Van De Kamp, 062884 CAAGO, AGO 83-810

Docket Nº:AGO 83-810
Case Date:June 28, 1984
Court:California
 
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JOHN K. VAN DE KAMP Attorney General
RONALD M. WEISKOPF Deputy Attorney General
AGO 83-810
No. 83-810
California Attorney General Opinion
Office of the Attorney General State of California
June 28, 1984
         THE HONORABLE PAUL B. CARPENTER, MEMBER OF THE CALIFORNIA SENATE, has requested an opinion on the following question:          Do marriage, family and child counselors have the statutory authority to construct, administer and interpret psychological tests?          CONCLUSION          Marriage, family and child counselors have the statutory authority to construct, administer and interpret "psychological tests" but to do so only within the course of their practice, when within their field or fields of competence as established by education, training, and experience, and when such could and would be used to examine an interpersonal relationship between spouses or members of a family for the purpose of achieving more adequate, satisfying and productive marriage and family adjustments.          ANALYSIS          Marriage, family and child counselors are licensed by the Board of Behavioral Sciences pursuant to Business and Professions Code division 2, chapter 13, section 4980 et seq. (formerly div. 7, pt. 3, ch. 4, § 17800 et seq.), as specialists in marital and family dysfunction. As such they are "one of a number of trained [licentiates] who play a part in the large, and, in the main, uncharted area of mental and emotional functioning of individuals and groups." (49 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 104, 109 (1967).)[1] We are asked herein whether those licentiates may construct, administer and interpret "psychological tests."          Unfortunately we have neither been provided with a definition of the term "psychological tests" nor particular examples which the requester might have in mind. Since the question is not confined to particular tests our answer must be broad enough to cover all "psychological tests" as they may be conceived. Nevertheless we assume that the concern herein is with the use by a marriage counselor of those tests of mental abilities, aptitudes, interests, attitudes, personality characteristics, emotions and motivations spoken of in section 2903 of the Psychology Licensing Law, post, under circumstances which would constitute the rendering of psychological services and thus constitute the practice of psychology as it is defined in that section.2 Asked whether marriage counselors might use (i.e., construct, administer, and interpret) them incident to their practice we will conclude, upon review of the pertinent statutory provisions of the Psychology Licensing Law (Bus. & Prof. Code, ch. 6.6, § 2900 et seq.) and the Marriage, Family and Child Counselors Law (id., ch. 13, § 4980 et seq.), that marriage counselors do possess the requisite statutory authority to do so but only where a test would be useful and used in the course of their marriage counseling practice to examine an interpersonal relationship for the purpose of achieving more adequate, satisfying and productive marriage and family adjustments.3          Section 2903 of the Psychology Licensing Law (Bus. & Prof. Code, ch. 6.6, § 2900 et seq.) declares it illegal for any person "to engage in the practice of psychology . . . without a license granted under [it], except as otherwise provided [therein]." The section then defines "the practice of psychology" and refines it as follows:
"The practice of psychology is defined as rendering or offering to render for a fee to individuals, groups, organizations or the public any psychological service involving the application of psychological principles, methods, and procedures of understanding, predicting, and influencing behavior, such as the principles pertaining to learning, perception, motivation, emotions, and interpersonal relationships; and the methods and procedures of interviewing, counseling, psychotherapy, behavior modification, and hypnosis; and of constructing, administering, and interpreting tests of mental abilities, aptitudes, interests, attitudes, personality characteristics, emotions, and motivations. "The application of such principles and methods includes, but is not restricted to: diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and amelioration of psychological problems and emotional and mental disorders of individuals and groups. "Psychotherapy within the meaning of this chapter means the use of psychological methods in a professional relationship to assist a person or persons to acquire greater human effectiveness or to modify feelings, conditions, attitudes and behavior which are emotionally, intellectually, or socially ineffectual or maladjustive." (Emphases added; § 2903.)
         Section 2903 is modified, however, by section 2908 of the Psychology Licensing Law which provides that nothing therein:
". . . shall be construed to prevent qualified members of other recognized professional groups licensed to practice in the State of California, such as, but not limited to, physicians, clinical social workers, educational psychologists, [or] marriage, family and child counselors, . . . from doing work of a psychological nature consistent with the laws governing their respective professions, provided they do not hold themselves out to the public by any title or description of services incorporating the words 'psychological,' 'psychologist,' 'psychology,' 'psychometrist,' 'psychometrics,' or, 'psychometry' or that they do not state or imply that they are licensed to practice psychology . . . ." (Emphases added.)
(§ 2908, formerly § 2903.5 (Stats. 1957, ch. 2320, p. 4038, § 1), § 2934 (Stats. 1957, ch. 2320, p. 4040, § 1), § 2935 (Stats. 1957, ch. 2320, p. 4041, § 1), amended by Stats. 1959, ch. 297, p. 2206, § 1; see also §§ 2909 (psychological activities by salaried employees of organizations), 2910 (same, by salaried employees of academic institutions, public schools or government agencies), 2911 (activities by graduate students, psychological interns and psychological trainees), 2912 (out-of-state practitioners), and 2913 (psychological assistants).)          With the enactment of the Marriage, Family and Child Counseling Law ("MFCCL") (Stats. 1963, ch. 1823, p. 3759, § 1, as amended by Stats. 1965, ch. 1506, p. 3539, § 1; Stats. 1969, ch. 298, p. 666, § 5; Stats. 1970, ch. 1310, p. 2436, § .1; Stats. 1975, ch. 198, p. 572, § 1; Stats. 1977, ch. 1244, p. 4215, § 1), the Legislature recognized marriage counseling as a licentiable discipline. Section 4980.02 (formerly § 17800.2) defines the practice as follows:
"For the purposes of this chapter, the practice of marriage, family and child counseling shall mean that service performed with individuals, couples, or groups wherein interpersonal relationships between spouses or members of a family are examined for the purpose of
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