Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

State Licensure Laws and the Mental Health Professions: Implications for the Rural Mental Health Workforce. Executive Summary


It is well-established that rural communities suffer disproportionatley from a shortage of mental health professionals. Non-physician mental health professionals include psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, and licensed professional counselors. This study investigates whether and to what extent licensure laws that determine the permissible scope of practice for each of these professions may affect the availability of mental health services. This study examines licensure statutes and administrative rules for these professions in all states with at least ten percent of the population living in rural areas (total of 40 states). To determine scope of practice for each of these mental health professions, we examined their legal authority to provide five core mental health services: assessment, diagnosis, treatment planning, individual and group counseling, and psychotherapy. Since prescriptive authority had not been granted to any of these professions at the time of our study, this function was excluded from our analysis.

Publication Type: 
Publish Date: 
May 1, 2002