Counselors and therapists who refuse to treat or provide services to certain patients based on “sincerely held principals” can breathe a sigh of relief. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam recently signed a controversial piece of legislation into state law protecting them against any lawsuits.
Senate Bill 1556 states that counselors or therapists will not be required to serve clients based on goals, outcomes or behaviors that contradict their beliefs. Rather, they can refer them to someone else who may be better suited to help the individual. The law states that refusal of service cannot be used as a basis for civil cause of action or criminal prosecution.
However, there is one very important exception to the law. Mental health workers cannot refuse service when clients are in imminent danger of hurting themselves.
Haslam states, “The substance of this bill doesn’t address a group, issue or belief system. Rather, it allows counselors just as we allow other professionals like doctors and lawyers to refer a client to another counselor when the goals or behaviors would violate a sincerely held principle.”
It should come as no surprise that there’s been some outrage regarding the new law. The American Counseling Association (ACA) claims that it’s a discriminatory religious law against the LGBTQ community.
Haslam has defended the law by saying he considered very carefully before signing it, which is why certain stipulations were included, such as offering a referral and requiring mandatory service to those in danger of harming themselves.
According to law, counseling and therapy refers to helping an individual seeking assistance in a private practice setting with the intention of facilitating normal human growth and development. A number of combinations of mental and human developmental issues can be used to achieve mental, emotional, social, physical, educational, spiritual or career development throughout a person’s lifespan.
To learn more about changes in various legislation areas, browse our blog regarding a variety of issues, including minimum wage.