Mental Health

Treating Mental Illness

Psychologists are doctors who are trained to diagnose and treat mental disorders. As a consumer, you may encounter psychologists in the public sector providing services in mental health centers, schools, hospitals, prisons or other publicly or group funded centers. You may know psychologists in your own neighborhood providing therapy and psychological testing for individual, couples and family concerns or psychologists in academia providing research and training.

At work you may see psychologists in EAP settings, working with workman's compensation or as consultants to your organization in areas such as selection, training, staff development, coaching, or consulting for research projects. You may encounter psychologists providing neuropsychological testing and treatment for brain injured or impaired individuals.

UPDATE ON Psychology Associate (M.A.) practice regulations

By Stephen Lally, DCPA President, Ph.D., ABPP

As many of you are aware DCPA, and particularly Robert Madsen, the current past president, have worked very hard in drafting language to regulate the practice of M.A. level psychology associates. Just to remind you, under DC's law, individuals with a M.A. in psychology can only practice (I'm excluding individuals who are LPCs) if they are in a graduate program (either as part of their graduate studies or with approval of the program) or they are one of the exempted categories (e.g., school psychologist at a public school, some correctional positions).

In the past, some individuals with M.A. in psychology have practice, in violation of the law as unofficial psychology associates. The licensing board in enforcing the law has tried to stop this unofficial practice. However, the licensing board and DCPA recognized that there is a legitimate role and need for psychology associates (e.g., psychometricians for neuropsychologist). DCPA, largely through the efforts of Dr. Madsen, worked with the licensing board to draft language within the current regulations to allow the practice of psychology associates.

This was not M.A.-level independent licensure (something that neither DCPA nor APA supported), but rather was modeled on Maryland's psychology associate language. This has been a long process, but was slowly moving forward this year. The licensing board approved the language and there was an initial review by the board's attorney. I was optimistic that the process would be complete by the end of this year. Unfortunately, my optimism was misplaced. I just learned recently, that Corporation Counsel, the attorneys for the District's government, had reviewed the proposed changes in the language in the regulation.

They opined that to make the proposed changes the law itself would have to be rewritten. Such a rewrite would have to not only go through City Counsel and the Mayor's office, but also through the U.S. Congress. Opening up our psychology regulations to the political whims of the congress is very risky (e.g., a representative might want all psychologists in therapy with individuals considering an abortion to provide certain information or materials). DCPA will explore whether there are an other options other than rewriting the law, but, at this point, it does not look good for our chances to get the modification of the regulations enacted.


Over the last year, DCPA has had several calls regarding the protocol for psychologists to follow when a patient talks about having been abused in the past or if a child shows signs of abuse. For your guidance here is the section of the DC practice regulations which covers this topic:

-4-1321.02. Persons required to make reports; procedure.

(a) Notwithstanding 14-307, any person specified in subsection (b) of this section who knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a child known to him or her in his or her professional or official capacity has been or is in immediate danger of being a mentally or physically abused or neglected child, as defined in ? 16-2301 (9), shall immediately report or have a report made of such knowledge or suspicion to either the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia or the Child Protective Services Division of the Department of Human Services.

(b) Persons required to report such abuse or neglect shall include every physician, psychologist, medical examiner, dentist, chiropractor, registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, person involved in the care and treatment of patients, law-enforcement officer, school official, teacher, social service worker, day care worker, and mental health professional. Whenever a person is required to report in his or her capacity as a member of the staff of a hospital, school, social agency or similar institution, he or she shall immediately notify the person in charge of the institution or his or her designated agent who shall then be required to make the report. The fact that such a notification has been made does not relieve the person who was originally required to report from his or her duty under subsection (a) of this section of having a report made promptly to the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia or the Child Protective Services Division of the Department of Human Services.

(c) In addition to those persons who are required to make a report, any other person may make a report to the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia or the Child Protective Services Division of the Department of Human Services.

(d) In addition to the requirements in subsections (a) and (b) of this section, any health professional licensed pursuant to Chapter 12 of Title 3, or a law enforcement officer, except an undercover officer whose identity or investigation might be jeopardized, shall report immediately, in writing, to the Child Protective Services Division of the Department of Human Services, that the law enforcement officer or health professional has reasonable cause to believe that a child is being abused as a result of inadequate care, control, or subsistence in the home environment due to exposure to drug related activity. The report shall be in accordance with the provisions of -4-1321.03.

(Nov. 6, 1966, 80 Stat. 1354, Pub. L. 89-775 - , 2; Sept. 23, 1977, D.C. Law 2-22, title I, - 103 (c), 24 DCR 3341; Mar. 15, 1990, D.C. Law 8-87, - 2 (a), 37 DCR 50.)