The "Practicing Psychologists Licensing Act" requires mandatory licensure of persons who fall within the definition of psychologists or who are practicing psychology within the meaning of the Act.
However, G.S. 90-270.4(e) provides an exemption for members of other professional groups. That provision reads as follows:
"(e) Nothing in this Article shall be construed to limit or restrict physicians and surgeons or optometrists authorized to practice under the laws of North Carolina or to restrict qualified members of other professional groups in the practice of their respective professions, provided they do not hold themselves out to the public by any title or description stating or implying that they are practicing psychologists or psychological examiners, or are licensed to practice psychology."
There has been confusion about whether persons such as social workers, clergymen, and school counselors are required to by licensed as psychologists. Clearly, G.S. 90-270.4(e) exempts from the Practicing Psychologists Licensing Act any person who is a qualified member of another professional group, who is practicing his or her profession and does not claim to be or represent himself as a psychologist.
Unquestionably, persons such as clergymen and social workers are qualified members of other professional groups. Persons who are school counselors are exempt if they are trained specifically for their role, such as persons trained in guidance and counseling, and if they do not hold themselves out or represent themselves as psychologists in any way. Persons in other fields of counseling also are exempt if they are qualified and trained in their particular fields of counseling, if they do not hold themselves out as psychologists or represent themselves as psychologists in any way, and if their counseling is not simply an attempt to apply psychological principles and procedures under another label without acquiring a license as a psychologist. The fact that there may be some overlap between another professional group and psychologists in terms of the procedures and principles used does not exclude them from being exempted from the Practicing Psychologist Licensing Act as long as what they are doing is not principally psychology.
The definition of "professional psychological services" in G.S. 90-270.2(e), for purposes of the Practicing Psychologist Licensing Act, does include educational and vocational counseling. However, the definition also says that "professional psychological services," includes some or all of the psychological procedures and principles listed. The mere fact that somebody was providing educational or vocational counseling would not in and of itself bring the person under the Act, if they were not generally basing their work in psychological principles and procedures or if they were qualified members of other professional groups, trained in other professions and not holding themselves out or representing themselves as psychologists in any way.
Rufus L. Edmisten Attorney General
Norma S. Harrell Associate Attorney