TRICARE Increases Access to Qualified Mental Health Counselors

By TRICARE
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Falls Church, Va., July 18, 2014 - The TRICARE mental health benefit just got bigger. Beneficiaries can now choose between two qualified mental health counselor types: independently practicing TRICARE Certified Mental Health Counselors (TCMHC) and Supervised Mental Health Counselors (SMHC).

TRICARE will authorize TCMHCs as independent providers who meet specific qualification criteria. They must have a master's degree from a mental health counseling program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP) and pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) by Jan. 1, 2017. TCMHCs can independently treat TRICARE beneficiaries as well as oversee SMHCs. SMHCs will continue to practice under the referral and supervision of TRICARE-authorized physicians while getting the required 3,000 hours of post-master's clinical practice to become a TCMHC.

Some beneficiaries may worry they won't be able to continue seeing their current mental health care provider under this new guidance. "This does not have to be a concern," says Patricia G. Moseley, Ph.D., military child and family behavioral health senior policy analyst at the Defense Health Agency. "Providers have an extended time period to gain the necessary credentials to become authorized for independent practice under TRICARE, if they aren't already. This rule gives providers more time to meet the requirements and allows beneficiaries to keep their current Supervised Mental Health Counselors."

The Defense Health Agency is tasked with making military medicine stronger, better and more relevant for the future. This change moves us one step closer to that goal, ensuring the availability of well-qualified, independent providers for our beneficiaries. For more information about TRICARE mental health coverage, visit www.tricare.mil/mentalhealth.