CAMLAW: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog

Medical licensing and non-licensed healers

Vermont has an interesting way of legally handling non-licensed healers and other complementary and alternative medicine practitioners.

In its medical licensing statute, Vermont provides:

26 VT s. 1312 - The provisions of this chapter shall apply to persons professing and attempting to cure disease by means of "faith cure," "mind healing," or "laying on of hands," but shall not apply to persons who merely practice the religious tenets of their church without pretending a knowledge of medicine or surgery.

So this implies that energy healers, such as Reiki practitioners, could run afoul of the prohibition against unlicensed practice of medicine.

I have written extensively elsewhere on this issue of application of medical licensing laws to non-licensed energy healers. Sometimes saying "assessing" instead of "diagnosing," and "running energy" instead of "treating," and "balancing chakras" instead of "curing,"
just isn't enough.

But Vermont puts an exception in its statute on psychotherapy:

s. 4085(c) The prohibitions of this chapter shall not apply to practices in the fields of: (1) Body work education and healing, including massage therapy, stress reduction, physical fitness or yoga. (2) Energy-related therapy, including kinesiology, crystology and sound therapy. (3) Psychic reading and healing arts, including astrology, channeling and palmistry... (d) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections (a), (b) and (c) of this section, the provisions of this chapter shall apply to any person entered on the roster as a nonlicensed and noncertified psychotherapist under this chapter.

So here we have massage therapy as an exemption to the unauthorized practice of psychology (the only other statutory reference to massage therapy is as part of the scope of practice of acupuncture). But psychic reading, astrology and channeling are also included in the exemption.

Here is some more law:

LOOK AT Chapter 78 - roster of psychotherapists who are unlicensed and uncertified.

4081: It is the intent of this chapter

(3) That the term psychotherapy as used in this chapter be narrowly interpreted to ensure that only those persons who provide services that clearly fall within the definition of psychotherapy are subject to the provisions of this chapter.

3) "Psychotherapist who is nonlicensed and noncertified" means a person who practices psychotherapy and is neither a licensed psychologist, clinical social worker or mental health counselor, nor a certified marriage and family therapist or a psychoanalyst

4) "Psychotherapy" means the provision of treatment, diagnosis, evaluation or counseling services to individuals or groups, for a consideration, for the purpose of alleviating mental disorders. "Psychotherapy" involves the application of therapeutic techniques to understand unconscious or conscious motivation, resolve emotional, relationship or attitudinal conflicts, or modify behavior which interferes with effective emotional, social or mental functioning. "Psychotherapy" follows a systematic procedure of psychotherapeutic intervention which takes place on a regular basis over a period of time, or, in the case of evaluation and brief psychotherapies, in a single or limited number of interventions. If a person is employed by or under contract with the agency of human services, this definition does not apply to persons with less than a master's degree, to persons providing life skills training or instruction, such as learning to make friends, to handle social situations, to do laundry and to develop community awareness, or interactions of employees or contracted individuals with clients whose job description or contract specifications do not specifically mention "psychotherapy" as a job responsibility or duty.

5) "Roster" means the list of psychotherapists who are nonlicensed and noncertified that is maintained by the office of professional regulation in the office of the secretary of state.

a) No person shall practice psychotherapy unless the person is entered on the roster of psychotherapists who are nonlicensed and noncertified
b) A person entered on the roster shall not use the terms certified, clinical, licensed, registered or state-approved, or any other term that would give the impression that the psychotherapist or the service which is being provided is recommended or approved by the state based solely on inclusion on the roster.

(a) A psychotherapist who is nonlicensed and noncertified shall apply for entry on the roster. Applications shall be made on the form provided by the director, shall contain such information and professional data as the director may require, and shall be accompanied by payment of the specified fee.
(b) A psychotherapist who is nonlicensed and noncertified shall apply for entry on the roster. Applications shall be made on the form provided by the director, shall contain such information and professional data as the director may require, and shall be accompanied by payment of the specified fee.

The board shall adopt rules requiring persons entered on the roster to disclose to each client the psychotherapist's professional qualifications and experience, those actions that constitute unprofessional conduct, and the method for filing a complaint or making a consumer inquiry, and provisions relating to the manner in which the information shall be displayed and signed by both the rostered psychotherapist and the client. The rules may include provisions for applying or modifying these requirements in cases involving institutionalized clients, minors and adults under the supervision of a guardian.

Also notice:

4093 Grounds for discipline include: Unauthorized use of a protected title in professional activity

3005 (psychologists) provides as an exemption "rostered psychotherapists or licensed educators when performing their duties consistent with the accepted standards of their respective professions."

Healers should probably look into getting themselves onto the Roster. Surprisingly, perhaps, it is the statutory licensing of psychology and not medicine, that provides the key to some form of legally protected practice for energy healers in Vermont.

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Michael H. Cohen, Esq.; 468 North Camden Dr. | Beverly Hills, California 90210 | 310-844-3173