Legislative Updates

MFT Victory in Texas Resonates Nationwide

By Richard Price, MA, Pacific Lutheran University Student

A process that began nearly a decade ago as a challenge on MFT Scope of Practice by the Texas Medical Association (TMA) ended in victory for MFTs on February 24 2017. In 2008, the TMA filed suit challenging the ability of MFTs to perform diagnostic assessments and also to perform treatment based on a diagnosis, arguing that “diagnosis” constitutes the practice of medicine, which is solely the purview of medical doctors. After years of continued court cases, the Texas Supreme Court determined that “like other mental health professionals, MFTs in Texas are trained and qualified to perform diagnostic assessment using the DSM and are tested on that ability as part of their licensing requirements.”


Volk vs DeMeerLeer

In a similarly high level case, the Washington Supreme Court ruled in December 2016’s Volk v. DeMeerLeer against a psychiatrist whose client killed his ex-partner and her children before committing suicide. The court stated that the psychiatrist should have warned the victims, even though the psychiatrist reported that they were never named as such in the time he had with the client. WAMFT has been working diligently with our lobbyist on a bill (SSB 5800) which seeks to clarify the Volk decision and the requirements surrounding our “duty to warn” obligations. Despite these efforts, it doesn’t appear that we will be successful during this legislative cycle. We are encouraged by the efforts in Texas and their victory, and will continue our own efforts here surrounding the Volk case.

WAMFT will update you as new information on this case arises. We also encourage each of you to reach out to your state representatives through http://leg.wa.gov, phone, or email, letting them know your concerns about the outcome of the Volk case and encouraging them to pass legislation clarifying our duty to warn obligations.

WAMFT hosted a forum to discuss this decision. You may watch the recording, here.