
“The ACA lobbied Tennessee about 25 years ago to adopt by rule their code of ethics as the requirements for licensure of counselors in the state, although other counseling associations exist,” said Senator Johnson. “As a result, any changes they make to their code of ethics, in effect, alter our state’s licensure law regardless of our own professional board’s views or those expressed by the people of Tennessee through their elected representatives. This is an inappropriate delegation of the legislature’s authority to an unelected, unrepresentative and private interest group that should have never been abdicated.”
SB 1 requires the State Board of Professional Counselors to promulgate their own code of ethics and not automatically adopt a code of ethics from any national association, including but not limited to the ACA. It also preserves the current state requirement that prohibits adoption of a rule requiring a counselor or therapist to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with the sincerely held beliefs of the counselor.
“Tennesseans are best suited to determine what our state licensure requirements for our professional counselors should be rather than subrogating that right to a private organization,” added Johnson. “I believe our State Board of Professional Counselors is capable of this responsibility and that all Tennesseans seeking counseling will benefit as a result.”
The General Assembly is set to convene the 2017 legislative session on January 10.