New Hampshire advocacy success gains independent governing board

New structure ensures more representation and more appropriate regulation for psychologists

By State Advocacy staff

July 30, 2012—After months of advocacy efforts, the New Hampshire Psychological Association (NHPA) succeeded in gaining a law to establish an independent regulatory board for psychology. Prior to passage of the bill, which was signed by Governor John Lynch on June 19, New Hampshire was one of only two states in the country with an omnibus board governing all mental health professionals.

“Achieving this goal is huge for the profession of psychology in New Hampshire,” says NHPA Executive Director Kathryn E. Saylor, PsyD. “The new law provides psychologists with a governance board that is more appropriate for the profession, with practice rules crafted solely for psychology.”

Under the prior omnibus board structure, psychologists had one representative on a board that combined oversight of doctoral-level psychologists with that of social workers, marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors, and pastoral counselors, an approach that Saylor and NHPA felt was not in the best interest of psychologists or the field of psychology in New Hampshire.

The new structure ensures that psychologists in the state are regulated by members of the same discipline with similar training and experiences, who are familiar with psychologists’ rules of ethics. “With more representation, psychological practice is more appropriately regulated, which is vitally important to psychologists, the profession, and our clients,” says Saylor.

Other states such as California have attempted to combine psychology boards with other professions, citing New Hampshire’s omnibus board as a successful example. Saylor believes removing New Hampshire’s structure as an example will decrease the strength of arguments for this type of change in the future.

Assisted by two legislative grants from the APA Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice (CAPP) in 2010 and 2011, NHPA was able to pursue a comprehensive advocacy effort that included professional lobbying services and advocacy by individual psychologists.

The state association engaged in concentrated marketing and educational campaigns aimed at all psychologists in the state, providing them with information and education on the legislative process and making it easier for individual psychologists to approach their legislators.

The newly-created independent board of psychologists will be composed of five licensed psychologists and three public members appointed to a three-year term by the governor.

History of the fight

In the mid-1980s with the introduction of managed care in New Hampshire, psychologists were required to become licensed rather than credentialed. Psychologists could only become licensed if they allowed social workers to be included under the Board of Psychology. In the ensuing years, marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors and pastoral counselors all came under the omnibus Board as well, which then came to be known as the Board of Mental Health Practice (BMHP).

In 2010, CAPP awarded NHPA a legislative grant to assist with funding to support an initiative to create an independent regulatory board for psychology. NHPA built solid relationships with several key legislators in the state and gained the support of a prominent state Representative who introduced HB476, the bill establishing an independent board of psychologists, to the New Hampshire House in January 2011.

In 2011, NHPA applied for and received a second CAPP grant while at a critical juncture in the association’s legislative effort. As the bill stalled for several months, NHPA worked closely with subcommittee members to underscore the merits of the bill and the importance of creating an independent regulatory board that would provide more appropriate regulation for psychologists and better protection for the public.

While the bill remained stalled in the House, NHPA introduced the bill in the Senate in January 2012 where it met with rapid success. The new bill was then referred back to the House where it passed by a wide margin. On May 28 the bill was sent to Governor Lynch for final approval.

According to Saylor, psychologists in New Hampshire overwhelmingly supported the legislative initiative. “NHPA is sincerely grateful for the hard work and dedication by psychologists in New Hampshire to ensure the success of this initiative.”