CAMFT Advocates with Homeland Security on MFT Scope of Practice
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department (“Department”) has requested, in several recent deportation cases, to exclude the testimony and written reports of LMFTs who have provided mental health services to individuals with cases pending with the Department. The Department has a very narrow conception of the scope of practice for LMFTs, believing that they may only diagnose and treat within the framework of providing “marriage counseling” and “family therapy.” The Department’s erroneous conception of the scope of practice for LMFTs is built on a misreading of California Business & Professions Code § 4980.02 and the outdated legal authority of a very old California Attorney General Opinion.
In an effort to clarify the thinking of the Department regarding the scope of practice of LMFTs, CAMFT has submitted an Amicus Brief and Declaration in one active case, arguing that it is within the scope of practice for LMFTs to diagnose and treat individual’s with mental disorders, including severe ones. Additionally, in July, CAMFT wrote directly to Leslie J. Ungerman, Esq, the Department’s Chief Counsel, on this important matter. CAMFT has also shared its position with the University of California, Hastings College of the Law Center for Gender & Refugee Studies.
Recently, CAMFT learned that an LMFT member was ultimately (and appropriately) allowed to testify in a removal proceeding and the detainee was awarded asylum. In addition, CAMFT had sent a letter directly to the presiding judge in another LMFT member’s case (see below for a copy). CAMFT is still waiting to see if the court will accept the member’s report/testimony without objection from the DHS attorney. However, the member did inform CAMFT that he was able to testify in another case the week before without any objection from the DHS attorney. We believe our advocacy efforts in educating DHS about the scope of practice for LMFTs were instrumental in these recent proceedings. We hope these results signify an increased awareness by DHS about the important and valuable work performed by LMFTs.
If you are an LMFT and the Department is seeking to exclude your testimony or written report regarding your work with your patients, please contact Dave Jensen in CAMFT’s legal department at (858) 292-2638. CAMFT has created a template for a letter that can be sent directly to the judge and attorneys involved in your case. Such letter explains how the work you did fits within the scope of practice for LMFTs in California.