This final rule follows the previous interim final rule (IFR), which was released in December 2011 and created the initial criteria for counselor independent practice under TRICARE. The final rule modifies the IFR in response to comments and concerns expressed by the public.
NBCC has been an active proponent of independent practice rights for counselors in TRICARE for over a decade, and this rule is the culmination of that effort. The IFR granted independent practice authority to counselors, but contained a number of burdensome limitations.
NBCC believes the final rule is a significant improvement over the IFR and is pleased to see many of our recommendations were incorporated. The entirety of the rule can be read here; the highlights of the changes include the following:
- Extension of the transition period to 2017
The transition period educational and test requirements include:
- Possession of a master’s degree or higher from a mental health counseling program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Education Programs and passage of the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE)
- Possession of a master’s degree or higher in counseling from a regionally accredited institution and passage of the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE).
- Indefinite continuation of the supervised counselor status
NCCs interested in more information can review the final rule or contact the Behavioral Health Branch at 703-681-0064. NBCC is pleased with the positive improvements to the TRICARE standards found in the final rule, particularly those requirements broadening inclusion, extending the transition period and expanding access to counselors for TRICARE beneficiaries.