Monthly Archives: April 2008

Does incorporating offer extra protection?

Robert J. Walsh and Norman C. Dasenbrook April 3, 2008

Q: I’m an LCPC in Northern Illinois. I have a private practice and have always wondered if my home and personal assets are protected in the event of a lawsuit. I have the recommended malpractice insurance coverage. However, I am not incorporated. Some social workers I know say they are incorporated because it prevents anyone from coming after their homes and money in the event of a lawsuit. I recently spoke with an attorney by phone who said that offers no protection. He said that counselors are the same as lawyers, dentists and other service providers, and even if you are incorporated, your personal assets could still be part of a professional lawsuit. What do you know about this, and what do you recommend? I would like to avoid the expense and paperwork of incorporating if it provides no further protection.

Thanks for all your great work and help. I always turn to your column first in Counseling Today.

A: Your question is excellent. Most professional counselors in private practice do not consider what type of business entity makes the most sense for their practice. While we are not attorneys and do not give legal advice, based on our experience in practice consulting, the attorney you consulted was correct. That’s why we have always recommended that professional counselors get the highest level of coverage offered by the insurance company. Corporate structures do not protect officers of the corporation from wrongdoing. Just look at companies such as Enron, whose top executives went to jail and are responsible for fines and damages.

Corporate structures do offer protection from debts of the corporation, however. For example, in selling an outpatient drug and alcohol program, I had two buyers with the same offer. One was from a corporation and another from a group that was willing to personally guarantee the offer (separate and apart from the corporate structure). If either had defaulted, it would have been more difficult to collect from the corporation.

Moreover, different business entities such as sole proprietor, a professional limited liability company or a corporation do have pros and cons regarding taxes and wealth management, so consulting a tax adviser as well as an attorney is highly recommended. All that being said, we have never heard of a professional counselor losing his or her home and personal assets in a lawsuit.

Q: My name is Rachel Milazzo, and I am in charge of the Provider Relations Department for American Behavioral. We are a growing managed behavioral health care and EAP (employee assistance program) company based out of Birmingham, Ala. I am interested in the opinion of your readers as to some incentives I can offer providers who are currently enrolled and prospectively applying for credentials with our company. We have a great retention rate now, and I’d like to create some rewards to thank this group of people. Thoughts that have been thrown out are free CEU classes, free seminars, billing workshops and focus groups.

I am interested to see your readers’ ideas to make this program take off. I know this is not a new concept, but if I have suggestions that can make it better and more effective for the providers, I am willing to do whatever I can.

A: We are very pleased that a managed care company would contact us, asking our American Counseling Association members for advice on how to cooperate and work together. It wasn’t too long ago that insurance and managed care companies ignored counselors. We like your ideas to help make credentialing easier, as well as providing free seminars and workshops offering CEUs.

Our thoughts for ways to help counseling providers include having online workshops on electronic insurance billing and classes on filling out the billing forms using the correct HIPAA and National Provider Identifier information, how to avoid having claims rejected and how to ask for and meet requirements to have managed care companies increase reimbursement rates based on counselor experience.

We ask our readers to contact us at with additional ideas to pass along for CEU workshops and seminars.

Private practice tip: Managed care and insurance companies have differing rates for certain Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes. Remember that a diagnostic (first) interview, 90801, pays a higher rate on most fee schedules. Blue Cross Blue Shield pays considerably higher for the first session. Another good example is UniCare Mental Health. The company pays $60.16 to master’s-level professionals and $69.41 to Ph.D.s for a customary 45- to 50-minute 90806 office visit, but it pays $73.14 (master’s) and $84.39 (Ph.D.s) for a 45- to 50-minute family session (90847) and even more for hypnotherapy (90880). Always check the fee schedules of each of the companies you deal with to be reimbursed at the best rate available for your counseling efforts.

Note: American Behavioral is now accepting licensed counselors for its panels. The company covers more than 700,000 insured employees across the continental United States. American Behavioral can be contacted through its website at

The Illinois Mental Health Counselors Association will be offering our private practice workshop on June 8. More information is available at

Robert J. Walsh and Norman C. Dasenbrook are coauthors of The Complete Guide to Private Practice for Licensed Mental Health Professionals ( ACA members can e-mail their questions to and access a series of “Private Practice Pointers” on the ACA website at Letters to the editor:

Building on the past, looking toward the future

Richard Yep

Richard Yep

Last month I wrote about passages that we experience. I also informed you about changes planned for Counseling Today. Over the years, changes to this publication have been incremental, based on suggestions you have shared with us. I probably don’t need to tell you that this edition of Counseling Today represents the biggest and most far-reaching change in our history.

Welcome to your first issue of Counseling Today as a four-color magazine! We will continue to provide information and news that addresses issues impacting the counseling profession, but in a new way.

For our first magazine cover story (see page 30), we contacted a cross section of ACA members and leaders and asked them to identify “new” or evolving client issues that professional counselors can expect to work with in the coming years. This article provides perspective and explores long-term implications for the counseling profession.

Also in this inaugural issue are a number of feature articles, including the five winning entries from the ACA Foundation Graduate Student Essay Contest. You will be introduced to several new columns, each developed based on member feedback. New Perspectives will cater to both graduate students and new professionals. Counselor Career Stories will explore the career paths of a variety of counseling professionals and share the lessons they learned along the way. The Top Five will ask counselors to share their best practical tips and strategies pertaining to their areas of expertise and specialization. And The Digital Psyway will examine the ins and outs of how counseling professionals can use technology to their best advantage.

July also brings the start of a new fiscal year for the American Counseling Association. While expressing our appreciation for those who left office last month, such as Immediate Past President Brian Canfield and his cohort of leaders at the branch, region, division and national
levels, we now welcome a new group of energetic and dedicated individuals to assume leadership positions.

This month, Colleen Logan takes over as ACA president. Colleen has been involved with ACA for many years and will be an outstanding advocate in carrying out the association’s mission. The staff and I wish her well as she embarks on this yearlong journey to represent ACA and advance the profession. Read Colleen’s first column on page 5 .

This new version of Counseling Today is representative of ACA responding to your needs, and I want you to know that we will continue to seek out your thoughts and suggestions. We believe one of the best ways to get your input is by asking! If you receive one of our surveys during the next several months, please take the time to share your thoughts as we map out plans for the next few years.

Last month, I shared with you the incredible job that those directly involved with Counseling Today were doing to bring our magazine concept to reality. Our very able editor-in-chief, Jonathan Rollins, led this project, but he received a great deal of support from many on staff, as well as those in leadership, our writers and our columnists. So I’d like to provide a collective “thank you” to all those who helped to birth this new endeavor.

We all know that change is not easy, but when that change is part of an organized plan based on input, discussion and need, we hope it makes it easier to accept. My goal is that the changes you see (and will continue to see) in your Counseling Today will resonate with the needs you have identified and will enhance your practice as a member of the counseling profession.

As always, I hope you will contact me with any comments, questions or suggestions that you might have. In fact, with the launch of the “new” Counseling Today , it is even more critical that I hear from you. Please contact me via e-mail at or by phone at 800.347.6647 ext. 231.

Thanks and be well.

No more lemonade

Richard Yep April 1, 2008

Richard Yep

One of the best parts of writing this column is that I get to share my viewpoint of what works, what is going well and, of course, those areas in which I see great room for improvement. As professionally trained listeners, counselors are great people with whom to share problems, work on solutions and find ways to overcome life’s obstacles. However, what happens when good listening is mistaken for passivity and acceptance?

As professional counselors, it is in your DNA to be compassionate, caring and helping people. When someone has a problem, counselors can always be counted on to lend a well-trained ear and to provide suggestions to help that individual find solutions. When asked to help, I have seen example after example through the years of counselors rising to the challenge. This isn’t something that happens only in times of great national crisis or international calamity; the situation may be as simple as responding to a request from someone in their office, institution or school community.

But what I am here to tell you is that there are times when you may need to “just say no.” Wait! Before you send off an e-mail asking how I could recommend something so antithetical to a group of dedicated helping professionals, hear me out. I am referring to those requests you receive that may compromise the good work you do in the areas in which you are regarded as “experts.” For example, a principal who asks school counseling staff to take on so many other “duties as assigned” that your ability to deliver the services needed by students, teachers and parents is marginalized. At that point, how do you say, “Sorry, I can’t do cafeteria duty or watch the bus line today”?

The unfortunate reality is that for all of us who have bosses (which is just about everyone), we have to pick and choose what we will do and, more important, what we won’t do. I think it is important to first ask yourself why you don’t want to do something. Now, I don’t want to trivialize cafeteria duty or any of the other “jobs” that may be assigned to you, but are they really more important than dealing with student interpersonal relationships that could affect the entire school community? While managing the bus line at a school is important from both a safety and disciplinary perspective, is it more important than working with small groups and discussing issues such as teen pregnancy or illicit drug use? I don’t think so.

Let’s face it. There are aspects to each of our jobs that will never make our lists of favorite things to do. But the phrase “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is so incredibly demeaning that it should simply be deleted from our lexicon. We need to do a better job of letting our supervisors, our colleagues and our communities know about the important work that professional counselors are doing. That way, maybe these bosses and colleagues will think twice (or better yet, not ask at all) before requesting you to tackle jobs that will only take you away from the important work you do.

Many of you know that April is Counseling Awareness Month. If you go to the ACA website press room at, you will find tips and resources to promote the profession. While I don’t want to ask you to take on even more work, I do encourage you to think about doing something from the list of suggestions (or coming up with your own idea) that will let your communities know about the positive work that professional counselors — including you! — are doing all over the world. I have said before that while counselors are great advocates for those they serve, they are not always the best advocates for themselves or their profession.

Stop making lemonade. Take a stand! Be proud of what you do and let others know of the successes professional counselors can achieve if allowed to do their jobs.

As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions, comments or suggestions by e-mailing or calling 800.347.6647 ext. 231.

Thanks and be well.

Together, we make a difference

Brian S. Canfield

It is an exciting time to be in the field of counseling. Last year, Nevada became the 49th state to establish licensure for professional counselors, and a licensing effort remains very active in California. While nothing is guaranteed in the realm of politics, it is likely that universal licensure for professional counselors will become a reality throughout the United States in the near future.

When this happens, it will mark the accomplishment of a long-standing goal of the American Counseling Association and the decades-long efforts of thousands of dedicated ACA members. Once this goal is achieved, however, our work will continue! As ACA president, I have had an opportunity to talk with ACA members from across the nation. In my conversations with region, division and branch leaders and members, I have come to recognize several areas that many of our members consider key challenges within ACA and the counseling profession. These include:

Promoting a single and unified profession of counseling. ACA is a diverse organization, reflecting a diverse field. Counseling specializations — such as school, mental health, marriage and family, career and so forth — reflect the diversity of our field and the depth of expertise we possess. As such, it has always been in the best interest of ACA and the counseling profession to cultivate and support areas of specialization. Equally important, it is essential that counseling specializations remain part of a larger whole — a single and unified profession of counseling. This is particularly important in helping the consumer public know that, when seeking out the services of a competent and qualified professional, all professional counselors — regardless of specialization — meet established standards of education, training and ethical practice.

Revising the membership structure of ACA. The current membership structure of ACA — composed of roughly 41,000 individual national members, 19 chartered national divisions (some with members separate from ACA) and 48 active chartered branches (also with many members separate from ACA) — is fragmented and disconnected. This is because ACA members, ACA division members and ACA branch members often are not “one and the same,” with many counselors participating at only one level of membership. To advance the counseling profession, we need members of the counseling profession to be engaged at all levels of membership. As such, ACA and its chartered organizations would greatly benefit from an interconnected membership structure that incorporates national, divisional and branch membership. Such a unified membership structure will better serve the counseling profession, both politically and professionally.

Protecting the integrity of ACA as a politically neutral organization. Our nonprofit organizational status and current bylaws require that ACA must remain politically neutral on all issues not directly related to the professional practice of counseling. ACA has occasionally become distracted by partisan and divisive social and political agendas that did not reflect an overarching membership consensus. Many counselors have informed me that they dropped, or considered dropping, membership in ACA over such issues when they felt the association was taking a partisan position that conflicted with their personal beliefs. While many social and political causes are worthy in the minds of their proponents, if we allow the prestige and resources of ACA to be directed in a partisan manner, our association will become increasingly fragmented, losing more members, and ACA will become politically marginalized and professionally irrelevant. Maintaining a neutral and centrist position will be difficult, but I am optimistic that we will maintain the integrity of our association — provided we do not acquiesce to pressure groups and partisan social and political interests both within and outside our profession. In the minds of many professional counselors, this is the most critical issue we are facing as an association.

As we consider these and other challenges, it may be helpful to remind ourselves that we engage in the work we do so that we might better meet the needs of our clients and create a healthier society. Whether in schools, clinics, counseling centers, private practice offices, college campuses or in any number of other settings, professional counselors have a vital role to play in helping people. Like the clients we serve, we may differ from one another in terms of gender, age, race, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious belief, political affiliation, ability, experience, privilege, philosophy or ideology. However, we share a unifying commonality — each of us chose to pursue a career as a professional counselor so that we could help others. Together, we make a difference.

Please let me hear from you at if you have either comments concerning my column or questions about ACA.