Practicing Your Profession In Oregon Without a License, Legally and Ethically


Can therapists and alternative practitioners practice without a license in Oregon? In many fields, yes, they can! Are there any rules at all? Yes, there are. I created this Web site to make this information easier to find and understand.

When I started my hypnotherapy practice in Oregon, I found the few online resources scattered and confusing, and this is still the case: No agency takes much of an interest in us. Hence, this Web site.

Oh, and if you’re a licensed practitioner, welcome! Most of the posts on this site will be 100% applicable to you, too, as we discuss topics such as ways to build your practice and give it a compelling, personalized Web presence.

Oregon Mellow

One thing you need to understand about Oregon is that it’s not one of those states where the Legislature is license-happy. As in some other states, the Legislature deliberately keeps things a little loose here, as you’d expect in Oregon.

What Kinds of Things Require a License?

For our purposes, there are licenses for three things:

  1. Public safety: This is an attempt to keep the death rate down by requiring  training and licenses for drivers, surgeons, pharmacists, and so on.
  2. Restraint of trade: If it’s hard to get a license, the people who already have a license can jack up their prices! They win: everyone else loses. But with a good lobby, all things are possible. These licenses try to pass as public safety licenses, as if the state would run out of room for all the dead bodies if unlicensed people are allowed to practice. But if you look closer, it’s all baloney.  A barber has to take three times as many training hours as a policeman, and just as many training hours as a paramedic. Seriously!
  3. Weird and inexplicable: Hey, cool! A license to be a horse acupuncturist only costs $20!

oregon has a license for horse acupuncture


Admittedly, there are other kinds of licenses, too, but let’s focus on professional licensing and the licensing exemptions that allow those of us in alternative/complementary professions to practice in Oregon with perfect legality in areas like hypnosis, life coaching, fitness coaching, Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), aromatherapy, guided imagery, somatic experiencing (SE), sensorimotor therapy (SP), mindfulness, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), yoga, and all the rest. Also counseling and marriage and family therapy, as we’ll see in a bit.

No License Required in Oregon for Many Activities

What activities and professions are NOT licensed by the state of Oregon? Here are just a few, taken from a much longer list on the Web site:

  •  Animal training
  • Auto repair
  • Clergy
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Computer programming
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Personal trainers
  • … and many more

1999220_sClearly, if the Legislature doesn’t think a mechanic needs a license to fix your brakes, they won’t require a license unless the public danger is very high! They’d probably reject many of today’s licenses if they weren’t in place already. So remember:

  • Not requiring a license is normal.
  • Far from being a loophole, not requiring a license is a deliberate policy of the Legislature.

This can come as a surprise to people who expected that every important occupation required a license, especially when they themselves worked long and hard to obtain their own license. What can I say? The licensing landscape is surprising: no question there. And it’s always been like that.

Licensing Exemptions for Counselors and Alternative Practitioners

Unlicensed counselors, marriage and family therapists, and alternative practitioners are protected by a broad exemption under Oregon law, as discussed in the Oregon Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and Therapists (which I’ll call the “Counseling Board”) on their Who Needs a License? page. These exemptions are designed to cover a wide variety of alternative practitioners as well as people with “Counselor” or “Marriage and Family Therapist” on their business cards.

What kind of person chooses to operate under the license exemption? All kinds of people, including some with very impressive credentials. A fascinating profile by Jenny Westberg, of an internationally renowned (but unlicensed) counselor, was published in the Examiner.  You should read the story in full, but here’s the part about the exemption:

“Becky Eklund, the executive director of the Oregon Board of Licensed Professional Counselors & Therapists, explains, ‘There is a phrase in the law that says if someone does not meet the education requirements for licensure, then they can practice without a license.'”

This is sometimes referred to as the Educational Exemption, embodied into Oregon law at ORS 675.825(4)(a), which say, in part:

(4)Nothing in ORS 675.715 (Application) to 675.835(Injunctive proceedings) limits or prevents the practice of a persons profession or restricts a person from providing counseling services or services related to marriage and family if the person:

(a)Does not meet the requirements of ORS 675.715 (Application) (1)(b);

The “requirements” basically mean that, to get a license, you need an appropriate Master’s-level degree in Counseling or Marriage and Family Therapy. If you don’t have the right degrees, you don’t need a license to be a counselor or marriage and family therapist! And since the definition of counseling is extremely broad, it covers anything you could consider as “counseling-ish,” including meditation, EFT, guided imagery, NLP, somatic experiencing: you name it. The Oregon Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and Therapists (OBLPCT) recognizes this, calling the “counseling-ish” category “alternative counselors and therapists.”

The exemption is explained on the Counseling Board’s Web site as follows:

The OBLPCT distinguishes between “licensed”, “unlicensed”, “exempt”, and “alternative” counselors and therapists. The Board has authority over licensed and unlicensed counselors and therapists as defined below. The Board has no authority over exempt and alternative providers as defined below….

Unlicensed professional counselors and unlicensed marriage and family therapists are those who qualify for licensure, practice professional counseling or
marriage and family therapy, and have chosen not to become licensed.

Those who may have counseling-related training and provide similar services as licensed counselors and therapists but do not meet the educational requirements to qualify for licensure as an LPC or LMFT. Alternative providers do not assess, diagnose, or treat mental disorders.

We will return to the question of “mental disorders” in a moment, along with the restrictions on wording that you must follow to stay within the rules.

Does Your Practice Fall Under the Educational/Alternative Providers Exemption?

All I’ve found are a few brief statements scattered across their publications, minutes, and a few other places, but in these, as shown above, the Counseling Board acknowledges that the educational exemption is a very broad exemption, covering not only counseling and marriage and family therapy, but also alternative modalities and even emerging modalities.

Since there’s so little outreach (just a few pages), we’re left to guess about the details. Sigh. My personal guess is that modalities are probably in the clear if they meet  the conditions below:

  • They’re in the counseling, therapy, or alternative space OR are on one of the State’s lists of things that don’t require a license.
  • They aren’t something definitely requires a license (like being a physician).
  • It isn’t illegal (like using violence against a client’s enemies to achieve catharsis).
  • It doesn’t use protected terminology to describe the person or the services  (like “psychology” or “doctor” or “Judge of the 9th Circuit Court”).
  • It isn’t deliberately deceptive (fraud is fraud, whatever your line of work).

The Educational Exemption: Supporters and Opponents


As you can imagine, the Legislature and alternative/unlicensed practitioners are in favor of the Educational Exemption! According to the Counseling Board’s minutes, so are at least three important Oregon practitioner associations:

On December 13, 2013, Board members Lynne Nesbit, Doug Querin and Scott Christie and staff met with representatives of ORCA, OAMFT and COPACT to discuss options for addressing unlicensed complaints. Representatives of the associations  spoke strongly against removing the education exemption from the law.

These three organizations are:

And no wonder! When it comes to “protecting the public,” 85%-90% of the cases taken up by the Counseling and Psychology Boards are against their own licensees and applicants! The rest of us are barely a blip on the radar.


As far as I can tell, there is no longer any organized opposition for the educational exemption.  True, many individual license holders would take pleasure in putting all of us out of business tomorrow. But these people are in the minority.

According to Counseling Board Executive Director Ecklund, as quoted in  Examiner, the Board once tried to remove the exemption, but the Legislature shot them down:

“The board has supported legislation in the past that would eliminate that education exemption from the law. To date, the proposed legislative changes have not been approved.”

In recent Board minutes, the majority of the Counseling Board members seem to have gotten the message. Both sides of the issue are raised, not just one. The defenders of the exemption see the big picture clearly, so the center of gravity seems to be support, not for banning alternative practitioners, but for creating some kind of open registry under the control of a new Board.

Superstition, Meet Reality

This is not surprising, since being against alternative practitioners is a thankless task! The higher the level of education a consumer has, the more likely they are to turn to complementary or alternative practices (for example, see this Complementary/Alternative Medicine article from the National Institute of Health).

People who oppose complementary or alternative practices always ignore this, claiming, against all the evidence, that our clients are too ignorant, feeble-minded, and insane to know what they’re doing. This bears no relationship to reality. Our average client is an educated, well-informed, and active citizen — A citizen who doesn’t like being talked down to! If you ever want a whole lot of people to walk all over you, just stir up the clients of alternative/exempt practitioners.

Unlicensed/Alternative Practitioners and “Mental Disorders”

Update, April 8, 2015:

It turns out that the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners’ position that, broadly, “anyone we don’t like is practicing psychology without a license” is just as unfounded and illegal as it sounds. I consulted with two lawyers on this point specifically, and both came to this same conclusion. See my new post on this topic.

Basically, unless you call yourself a “psychologist” or apply for a license from the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners (OBPE), they have no authority over you. All the nonsense that the OBPE says about exempt practitioners not being able use DSM terms, or diagnose mental disorders, or use the word “psychotherapy” is just that — nonsense. They have no authority!

It’s not like the OBPE hasn’t been told. They know. But they’re still prosecuting people anyway.

End of update. Original section continues…

This section is a little long, but it’s important. The rules are non-obvious and need to be followed carefully. Also, keep in mind two things:

  1. I’m not a lawyer. I’ve consulted with lawyers, but I may still have some of the details wrong.
  2. The Psychology Board refuses to review this page or to answer my questions (and it’s not like I’m special: they’ll refuse to answer your questions, too!  Give it a try:,  503-378-4154).

You need to understand the material below and follow the guidelines. Get this wrong, and you may find kafka_metamorphosisyourself in a Kafkaesque situation, where the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners (OPBE) accuses you, of “representing yourself as a psychologist” or “practicing psychology without a license” when you clearly haven’t. More on that in a bit.

To the best of my understanding, the part quoted previously by the Counseling Board about “assessing, diagnosing, and treating mental disorders” means:

  • Unlicensed practitioners don’t get to label people with a diagnosis out of the DSM.
  • Unlicensed practitioners don’t get to have their clients fill out diagnostic tests that would result in such labeling.
  • Unlicensed practitioners don’t get to use phrases like “treating the disorder” when they talk about “helping the client.”

Note that this is about word usage, labeling, and paperwork. It’s not about therapy. Therapy is allowed!

This can be a difficult concept to wrap your mind around, whether you’re coming at it from the traditional or the alternative perspective.

From the traditional perspective, DSM labels are pervasive, to the point where traditional therapists are sometimes surprised to learn that anyone can do without them. After all, DSM labels are basic vocabulary for communication between the therapist and everyone else: the insurance company, management, other members of the treatment team, anyone doing research or keeping statistics, and so on. But alternative and exempt practitioners generally don’t bill insurance, participate in statistics gathering, etc.

Digression about labeling: Labels have a powerful effect on clients and need to be used carefully. Every time you introduce a new label into the conversation, you reframe their issues. Reframing is a powerful technique, and a negative reframe can easily set your client back. This is more than enough reason to avoid using those weighty and scary DSM names in session.

Labeling and Usage Guidelines for Exempt/Unlicensed Practitioners

You can find guidelines for how to talk about your business (and what words and phrases you must avoid!) in the Psychology Board’s Unlicensed Practice FAQ. You should read the FAQ in full, but the central points are:

1) Question: What does it mean to represent myself as a psychologist?
Answer: Generally, you cannot say that you are a psychologist unless you are a licensed psychologist. To represent oneself as a psychologist means to use a title such as “psychologist” or to say that you provide psychology services. Representation can be verbal or in print form. Examples:
a. “I’m a psychologist” or “I practice psychology”
b. “I’m a psychotherapist” or “I practice psychotherapy”
c. “My profession is psychology”
d. “My treatment orientation is Jungian psychotherapy”
e. “I provide psychological services”
f. “My specialties are depression, anxiety, ADHD…” 1
g. A business named “Frank’s Psychotherapy Clinic”

The footnote under item (f) reads:

A person may not advertise or provide services for a “disorder” listed in the most current revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (e.g., DSMIV-TR). Lay terms such as abuse, overeating, trauma, and addiction, as well as lay terms for depression and anxiety (e.g., grief, moody, fear, worry etc.) are not considered diagnoses and are too general to treat as the specific practice of psychology.

That footnote is the most important part of the FAQ!

Sticks and Stones. These regulations don’t prevent you from doing therapy, just from using certain terms to describe it. It’s the same situation as in the supplement industry: if you sell saw palmetto and claim that it “promotes normal urinary flow,” it’s a supplement, and that’s just fine. If you say it “treats an enlarged prostate,” the same capsule miraculously becomes a drug and you can be prosecuted.

Members of the public can’t tell the difference between these two statements, which means that:

  • Because members of the public can’t tell the difference between allowed and forbidden statements, these regulations serve no purpose. What the public needs is clarity.
  • You and I can’t tell the difference, either, unless we make a special effort to educate ourselves about the rules, so we can  be 100% within the regulations. (Hence this Web site.)

Protecting the public? The State of Oregon claims that, if you use a DSM term (say, “PTSD”), then everyone who reads it will conclude, “You must be a licensed psychologist: that is the only explanation!”

This is ludicrous. Non-psychologists use DSM terms all the time —  physicians, psychiatrists, counselors, marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers, nurses, journalists, your aunt Martha. Why would anyone decide that you’re a psychologist, when so many other professions use these same terms? This just doesn’t happen in real life!

The only way to convince a member of the public you’re a psychologist is to use the word “psychologist.” By claiming otherwise, the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners’ position is absurd and unreal. But it’s written into the regulations, so let’s all be careful out there.

Overreach. Worse, some licensed practitioners will attempt an extravagant overreach and claim, in effect, “If a client had a trauma (or whatever), they might have some mental disorder or other, and that means we own them. They can see us, but they can’t see you.”

This is wrong on so many levels! Fortunately, the FAQ makes a special effort to clarify this point: The law has no problem with an unlicensed practitioner providing services for a client whose issues can be described in lay terms: terms like “abuse,” “trauma,” “addiction,” or “fear.” This is supported by the Counseling Board’s definition of alternative practitioners, quoted above. (Lay terms make for better communication, better rapport, and better results anyway.)

  • Wrong: I can treat your phobia.
  • Right: I can help you resolve irrational fears.
  • Wrong: I can help you with your ADHD.
  • Right: I can help you with focus and concentration.

A Word About Wording

The Board of Psychologist Examiners protects a peculiar selection of words. For example, they insist that, if you use the word “psychotherapy,” you’re deliberately fooling the public into believing that you’re a psychologist. But in the real world, “psychotherapy” is just a generic term meaning, roughly, “talk therapy.” In Colorado, for example, the official term for an unlicensed therapist is a “registered psychotherapist.

Still, this is written into Oregon law, so avoid this and other “protected terms” when discussing yourself and your services.

Terms to avoid:

  • Psychotherapist, psychotherapy
  • Psychologist, psychology
  • Treat, cure
  • Disorder, mental disorder, mental illness
  • Current DSM terms and abbreviations like post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD
  • (Possibly, but see below) isolated words from the DSM, like “anxiety” or “depression.”
  • Also, don’t lie by claiming licenses, degrees, or titles you don’t have, and don’t claim degrees from unaccredited institutions. Just don’t. And don’t use the word “Doctor” unless you know it’s permissible under Oregon law.

Overreach, part 2. Oregon state regulations say that the actual names of DSM disorders are protected — names like “Generalized Anxiety Disorder” are protected (which is embodied in the regulations). The Unlicensed Practice FAQ also claims that any individual words extracted from a DSM disorder, like “anxiety” or “depression” are protected, too. (By the same logic, they could also claim words like “alcohol,” “eating,” and “social,” which are also words from DSM disorders.) When I called her on it, Becky Ecklund assured me that these words really are protected … somehow? … but made no attempt to justify her opinion.

Dealing with the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners (OBPE)

Note: Because I’m about to sound even more exasperated and disapproving than already have, I should preface this section by pointing out that my beef with the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners is a narrow complaint about a single issue. It’s an important issue, but it’s just one issue. I don’t have any objection to the existence of the OBPE, and I don’t have any antipathy towards psychologists in general. Quite the contrary: I know that psychology is inherently one of the world’s great professions — “the study of the human mind” —  a profession that has made enormous contributions and will continue to do so. Many licensed psychologists are wonderful people by any measure. I wish them every happiness and success, just as soon as they get off my lawn.

The issue comes down to this: the Board should stop prosecuting people for “representing themselves as a psychologist” unless they’re actually doing so! And by “doing so,” I mean representing themselves as a psychologist with sufficient force and clarity that the average member of the public would (a) notice, and (b) conclude, “This guy’s a psychologist.” Because, obviously, no harm can be done unless these criteria have been met.

Since the Board of Psychologist Examiners does so little outreach — five whole pages! — and refuses to answer questions, we don’t know what the rules really are. (Frankly, I don’t think they do, either.) This means that there’s a chance that you will eventually be investigated for violations that harmed no one and would never be noticed by anyone but them, or that they simply made up on the spot.

This is a peculiar strategy! After all, psychology is one of the helping professions. So when they take a “0% helping, 100% punitive” approach, it’s dissonant, even disturbing.  It’s like a school shutting down Driver’s Ed courses and setting up speed traps instead.

Here’s my evaluation of the situation, based on the material from the Board’s Web site and elsewhere:

  • Expect to win. By my estimate, the Board of Psychologist Examiners eventually dismisses  90% of cases, and often more. And in 2010, the Board won zero out of 69 unlicensed practitioner cases. You may think this makes the Board sound ineffectual and even silly, but winning cases is not their goal.
  • But expect to be menaced first. Conning you into shutting down your practice is their goal. The letter they send you will likely be menacing, yet strangely incoherent and lacking in specifics. Expect this tone to be maintained throughout the “investigation.” Don’t be surprised if their “investigator” lies to you or engages in relentless bullying to get you to shut down your practice.
    OBPE Investigator Karen Berry
    OBPE Investigator Karen Berry

    (This apparently is an illegal violation of your civil rights — violation of due process — and leaves the Board open to your Federal lawsuit for both compensatory and punitive damages).  Frankly, I see little point in talking to their “investigator” at all. That’s what lawyers are for, as explained below.

  • Expect your “violation” to be trivial or nonexistent. In the past, they felt they needed to establish a pretext that people were “practicing psychology,” but listen to this voicemail recording of the OBPE’s “investigator” trying to shut down something that even she admits is a counseling practice, not a psychology practice:
  • You have plenty of time. It took the OBPE a whole year to fine someone who wasn’t even there — someone who had already moved out of state before the process even started.  (This tells you everything you need to know about the quality of their investigations.) So you have plenty of time. My advice: keep expanding your practice to help cover expenses.
  • You can keep practicing.  Even when the Board feels so good about revoking a psychologist’s license that they issue a self-congratulatory press release, they don’t get an injunction to actually shut the person down.
  • The board has won only 9 actions since 1999 against people you and I would recognize as being unlicensed/alternative practitioners, or 0.6 per year. Not an impressive track record.
  • But get a lawyer right away. I’m told that getting a good lawyer is affordable for this kind of action. Be aware that your lawyer will likely say, “Don’t talk to them: leave it to me.” And make sure your lawyer reads this page and the Legal Update for Unlicensed Practitioners page. (Starting from scratch will be needlessly expensive, since the  crucial Educational Exemption under ORS 675.825(4)(a) is constructed in a screwy way that’s easy even for lawyers to miss.)
  • If you don’t get a lawyer right away, record your phone call. I’m advised that, under Oregon law, you don’t have to tell the person on the other end of the line that you’re making a recording. The OBPE’s “investigator” is so outrageous and self-incriminating that this is an opportunity not to be missed.
  • Get a feisty lawyer. You’re dealing with bullies, so you need a lawyer who doesn’t mind confrontation. Some lawyers are defeatist when it comes to this kind of case, so be careful who you hire.  I’m impressed by Mike Flinn in Corvallis. He may be able to recommend someone good in your area.
  • Don’t turn your back. By my analysis, there is a clear pattern: if you don’t bring a lawyer to the party, the Board of Psychologist Examiners will smell blood and increase the fine. If you have a lawyer, they back off and either dismiss the case or offer a smaller fine.
  • This too shall pass. The OBPE tells their lies with great confidence, and most of their victims believe them and shut down their practices without a struggle. But now that the Board has been exposed, fewer people are falling for this, and they’ll soon be forced to stop, one way or another.
  • It’s a cost of doing business. Being hassled by the bureaucracy is a cost of doing business. Being 100% legal and ethical gives only partial protection, and we all have to expect to be treated unfairly at some point. I’m told your legal fees are tax-deductible! (And so, god forbid, are fines.)
  • You’re in excellent company. Some of the most skillful and influential healers of the modern age were subjected to just this kind of treatment: Milton H. Erickson, the father of modern hypnotherapy, had to defend against an attempt to revoke his medical license in the Fifties, because the licensing board was prejudiced against hypnosis. Louis Pasteur was almost prosecuted for practicing medicine without a license for the first (and successful) use of his rabies vaccine. And good but less famous people are being hassled all the time, too.
  • Contact your legislators. Whenever you have trouble with the State of Oregon, contact your legislators. Explain the issue (including links to this page and to my Legislative Update page) and ask them to help. Most legislators take constituent issues seriously, and will do what they can to help. The OBPE is dependent on the Legislature for its budget, Board members have to be confirmed by the State Senate, and the Legislature is responsible for drafting new legislation. Thus, every complaint is a nail in the OBPE’s coffin. This is doubly true since the OBPE is such a tiny, unimportant, and friendless part of the State government. No one is willing to put up with much trouble from them.
  • Contact the Governor’s Office. Governor’s Citizens’ Representative Office, 503-378-4582. The governor appoints all Board members and can also remove them at will, and has many investigative resources at her disposal.

Letting Your Clients Know You’re Unlicensed

So much for the licensing boards. Let’s move on to a much simpler topic: communicating clearly with clients.

My clients are generally happy to learn that I’m not a member of the medical/mental-health establishment. Some even say, “good for you,” when learning that I’ve followed an unconventional path. Personally, I’m not the least bit anti-doctor, and neither are my clients. It’s just that, like most educated and intelligent people, we’re also comfortable with some alternative approaches.

I’m convinced that if you make your situation clear, people who like what you’re offering will come to you, and the people who won’t like it will go elsewhere. The net result is that you’ll have the clients you’re best suited for, and your practice will thrive.

How best to ensure that your clients know what they’re looking at? I have multiple disclaimers on my Web site, letting people know that I’m not a doctor, that I don’t have a license, and so on. I have no idea what legal standing a disclaimer might have, but that’s not the point: I want clients to understand where I’m coming from.

Here’s a simple disclaimer, for what it’s worth (I’m no lawyer):

I am a [your modality here] operating under Oregon’s “educational licensing exemption”  under ORS 675.825(4)(a), which allows alternative practitioners and counselors to practice legally in Oregon without a license.

As for “letters after your name,” whether degrees or credentials, I think clients care about these even less than licensure. Some of my clients have advanced degrees or are licensed health-care professionals. But they don’t care about the letters after my name: they can tell if I’m a good fit for them from my Web site, because that’s what my Web site is for. A string of letters after my name would have no such effect, regardless of what those letters are.


59 thoughts on “Practicing Your Profession In Oregon Without a License, Legally and Ethically

  1. Thank you for taking the time to gather this information in one place. Even after reading the state website I wasn’t quite clear what I could or couldn’t do.

    My beef with the state of Oregon Licensing board is the fact they won’t license me even though I’ve been licensed in both Nebraska and South Dakota. The reason? I’ve been practicing for so many years that I got my degree from a non accredited college in Nebraska AND there are several college classes I didn’t take (as they were not required when I got my Master’s Degree).

    So I work for a wonderful counseling agency and my supervisor has to sign off on my treatment plans – because I only have years of experience – not the required schooling. Bummer!


    1. Retta,

      Thanks for commenting! I agree. I, too, was surprised to learn that our licensing boards aren’t open-handed with grandfathering and reciprocity with other states. After all, with every day that passes, your experience matters more and more, and your good ol’ college days matter less and less. So I’m mystified!


  2. Robert,
    Thanks for all your work. I am a PhD in Psychology and I offer my services as a un-liscensed ‘counselor’ in Oregon. I my own practice I strictly following the law regarding the practice of psychology. I feel that there is a lot of room to practice outside the scope of this law, ORS 675 states:
    “675.020 Practice or representation as psychologist prohibited without license; use of business name or designation. (1) To safeguard the people of the State of Oregon from the dangers of unqualified and improper practice of psychology, no person shall, unless exempted from the provisions of ORS 675.010 to 675.150 by ORS 675.090:
    (a) Practice psychology in this state without first being licensed under ORS 675.010 to 675.150; or
    (b) Represent oneself to be a psychologist without first being licensed under ORS 675.010 to 675.150.”


    “Practice of psychology” means rendering or offering to render supervision, consultation, evaluation or therapy services to individuals, groups or organizations for the purpose of diagnosing or treating behavioral, emotional or mental disorders. “Practice of psychology” also includes delegating the administration and scoring of tests to technicians qualified by and under the direct supervision of a licensed psychologist.”

    It seems to me an individual can offer counseling services as long as they do not ‘treat disorders’ or ‘represent themselves as a psychologist’. My work is spiritually based and I have no interest in treating disorders. As someone who has gone through a graduate training program I can say it is serious work to treat disorders. It is best to leave that to individuals with proper training and credentials.

    While I can see both sides of the issues (from the state side and the alternative practitioner side), I believe it is best to respect the law and avoid ‘treating disorders.’

    My assumption is that if I do not treat disorders and I do not call myself a ‘psychologist,’ then the Board of Psychology will respect my right to work with individuals who want guidance in and on their spiritual path.

    I hope that I am right, becasue I believe that we need approaches to self-development that are not defined in terms of ‘disorder.’ Instead of fighting with the board on their turf, I aim to offer an alternative approach aimed at living a more fulfilling life. Some might call this ‘coaching, ‘ but I like the term ‘counseling.’ I am a part of the American Counseling Association, and enjoy living up the aims and ethics of counseling.

    Thanks for all the work you do. I hope you do not mind the alternative perceptive.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I am in a very similar situation. Is it possible to see your website to see how you have worded your practice?

  3. Jennifer,

    Thanks for writing! Your logic is sound, and it’s the logic that the Psychology Board uses, but it turns out that there’s a blanket exemption in ORS 675.090(1)(e) that removes their authority over anyone who doesn’t use the title of “psychologist.”

    Don’t let yourself be fooled by the “definition of psychology” — it’s essentially the same as the definition of “professional counseling” and “marriage and family therapy,” both of which can be practiced in Oregon without a license. I agree that it’s often counterproductive to think of clients are “disordered,” but you can if you like: diagnosing disorders is within the definition of what counselors do, whether licensed or exempt.

  4. Is there a section I missed or do you have any perspective on unlicensed “body work” in the State of Oregon?
    I really appreciate your work, clarity and enthusiastic support of people providing “wellness” services.
    Thank you.

    1. Michael,

      Bodywork is a bit out of my line. A quick look at Oregon statutes on massage ( show that “massage” requires a license, then goes on to define “massage” in a way that includes absolutely everything, followed by exemptions that take some of it back. If you’re licensed in something else that overlaps massage — for example, all doctors and nurses — there’s an exemption for that.

      For the purposes of those who are focused on the mental/spiritual/emotional aspects of bodywork, the exemptions in 687.031(1) are the most interesting bit. Paragraph (h) exempts “trained” counselors, and “counseling” is broadly defined in Oregon. Paragraph (i) exempts reflexologists. Paragraph (j) exempts bodyworkers in some other categories if they’re “certified by a professional organization or credentialing agency,” which is defined in broad terms.

      Their maximum fine is $1,000 — one-tenth the amount the Psychology Board uses to bully people with — so their relative toothlessness probably prevents them from getting too big for their britches, though you never know.

  5. I’m a little nervous even writing to you because the OBLPCT has been on me and they seem so difficult to work with that I’m afraid they might see this and cause me more trouble.

    But to make a long story short, I am trying to start a private practice here in Portland. But the Board has been causing me trouble, I don’t have enough clients yet to even pay for my supervision, let alone office rent. All the expense, extra paperwork and trouble, and the foreboding presence of this nasty, vindictive, power hungry Board hanging over my head are ruining my practice and my life, basically.

    I am desperate to get out from under their glowering control so I can practice with integrity and ethics and not get badgered by them anyway. Since I already have an MA, and am just finishing a certificate in gerontology, it makes it difficult to try to make myself exempt from their purview. But I am determined!

    All I can think is to try to move to a specialty of some type that is exempt. Currently I work with young to mid-age adults using client-centered, existential methods, for the most part. I would like to focus on helping people develop forgiveness skills. Since I have the gerontology certificate, I suppose I could use that too, but I’m not so excited about it. I also have a long-term meditation practice that informs my work in a subtle way.

    But I can’t seem to find any hard data on what “specialties” are actually exempt from the Board’s grasp. I know they will cause me more trouble if they can, so I need to be careful and sure I’m out of their reach. I’m thinking of slipping into “Life Coaching,” though I don’t really care for that term.

    Can you give me any advice as to what I could do that would keep those little darlins’ out of my hair? I would be forever grateful. (If it matters, I am 60 and have several degrees, etc.)

    Thank you in advance ~ so much!

    Susan Rooney

    1. Susan,

      After consulting with two attorneys and reading the law carefully, it seems that the “Educational Exemption” is iron-clad, and the boards that are pretending otherwise aren’t even in a gray area: they’re acting illegally.

      The definition of “professional counseling” is so broad that it covers just about any therapeutic modality that’s hands-off or involves only light touch. (If you wanted to include massage, surgery, or a shave and a haircut, you’d get in trouble with the boards that cover such things.) But the exemption covers the entire field of counseling and family therapy, and since the definition of psychology is basically Counseling Lite, just don’t call yourself a psychologist, and you’re golden.

      Any modality that a licensed counselor is allowed to use — meditation, hypnosis, EFT, forgiveness work, parts processes, NLP, family therapy, group therapy, plus the more vanilla counseling techniques — an unlicensed counselor is also allowed to use. The “licensed professional counselor” laws are just about who gets to be a “licensed” counselor. Under Oregon law, an unlicensed counselor isn’t any less a counselor than a licensed one. You just can’t say you’re licensed.

      The OBLPCT knows — or knew — that they have no jurisdiction over anyone who isn’t 100% qualified for a license, and I doubt they have the power to determine that someone is under their jurisdiction unless they volunteer all the paperwork as part of the application process.

      I’m curious to see if these boards have even the most rudimentary sense of self-preservation. After talking to a number of legislators, it’s clear that these boards have no friends. The legislators are keen on the idea of encouraging a better mental-health system in Oregon, and have not faith whatever that the boards are part of the solution.

      I expect to be able to get legislation introduced to curb the worst of the excesses, but the law is already on our side. The boards are dragging their feet, but they’re too much in the wrong and too friendless to maintain this for much longer.

      The OLBPCT is pretty weak anyway, with a much lower maximum fine ($2,500 compared to the OBPE’s $10,000). And even the OBPE seems to be having a fire sale when it comes to unlicensed prosecutions. I see online that Kurt Swensen is being threatened with a mere $1,000 — a tiny fraction of what they normally go for. I think they’re finally losing confidence.

      My advice to you is to retain a lawyer and have him tell the board to send any future drivel to him, not you. And keep expanding your practice, so you can help more clients. If the board doesn’t like you, you must be doing something right.

      1. Robert, thank you so much for your time and expertise! It means a lot to me. I feel so relieved and encouraged to do what I do best in the best way I can do it. The Board certainly does not like me; so from what you say that must be a good sign. 😉


      2. You mentioned Kurt Swensen being targeted… and now his podcast is gone. Does anyone know what happened to Kurt Swensen? He had such a great podcast and outreach.

  6. Robert,
    Thank you SO MUCH for this page. I was searching on google for at least 2 hours looking for the answers you’ve provided here. I had no idea until today that a person could practice counceling without a license!

    Being a therapist or counselor is something that’s always been in the back of my mind as a possible career, given that I’ve struggled with mental health issues myself (depression/anxiety) since I was a kid – but I always thought if I wanted to be a counselor I’d have to go to school for 6+ years, and that was discouraging. But now I might actually consider it. I was already thinking about starting a (free) support group for teens and young adults dealing with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

    Do you think it’s even remotely possible for a young person such as myself (I’m 23) to run a successful counseling practice? Obviously you don’t know me, but I just mean do you think it’s hypothetically possible for someone so young and with almost no college education to be successful in this field – let alone taken seriously? (Obviously I won’t be claiming to be licensed, or using the words you mentioned are not to be used in my practice.)

    Thanks ahead of time for any thoughts or advice.


    1. Madeline,

      Thanks for writing! Well, there’s nothing to prevent you from taking a mix-and-match approach, learning a therapeutic modality before or during college. I’ve heard of people putting themselves through college this way

      I’ve also heard of license-track or even licensed folks jumping ship in favor of an exempt modality, on the grounds that they were getting better results that way or were tired of being just a cog in the machine. (For example, a psychiatrist who became an acupuncturist, or a psychology student who was a hair’s breadth away from his PhD who opted for a career in hypnotherapy instead.)

      Youth isn’t really an obstacle to success. The biggest essentials are to make sure you get high-quality that prepares you to actually start seeing clients, and learning enough small-business skills to succeed in private practice. The better programs cover both.

      The extraordinarily extended duration of license-track programs (roughly 6-8 years of college plus 1-2 years of supervised practice) give the impression that therapy is really difficult, but if you look at the research, there is little correlation between how many years of therapeutic training you have and your effectiveness as a therapist.

    1. Madeline,

      Apparently, it works is like this: if you’re part of the system — if you are license-track or have a license — then the insurance companies treat you like an interchangeable cog in the machine, which means that you can take insurance by jumping through the appropriate hoops.

      If you’re an exempt practitioner, you’re not an interchangeable part, and this will add some steps to getting approved. I haven’t gotten around to finding out what they are.

      One of the nice things about hypnotherapy is that it’s a brief, solutions-based therapy that typically only lasts a few sessions, and plenty of people are happy to pay out of pocket for that.

      The next step I’m personally most interested in would be focusing on veterans or other distinct, under-served populations (I like veterans a lot), and for this I’d be investigating not insurance companies, but the more targeted programs and agencies, to see what can be arranged.

      1. Robert

        This has been very helpful. I am a Pastor and am thinking about starting my own counseling practice. I currently run a church and work another full time job outside of the church. I have also started counseling people. I continue to be asked if I take insurance. Have you found out any more about the hoops that need jumped through for and exempt practitioner to bill? Do you have anyone I could contact that might be able to assist? Thanks again for this information. Looking for it on my own was becoming exhausting. 🙂

        1. Dale,

          I have little understanding about how pastoral counseling is handled by anyone (the pastors, the clients, their sponsoring churches, the insurance companies, the IRS…), let alone how non-pastoral counseling performed by pastors is handled. In Oregon, pastoral counselors seem to be doubly protected by the blanket counseling exemption and a specific pastoral exemption, but I haven’t looked into the details.

          Insurance companies are another kettle of fish. My vague impression is something like this: they pretty much have to pay licensed therapists who jump through their hoops, but they don’t have to pay unlicensed therapists — and they generally refuse.

          My advice would be to look online for professional organizations for pastoral counselors.


  7. The more I’m thinking about this, the more questions I have.

    Do you happen to know if the laws (in Oregon) are different for counseling minors without a license?

    1. Madeline,

      I’m not a lawyer, but Oregon’s definition of counseling lists children specifically: ‘(7)(a) “Professional counseling” means the assessment, diagnosis or treatment of mental, emotional or behavioral disorders involving the application of mental health counseling or other psychotherapeutic principles and methods in the delivery of services to individuals, couples, children, families, groups or organizations.’

      There may be some restrictions about what kind of services can be provided to minors. The most recent one to receive headlines is the ban on conversion therapy services to minors, but that one only applies to licensees.

  8. Hello,
    I am a Yoga Therapist and new resident of OR. I am interested in what insurance you carry for your hypnotherapy practice. As a yoga teacher/therapist I have a standard fitness insurance policy. If I practice Yoga Therapy I am addressing where there is separation in the mind, body, spirit of the client. Yoga Therapy asks the client to question “who am I?”. What recourse or protection do I have as a practitioner should a client freak out as they are going deeper into their bodies and reject what is discovered? In other words, do you carry malpractice insurance?

    1. I’m not very well-verse in the pros and cons of malpractice insurance for alternative health practitioners. On the other hand, my wife and I have a farm and sell free-range eggs and poultry. Talking to a number of farmers’ market managers with experience going back over 20 years in Oregon, none can recall any kind of lawsuits other than trip-and-fall lawsuits, when someone falls over your stuff. But I have liability insurance anyway.

      I read in Richard Jaffee’s book, Galileo’s Lawyer, that people considering a malpractice suit want to know how much malpractice insurance the practitioner has. It’s more profitable to sue people with lots of malpractice insurance, you see.

      So, frankly, I don’t know what to think about insurance!

      In the case of yoga, since yoga is expected to be spiritual as well as physical, I’d expect that some alert insurance company out there has crafted a policy that covers everything that needs to be covered.

  9. Thanks for commenting!

    Yes, this nightmare that’s been inflicted on you is now standard practice for some of the boards. They used to do their jobs, but they realized that they could use vague, amorphous accusations that might mean anything, rather than anything specific. At the hearing, they assert that something you did, however trivial, violates ethical standards. Since they, and not the judge, get to decide what the ethical standards mean, they win.

    The vagueness serves three purposes: to intimidate their victims, to make it hard to prepare a defense, and to leave the judge with nothing to do, because there’s nothing there.

    Oh, and a fourth reason — this approach allows the boards to be slovenly and incompetent, as well as malicious, in their handling of the case.

    One attorney described the process to me as follows: “The contested case hearing is a kangaroo court. Expect to lose. The main purpose of the contested case hearing is to do the groundwork for the appeal. The Oregon Court of Appeals is NOT a kangaroo court, but it’s not a do-over: it’s based on the contested case hearing. Also the appeals court accepts all “findings of fact” (so they can’t overturn the lies and distortions of the boards directly), but will throw a case out over findings of law and violations of procedure.”

    The boards are coming under increasing pressure. I have yet to encounter a legislator who has the least respect for them. It’s just a matter of time before the Psychology Board is forced into obeying the law on the exempt practitioner front. I already have a sponsor for legislation to curb the savage incompetence of the boards against their own licensees, as well as to get them off the backs of exempt practitioners. But that won’t happen until the next legislative session, so we’ll want to put our best foot forward about winning cases on our own until then.

  10. I have a MS in Psychology and 5 years of experience in counseling. I’m employed at a great agency in Oregon and have QMHP status. I’m trying to decide whether or not to invest a MASSIVE amount of money and then taking time off (unpaid) to complete a CACREP program so that I can have my license. (My degree doesn’t qualify by the board’s standards). My only motivation to get the license is that I will have greater flexibility and job security. However, doing so would likely cause a tremendous strain on my finances and family. If there is a way to avoid having to do so I definitely would choose to do it. Do you think QMHP jobs will come under attack any time in the future?

    1. Joe,
      I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that the psychology board is making an effort to attack QMHA/QMHP practitioners. The good news is that their efforts are ludicrously incompetent. They can only succeed if no one is paying attention. In the past, no one paid attention, and they could get away with murder. These days things are a bit better, though only a couple of outsiders actually attend the meetings.

      Personally, I don’t like licensure, because a licensing board provides only three services: (1) Issuing licenses, (2) taking licenses away, (3) practices that limit the number of practitioners so the ones who remain can have a full practice and jack up their prices. Me, I wouldn’t accept a counseling license if they paid me, because if you have a license revoked, you aren’t eligible for the counseling exemption and thus have to find a new profession! But they can’t touch you if you’re exempt. (What licensure means to employers may be a different story, but an employer can only fire you from one job, not ban you for life in the whole state.)

  11. Robert left out several key points. Licensing Board’s protect the public!

    I’ve been watching this site for some time and all I can do is shake my head at all these people that follow him… I’ve even requested documents on people mentioned throughout this blog. I have to say, it sounds like the Board’s are doing their job.

    Most of these documents are public record and can be requested from the Board, and are even published on their website! The fact that Robert is essentially saying, “Run around and do whatever you want cause there’s no one to enforce it”, is simply preposterous.

    So what do you do when a therapist or psychologist sleeps with their patient for example? This causes ill reprehensible harm to the patient and potentially a whole family if they’re married. The therapist/counselor/psychologist is in a position of power over that patient. Essentially, “Mind ef-ing” them, not acceptable! That’s where the Board steps in and holds them accountable.

    Furthermore, I certainly would not want someone purporting themselves to be a psychologist or a therapist if they aren’t qualified! The thought of someone counseling my mentally I’ll son, and only to find out they aren’t qualified is sickening to me. I hope this is posted and not screened. I understand this is Robert’s personal blog. But you all have this completely wrong and need to see how things really are.

    -Concerned parent following this closely….

    1. Jeff,

      Thanks for commenting!

      What happens if a therapist sleeps with a patient? I know of one licensed therapist whose insurance company decided to settle out of court for $100,000 for alleged improprieties, ones that fell short of sex. So there’s no barrier to bypassing the licensing board, if any, and suing a therapist for damages in a real court.

      At a disciplinary hearing by a licensing board, on the other hand, the first thing the “judge” tells you is that they’re not a real judge, and that this isn’t a real trial, either. Well, they should know! And the licensing boards can’t award damages to the injured party.

      The idea that clients are weak-minded and helpless is certainly true sometimes. But remember, most such clients are mired in the conventional mental-health system. Exempt practitioners generally don’t accept insurance, so their clients pay out of their own pockets, and out-of-pocket clients expect results, and quickly! Often they’ve been disappointed by run-of-the-mill therapists or avoid seeking them out because they don’t want to be labeled as “disordered.” Also, it’s the people with the highest levels of education who are most likely to seek alternative therapies. These are discerning and demanding clients.


    2. Hi “Concerned parent following this closely”,

      I would wonder how closely you have been following this, you seem to have the information being talked about confused. You say “Furthermore, I certainly would not want someone purporting themselves to be a psychologist or a therapist if they aren’t qualified!” Nowhere on this site does it say to imply you are a psychologist, as a matter of fact this page specifically states the opposite. In no way would it be ethical for someone unlicensed to say that they are. Nor would it be good for their own business to say such a thing. A Hypnotherapist, NLP Practitioner, Skills Trainer, Life Coach, Acupuncturist etc, are exactly what they claim to be. I have never seen one that claims to be a psychologist or even imply its a replacement for a psychologist.

      I would encourage you to open your mind a little and re-evaluate your response. You are simply trying to stir the pot and create controversy. That is actually quite presumptuous of you. Your entire response has nothing to do with what you find on this site.

      I appreciate all the help Robert has given, I find the information quite valuable and helpful. As a parent of 2 children with DX, years of dealing with “psychologists”, plus 20 years experience helping people with DX, I would find this information valuable as both a parent and a professional.

      While reading your response, I get the idea that perhaps you have a deep seeded negative association with the idea that something outside the box could be just as helpful as whats inside the box. I would encourage you to work on that closed mindedness as it could open your world up tremendously and be a valuable asset to both you and your family. Again I find many licensed therapists are quite supportive of alternative practice and can help you in understanding the difference as well as the benefits of both sides. As a matter of fact, a lot of licensed therapists clients clients look into alternative solutions as an option. Often to use in conjunction with the therapy they are receiving.

      I wish you a great day and the best possible outcome for you.

  12. Robert,

    I came across your article and really enjoyed it. Thank you for taking the time to write it!

    Although this apparently seems to be directed towards therapists, I was wondering if Oregon requires licensing for Holistic Health Practitioners, as in botanical medicines, aromatherapy, nutrition, etc.

    I am not yet practicing, however, I am considering pursuing a non-traditional Ph.D. in the Philosophy of Natural Medicine.

    Any insight would be greatly appreciated.


    1. Angela,

      My impression is that the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners is far more aggressive than any other mental-health licensing board in the U.S., so things are likely to be less obnoxious anywhere but here, and, in Oregon, in any field other than psychotherapy.

      While the psychology board’s ability to discern the limits of its own authority is almost nonexistent, it retains enough sense of self-preservation to not cross swords with physicians. So if your services seem more medical than psychotherapeutic, you’re likely to leave most of the craziness behind, and the question is whether what you’re doing is allowed under Oregon law, not whether you will be randomly prosecuted whether what you’re doing is legal or not.

      Oregon requires a license for some things but not others, and offers a license for some things without requiring that you obtain one to practice. I seem recall that practicing as a naturopathic physician requires a license. For the rest, you’ll have to look it up.

      An advanced degree is useful in the same way that garlic repels vampires: the psychology board, in particular, practically bows down and worships advanced degrees. But I doubt it’s worth anyone’s time to do anything just to please the psychology board, because it can’t be done: they’re too erratic.

  13. Hi Robert, thanks so much for this website. I recently graduated from an accredited school and so can work for the Oregon LPC. However I want to start a practice counseling individuals on rehabilitation… Is there any necessity to have a license in rehabilitation or can I is the the same “education exemption” likely applicable here as well. Thanks for you thoughts.

    1. Nathan,

      Thanks for writing! The consensus interpretation of the exemption is that it exempts from licensing requirements everything that mental health counselors might do as part of their professionals services, but not to the point of creating a back door into other licensed professions. For example, the fact that “therapeutic touch” exists in counseling isn’t something you can safely inflate into an excuse to be an unlicensed massage therapist or surgeon!

      A brief glance told me that rehabilitation counseling is counseling, and would be covered by the counseling exemption unless there’s a separate rehabilitation counseling licensing board. Which there isn’t, as far as I can tell. (In Oregon, anyway.)


  14. Aloha Robert! I am from Oregon but moved earlier this year to Hawaii and am interested in becoming a life coach, counselor, or nutritionist. Do you know how/where I can find out if I need a license for any of those occupations here in Hawaii?


  15. Thanks so much Robert for all the work you put into this post. My wife and I recently relocated to Portland and both of us are planning to practice as unlicensed counselors here. It’s really important to us to do it legally and ethically while still keeping our hides covered around the legality of how to language our work. I was pretty confused and disheartened after wading through the documents on the OBPE site, so finding your site has been a great relief. Big gratitude to you!

  16. EXCELLENT info – thank you! My question involves the title of “Hypnotherapist.” When I took my hypnosis training, we were strongly discouraged from using the term “therapist” unless we were already licensed, legal “therapists” of some sort. I realize here in OR, after reading this post, that “therapist” is kind of hard to define. That said, should one, who has taken a certification course to practice hypnosis, but who is not otherwise a “therapist”, legally call themselves a hypnotherapist, or should they stick with “hypnotist” (Which sounds a little hokey, IMO.) Thanks! Just setting up my practice and would like to do it right.

    1. LB,

      Here in Oregon, the word “therapist” has no legal meaning, as far as I can tell. Neither does “hypnotist” or “hypnotherapist.” Or “mesmerist,” for that matter. Because of the random persecutions of the Psychology Board, people have been trying to come up with the best way to avoid their attention. Can’t be done: these guys are not consistent and they don’t stay within the bounds of the law. There’s no pleasing them. But as an exempt practitioner, you’re not under the OBPE’s jurisdiction unless you call yourself a “psychologist” or “psychotherapist.” (There might be a few other protected words, but “therapist” sure isn’t one of them.)

      I recommend that people think of being hassled by malicious or incompetent licensing boards as a real (but rare) cost of doing business, like needing a new transmission. That is, assume that, once in a blue moon, you’ll be spending thousands of dollars unexpectedly on lawyers.

    2. LB, as far as I can tell, Oregon places no restriction on the use of the words “therapist,” “hypnotherapist,” or “counselor.” But don’t call yourself a “licensed professional counselor” or a “psychologist.” These terms are reserved for licensees. Same for “barber,” for that matter.

      Now, the problem with the boards is not whether what you’re doing is legal or not. They can’t seem to tell the difference. For example, the Psychology board is absolutely convinced that Oregon has a specific exemption for hypnotherapy, which it doesn’t. They take this nonexistent exemption far more seriously than they took the 100% real counseling exemption.

      The main thing is to realize that the boards are nutty as fruitcakes, but have occasional lucid intervals. This makes them unpredictable. It’s pointless trying to please them: they can’t tell legal or illegal, or right from wrong, and they totally inconsistent. I assume that every once in a while some bureaucrat will make my life difficult, and my lawyer and I will fight them tooth and nail until we win, or forever, whichever comes first.

      These boards have no power of injunction, so they can’t actually shut you down. You end up wrangling for years over a fine in the $250-$10,000 range. If you have to pay, set up a payment plan with the Oregon Department of Revenue. I’ve heard, but don’t know for sure, that one guy set up a $20 per month payment plan for a $10,000 fine.

      Board actions are just nuisance suits if you aren’t one of their licensees. These idiot boards can take a licensee’s whole livelihood away, and the licensees tend to get a nasty case of PTSD from the experience, even if they win. So it pays to (a) never become a licensee, and (b) if they try to slap you around anyway, hit back. They’re not the boss of you.

  17. I am currently licensed in California as a Clinical Psychologist. I am retired. I have 14 license/certifications in various specialties all with current status, as well as, an Oregon CDC III certificate. I have 11 degrees with 4 Masters degrees. I have tried to establish whether I can practice “counseling” in Oregon in a rural area? My phone 541-808-4922.

    1. Steve,

      Good question!

      There is apparently a 24-month exemption for people with out-of-state psychologist credentials. I don’t know whether this is automatic or requires an application. I believe it puts you under the thumb of the OBPE, though.

      The counseling exemption is automatic: it applies to anyone who does not meet the current requirements for a Licensed Professional Counselor in Oregon. As far as I can tell, you don’t meet the requirements unless they look at your paperwork and say you meet them, so if you fail to apply for a counseling license, you’re under the exemption.

      My understanding is that the counseling board is somewhat less incompetent than the psychology board, but mostly just to the extent that they don’t prosecute people who are outside their jurisdiction.

      Having your services covered by insurance is another story, but if you’re covered with a CADC III certification, you’ve got that much.

      I recommend Mike Flinn for legal advice on licensure and the exemption. His Web site doesn’t emphasize this aspect of his practice, but he’s done a number of recent cases involving it.

      Good luck!


    2. Steve,

      I’ll split your question into two parts: (1) Can you practice counseling? and (2) Can you get paid?

      As far as I can tell, “the practice of counseling” in Oregon includes everything in “the practice of psychology,” and more. The only thing a licensed psychologist can do that a counselor can’t is to call himself a “psychologist.”

      It’s possible that if you mention your PsyD degree on your Web site, business cards, etc., that brings you within the scope of their orbit as far as the law is concerned. If so, you’d want to drop them.

      Anyone in Oregon can practice counseling without a license if they don’t qualify for a counseling license. As I understand it, “qualifying” is determined by the Counseling Board, and if you don’t apply for a licensed, they can’t determine that you’re qualified, so you aren’t.

      As far as getting paid, we’re mostly out-of-pocket only. Insurance doesn’t typically pay exempt counselors. As far as I know, they aren’t forbidden to, but I don’t know anyone who has gotten approved.

      I have very little knowledge of the formal mental-health system and reimbursement, so I don’t know how you’d best plug yourself in. I suppose the QMHP label provides a useful, though cut-rate, umbrella if you were to work under some kind of organization.

      All those degrees ought to be enough to get people to pay at least a little attention, treating you as a professional rather than a mustache-twirling villain.

  18. Hello, thanks for the information.
    But just want to know is there any way I can massage people without a license by calling it something else?
    what could I call it legally?
    this would be on the up and up no sexual favors.
    I tried to go to massage school years ago but couldn’t finish because of some learning limitations, but I have the talent.
    Can I still make money some how with this?

    1. Tina — The law varies from state to state, and a willingness to not violate the law when protecting their turf varies from board to board.

      In Oregon, some laws require that you have a license to use a particular title, such as “Licensed Professional Counselor,” but anyone can do counseling. Other laws require that you have a license to do the actual work. You can’t call yourself a “hair engineer” instead of “barber” and cut hair.

      If you look at Oregon’s statutes for massage therapy, you’re not “practicing massage” unless you receive a fee. The more interesting exemptions are in section 687.031. I like 687.031(1)(h) through 687.031(1)(j). These provide exemptions for “psychotherapy and counseling modalities that use physical techniques,” reflexology, or … practically anything else, with some restrictions, if covered by mumbo-jumbo about “balance in the nervous system,” “energy,” etc.

      I think that everyone knows that massage, though treated by the statutes as if it’s mostly about pummeling the right muscles, is mostly about other things that don’t fit neatly into the “massage” category. Everything from acceptance and attention from a fellow human being through mesmerism (nonverbal hypnosis) and many other things.

      I think that, with this exemption, you’d want to abandon the niche of being just another massage therapist and work in other stuff. A lot of the related modalities are quite real (though usually taught through a haze of gibberish). But the alternative modalities are mostly far more focused and affordable than ones that require licenses. Many are more practical, too. (You can really stick it to students who are studying for licensure, and a clinician protected by a license doesn’t have to be as good as an independent.) Try ’em out with an optimistic heart and double down on the stuff that works for you.

      Good luck!

  19. Hi Robert-
    I appreciate your site! Lots of solid info.
    I have a question: I have my MSEd/Mental Health Counseling degree and am a QMHP in Oregon, also I’m able to sign up for an internship for my LPC, however I am quite hesitant to do that. I want to work with clients and I want to be sure I do not use any type of designation or wording on my site that would create issues. Is using the terms “counseling” or “therapy” advisable, or should I stick with more generic terms like “skills training”, or “life enhancement” (something like that)?

  20. I am a registered intern in Oregon, but I am also 72 years old and it will take forever to get my hours, plus the cost is coming out of my pocket for supervision. Can I bail out on the licensing process at this point and practice on my own as unlicensed. I understand the terminology stuff.

  21. Hello……..I am a licensed professional counselor and a licensed marriage and family therapist in the state of Oregon. A woman filed a complaint against me and the last 2 years have been a chamber of horrors. I was unable to receive due process and have been publicly shamed by the Stipulated Order being written and posted on the internet without my knowledge. I was never given the opportunity to tell my side of the story. The woman has now gone on to have an attorney send a demand letter asking for $35,000 in damages. I have been dropped from insurance panels due to the Stipulate Order. I was required to do a year of supervision which I embraced but was never told I was would be considered ‘on probation’ while doing so. I was reported to the National Practitioners Date Base and the information posted about me is inaccurate. I have contacted the Governor without success. I am appalled and stunned that I was not prepared in my educational program nor are the members of my profession greatly opposing the process the Board uses. A licensee has NO RIGHTS. NONE. In my effort to find out what legislature reps to contact I came upon this forum. It sounds fabulous. I would appreciate any guidance you can provide.


    Kathy Hardie-Williams, M.Ed, MS, NCC, LPC, LMFT

    1. Kathy,

      Sorry to hear about your troubles! Yes, the boards are very bad. Everyone who took Civics in High School has trouble believing that such things can exist. But they do. In the old days, very few professions were licensed (doctors and lawyers), and it was assumed that these eggheads knew what they were signing up for. But licensing has spread like a cancer, and has metastasized to ordinary people. No one bothers to let the new crop of students understand that they’re signing away all their rights when they apply for a license.

      I had the advantage of growing up in a family where we were taught that “gigs don’t last” and that “government is just as crooked as the voters will let it be, which means that the forgotten corners of government are very crooked indeed.” This doesn’t seem to be part of the usual educational package!

      With regards to being sued by an ex-client in civil court: well, at least you have your full set of rights in a civil suit, which helps. A lot.

      Yes, I don’t think most people realize that the licensed professions operate a National Blacklist of everyone who’s had fakey disciplinary procedures against them. Once you’ve been blacklisted, it’s hard to get a license somewhere else, and, as you’ve found out, the insurance companies may not be so keen on you, either.

      If you don’t take insurance, your license is much less valuable, and you may find it more profitable to go the exempt route, with all your clients paying out of pocket. Presumably, if you fail to submit CEU’s to the board, you will no longer meet the educational qualifications of licensure and then can do what you like. You’d want to do this meticulously, though. If you do that route, I’d recommend discussing it with a lawyer. “Mike Flinn in Corvallis is probably as knowledgeable as they come.

      Good luck!

  22. Hello. Thank you for your amazing site. I want to help people who have labels- like victim, bipolar or ex-con find a way to live beyond those labels. I dont want to treat those labels but help people find there way out from under them. This was my journey and I have some education in this area (I used to be a chemical dependancy therapist). I am wondering if I can call myself a Life Coach without certification also? Thank you.

    1. Dannie,

      Thanks for writing! Here in Oregon, you can call yourself a life coach or a counselor (or an auto mechanic, programmer, farmer, or preacher) whether you have credentials or not. What the rules are in other states, I’m not certain.

      In most states, no one can be bothered to go after practitioners who aren’t (a) doing things reserved for physicians, like prescribing drugs or cutting you open, or (b) using outright fraud to misrepresent themselves. So you’d want to find out what the stupid rules are in your state, such as “an optometrist can call himself ‘Doctor,’ but a PhD can’t, unless he’s also a licensed psychologist.” This will protect you from technical violations of local law.

      Here in Oregon, the issue has been the the Psychology Board (and to a lesser degree, the other boards) don’t let little things like legality get in their way. If they think they can string somebody up on trumped-up charges, they will. So we have to push back pretty often to keep them acceptably corrupt.

  23. Thank you for this article and information. I am uncertain if I meet the guidelines for exemption due to the fact that I hold a Masters Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from an accredited institution. I was at one point on the path to licensure 10 years ago and working as a therapist but currently do not have the hours of supervision required for the license. I do not wish to pursue it at this point, but want to use the title counselor or MFT after my name (just not licensed) or more importantly use the words “treat” and “Sexual Dysfunctions” as I specialize in sexual disorders and intimacy disorders. Is this possible? I definitely want to be legal and ethical in how I represent myself. Thank you!

  24. I was just informed that my Master’s degree from Arizona is only for 36 credits and the LPC board for Oregon requires 60 credits. Can I still open my own practice eventually, work with insurance companies etc. or do I need to be licensed to do so? Thanks!

    1. As I understand it, if you don’t meet the requirements for licensure, you’re exempt. As far as I know, insurance companies only pay licensed professionals, though. All your clients would have to pay out of their own pockets.

  25. Dear Robert,
    In Sept 2019, last month I had to pay out $10K to the OR Board of Psychology when they piggybacked themselves to my RN license issue where I had to pay $2500 to OR Board of Nursing.
    The guilt has haunted me until I found your website today. I am a bit unclear about calling oneself a doctor, I do and explained to the OBOP it is a doctorate in religious studies. How careful need I have to be and where can I read more about the designation?

    1. Alicia,

      The way the law works (not that it matters), you don’t get to call yourself “doctor” just because you have a doctorate. Heck, if you’re an optometrist, you get to call yourself “doctor” with a bachelor’s degree! Ain’t life grand?

      So unless you’re on the list of people who get to call themselves “doctor” professionally, don’t.

      Of course, the Oregon Psychology Board doesn’t let little things like rationality or the law get in their way. Their hyperactivity is exceeded only by their incompetence. Consider them to be a random hazard, exactly like being hit by a drunk driver. Do the best you can and you probably won’t end up as a hood ornament for the second time, but you never can tell for sure. But I’d be more careful of the drunk drivers, since the worst the Board can do is fine you.

  26. The Board of Psychology just like Oregon legislators has no oversight. They are destroying practioners lives with a free reign. I paid them a $10K fine because as an RN & MH Counselor I used my Dr & PhD (in Religious Studies) signature. It was not until a year later that I found the archaic & obscure regulation.
    How would a person know this? Whose duty is it to inform any practitioner in OR? It is utterly nefarious and sneaky.

  27. Robert, I will never be a healthcare professional again so I can and do call myself Doctor. Having my Doctorate in Religious Studies also includes being a Chaplain.
    The regulation about not being called “dr” is only if one is a healthcare professional.
    As an psychiatric RN & RN in general for 40 years I never realized that all licensing boards are mere watchdogs…they do not help nor side with nurses, et al. If I had known this I never would have been licensed. So much for farcical “mission statements.”

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