What Are the Restrictions on Providing Counseling Services to Clients with Financial Difficulties in California?

Eliminating the law and ethics of 12 hours, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) have a long history in the United States, dating back to the 1940s. Initially, they were created to address the negative impact of alcohol misuse on productivity and organizational performance. However, as organizations realized that alcohol was not the only problem affecting employees at work, the focus of these programs broadened. Today, EAPs cover a wide range of issues, such as workplace conflicts, family issues, financial challenges, mental health, etc.

Most California County programs have an “access line” that people can call to request mental health services. Income requirements vary, but California's community mental health programs usually restrict services to people whose incomes are 200% or less than the federal poverty level. All mental health programs in California counties provide crisis intervention services for people experiencing mental health emergencies. According to Section 4980.02 of the Business and Professions Code (effective as of January 1, 2002), the practice of marriage and family therapy involves applying psychotherapeutic theories, principles and methods and family systems in providing services to individuals, couples or groups for the purpose of evaluating, diagnosing and treating relational problems, emotional disorders, behavioral problems, mental illnesses, alcohol and substance use, and modifying intrapersonal and interpersonal behaviors.

However, therapists and registrants can use training techniques as part of their therapeutic practice to help clients achieve their treatment goals. The Mental Health Services Act of 2004 introduced many important updates that now define how public mental health services are delivered in the state of California. Developed as a guide for federal EAP administrators and other interested parties rather than as a requirement, this information is based on the knowledge of participants about best practices in the field of EAP as well as on their own experience and understanding of EAP in federal workplaces. It aims to address how these programs can better meet the mental and behavioral health needs of the federal workforce.

It is important to understand that these rights are not the same and that a misdescription can create an unreasonable expectation on the part of coaching clients that they enjoy the right to confidentiality established by California law. These laws established a system of publicly funded community programs that provide essential mental health services to people with serious mental health problems so that they can live in the least restrictive environments possible in the community. This doesn't mean that only people from certain groups can go to a county mental health program for counseling or therapy. People seeking free or low-cost counseling often think that their only options are counselors in private offices and are unaware that publicly funded providers in their communities can also offer counseling services.

If you need couples counseling to resolve a communication problem with your partner or you want to understand why you have a certain fear, you probably won't qualify for public services or find what you need in the public mental health system. Public Law 79-658 authorizes the agency director to establish health service programs for employees and also provides the basis for expanding counseling programs from those dealing only with substance use disorder to wide-ranging programs providing counseling for other personal problems. More than 60 percent of people who have mental illness in California don't get treatment for it; many of whom qualify for public mental health services but don't know about them. For example, the agreement may explain that if the client were involved in litigation, the information disclosed by the client could be discovered since there is no “coach-client privilege” in California. To avoid creating an unethical dual relationship, professionals who are already in a therapeutic relationship with a client should refrain from offering simultaneous coaching services to that client.

Heath Teruel
Heath Teruel

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