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“My spouse and I went to a person who I think was a marriage counselor, but we never asked to see his license, qualifications or degree. Is he still considered a "therapist, " so that what I told him cannot be brought up in our divorce?”
First, you must determine if your marriage counselor is legally a "therapist" in Illinois.
A "therapist” is defined under section 2 of the MHDDCA as a psychiatrist, physician, psychologist, social worker, or nurse providing mental health or developmental disabilities services or any other person not prohibited by law from providing such services or from holding himself out as a therapist if the recipient reasonably believes that such person is permitted to do so. A Therapist includes any successor of the therapist.
The Definition of "therapist" includes the following:
A social worker; and
A nurse providing mental health or developmental difficulties service.
All of the above are professionals licensed by the state of Illinois in his or her particular field, and by definition each is a "therapist" and is certainly qualified to do marital counseling. Likewise, attorneys at law, members of the clergy, those who work for a governmental agency, and those who work for a not-for-profit corporation such as Catholic Charities can be marriage counselors and therefore "therapists."
However, the definition of "therapist" also includes any other person not prohibited by law from providing such services, so long as you reasonably believe that the person is permitted to do so.
There are several ways to assure that your "marriage counselor" is not prohibited by law, and is therefore not a "therapist" under the MHDDCA.
You cannot go wrong if you:
Select one of the first five categories list above: a physician, a psychologist, etc.
Choose an attorney at law, a member of the clergy, a mental health worker for the state of Illinois who has training in marriage counseling, or a trained marriage counselor from a not-for-profit corporation such as Catholic Charities.
Select a marriage counselor who is a "licensed marriage and family therapist." The State of Illinois issues licenses to marriage and family counselors through the Illinois Department of Registration and Education. Additionally, you can also research what it takes to be licensed in Illinois. Only a person who is a "licensed marriage and family therapist" or an "associate licensed marriage and family therapist" can call themselves one. To find a "licensed marriage and family therapist,” please visit the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Illinois division website.
Other people claiming to be "marriage counselors" may or may not qualify as a "therapist" so that what you are telling that person is "privileged information." Here is where it gets tricky. Your honest belief that he or she is a therapist is what counts, but your belief must be reasonable. If you find a marriage counselor whose office is in the backseat of a car, odds are he or she may not fall under the definition of a "therapist.”
If, during counseling, you are going to discuss subjects that you do not want your spouse to bring up in a future child custody case or divorce case, make sure you select a traditional "therapist," as listed above in paragraphs 1 through 4.
However, there are still exceptions in which you need to know. Stay tuned for more.
If you have concerns regarding marriage counseling in Illinois, or would like to speak with an experienced DuPage County divorce lawyer, please call 630-920-8855 to schedule your free, confidential consultation. We are here to help you today.