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What is an Unlicensed Psychotherapist?

While the term unlicensed psychotherapist, in most places, means someone who practices psychotherapy without the local regulatory authority’s permission, it is NOT true in the State of Colorado, U.S.A.

In the State of Colorado (CO thereinafter), there are various types of permissions to practice mental health services. They are collectively called licenses for the state board’s administrative and communication purposes. While creating the public title, Unlicensed Psychotherapist is one of them, permitted to practice mental health services. A Colorado Unlicensed Psychotherapist is registered with and regulated by the state.

It can be confusing when the government often addresses us Unlicensed Psychotherapists as “licensees,” while titles us as “Unlicensed” Psychotherapists.” So, why so many different titles, when they are all mental health professionals?

One of the reasons is to distinguish each type of professionals’ specialty and level of training. When it comes to Unlicensed Psychotherapists, it means that they did not take or pass the professional licensing exam, but they have passed CO’s verification of their identity, registered their professional contact information, confirmed their degrees earned, and provided their therapeutic orientations and years of experience. Additionally, they must pass a Jurisprudence test on Colorado Mental Health Law and are screened for any prior disciplinary actions, arrests, or criminal convictions in any state.

CO has flip-flopped on the title: first, Unlicensed Psychotherapist; then, Registered Psychotherapist; and now again, Unlicensed Psychotherapist. Therefore, I am still playing catch-up to update my former information containing the term Registered Psychotherapist, and to update many documents to reflect CO’s new rules. While you, as most of the public, may be confused, many Unlicensed Psychotherapists, like me, are frustrated just as much.

Since CO is rather unique in the U.S. with this title of Unlicensed Psychotherapist, it is common that health insurance providers in the U.S. do not cover services provided by an Unlicensed Psychotherapist. On the other hand, you might find an Unlicensed Psychotherapist more affordable than many “Licensed” mental health professionals in Colorado.

As far as the client’s satisfaction and effectiveness of the service/treatment, there is no guarantee which title holder may provide a better outcome. There are positive and negative reports from clients of all types of mental health professionals. The foundation of effective psychotherapy/counseling is your trusting relationship with your competent therapist.

Despite the “looser” requirements on an Unlicensed Psychotherapist, I hold a Master of Science degree in Counseling Psychology. I have gone through supervised practicum and internship as a counselor and a marriage and family therapist at mental health services agencies. I have been trained toward licensing (whether as a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist, or a Licensed Professional Counselor). Please refer to this page for my education and experience.

Unfortunately, my path to licensing was disrupted due to adverse life circumstance, and since unable to return to the path. This disruption, and my experience in hardship, have led me to deeply empathize with individuals who have experienced difficulties out of their control and whose lives have been turned upside down. I ceaselessly advance my professional competency, voluntarily, through continuous education and self development. I have also developed further critical thinking to question certain status quo in conventional mental health field which may not be in the clients’ best interest.

*Parts of the information on this web page is cited and edited from the website of Colorado Association of Psychotherapists.


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