These regulations feel like extortion.”

She’s licensed, educated, and experienced, but that’s still not enough for a Georgia therapist to gain the state’s permission to accept out-of-state clients.

Chantel Cohen is a life coach, couples therapist, and licensed social worker. This entrepreneur, who runs CWC Coaching and Therapy in Georgia, utilizes video technology in addition to in-person meetings  to provide mental health services to individuals, couples, and corporations in the convenience of their own homes.

One client described Cohen as a miracle worker who helped bring his marriage back from the brink. An independent rating company named Cohen one of the Top 3 Marriage Counselors in Atlanta for 2019 based on their 50-Point Inspection, which includes customer reviews, complaints, ratings, satisfaction, cost and general excellence.

Cohen makes it convenient to see clients even if they are not nearby: Since they can’t come to her office, she connects them with video — a platform and service structure that’s called telemental health. This lowers costs for her business and customers.

Unfortunately, the government, through out-of-date occupational licensing rules, is making it harder and harder for her to offer these innovative services. 

Occupational Licensing

States often create requirements that people must meet before they can be allowed to work in a given profession. Licensing rules vary by state and profession and states do not always recognize the licenses of other states. Sometimes occupational license requirements make sense. Unfortunately, too often they don’t.

Cohen would like to serve more clients, but she’s restricted from contracting as a therapist outside of Georgia. Instead, she has to maneuver through rigorous state laws to see some clients and has had to turn down others.

It’s not for a lack of trying. Cohen has tried to obtain licensure in other states to accommodate the needs of new clients, but the cost of securing additional licensure is simply unaffordable. 

As Chantel explained, 

“The costs and requirements create barriers to enter the marketplace.”

It’s clear that some benefit from these onerous licensing laws–those who don’t want to have to compete with innovators like Chantel, and state licensure boards and the government itself which benefits from revenue-creating fees. 

As she added, “the regulations feel like extortion.”

Some mental health professionals advertise what they do as coaching to bypass onerous occupational licensing regulations. They run the risk of losing their license or facing other penalties.

As a working mother of three, Cohen is passionate about her work and enjoys the flexibility of this career. She works remotely two days a week to manage caregiving responsibilities. This flexibility allows her “to be a mother and grow as a professional.” 

As our nation struggles with marriage dysfunction and a mental health crisis, we need more effective professionals who can reach Americans with critical mental health services. Occupational license regulations shouldn’t get in the way of this much-needed help.

Do you have a story about how occupational licenses are holding you back? Share your story here.