A new Defense Health Agency policy allows Tricare patients to get therapy from certain mental health specialists who otherwise would have been dropped from the military’s list of approved providers this year.
Tricare in July defined its policy on who qualifies as independent licensed mental health counselors, able to see Tricare patients without needing a doctor’s referral or requiring the counselor to work under a physician’s supervision.
The new policy keeps in the Tricare fold licensed professional counselors, or LPCs, with degrees from programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Program, or CACREP, and have passed a national exam.
It also lets those who attended non-CACREP programs to continue seeing Tricare patients as long as they work under a physician’s supervision.
They can also remain Tricare-approved as independent counselors if they take a national licensing exam by year’s end and meet other criteria.
A previous version of the policy concerned many LPCs because it would have dropped them from Tricare.
About 120 counseling programs nationwide are accredited by CACREP and do not include the programs at top graduate schools like Columbia and Harvard.
Larry Epp, president of the Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors of Maryland, said that about 70 percent of practicing LPCs have not attended CACREP programs.
Tricare officials say the new policy will increase patient access to therapy by including counselors from the different programs.
Patricia Moseley, a policy analyst for the Defense Health Agency, said the new policy means that patients don’t have to worry about whether their counselor will be dropped by Tricare.
“This does not have to be a concern,” Moseley said. “Tricare will not phase out [these counselors] but instead will continue to authorize them as Tricare providers indefinitely.”