A Recent Missouri Appellate Decision Denies Licensing Reciprocity

A 2013 appellate decision issued by the Missouri Court of Appeals examined whether a marital and family therapist licensed in Kansas should receive a license without first taking an examination in Missouri. The case highlights the differences between the Missouri and Kansas requirements for becoming a licensed marital and family therapist in either state. The case also discusses the procedural mechanisms employed in this case. The applicant lost her appeal. Missouri and Kansas professional licensing attorney Danielle Sanger discusses the licensing requirements of each state as well as the procedural problem the applicant faced. Attorney Sanger is an experienced professional licensing attorney practicing in Missouri and Kansas.

In the instant case, the Missouri State Committee of Marital and Family Therapists (“the Committee”) refused to issue a license to a holder of a Kansas marital and family therapist. The therapist applied to become a Missouri marital and family therapist without taking an examination in Missouri. In Missouri, the Committee will grant a license to an applicant upon satisfying statutorily required conditions. The statute establishes the minimum formal educational requirements such as a master’s degree or doctorate, possess 24 months of post-graduate clinical work, obtain three semester hours of course work in diagnostic systems, and obtain a passing score on the exam.

Missouri has one exception to the examination requirement. A therapist licensed in another state may become licensed in Missouri if all conditions precedent are satisfied.  This is known as “reciprocity.” First, the Committee must be satisfied that the licensing qualifications in the other state are substantially similar to Missouri’s requirements. Second, the applicant must have a current license in the other state. Finally, the applicant must agree to an examination of any disciplinary record of the therapist.

In this case, the Committee denied the application for licensure because the applicant did not take an exam in Missouri. The applicant appealed the decision to the Administrative Hearings Commission (“AHC”). The applicant and the Committee both moved the hearing commissioner to rule in their favor in summary fashion. The facts of the case, the parties believed, were not in dispute. A summary decision is an efficient means to resolve a claim before the AHC, as long as the facts are undisputed. The AHC granted summary decision in the applicant’s favor, ruling that Kansas’ and Missouri’s licensing requirements were substantially similar. The Committee appealed. A court can review the AHC’s decision and will not overturn it unless the decision is incorrect as a matter of law. In other words, a summary decision will be overturned when the AHC is incorrect applying the law to the undisputed facts.

The appeals court ruled that the AHC was wrong a matter of law and overturned their decision. The appeals court performed a thorough analysis of Kansas marital and family therapist licensing requirements and contrasted those with Missouri’s requirements. The appeals court found that Kansas licensing scheme for the particular license the applicant held in Kansas was not sufficiently rigorous to favorably compare to Missouri’s licensing requirements.  Interestingly, Kansas has two designations of marital and family therapists. One designation is a clinical marital and family therapist while the other is known simply as a marital and family therapist, without the clinical designation. The applicant, in this case, did not obtain the clinical designation. Consequently, Kansas law required the applicant to practice under the license of a clinical marital and family therapist or other medical professional permitted to diagnose and treat mental health disorders.

The appeals court held that there exist substantial differences between Missouri and Kansas licensing requirements and therefore the applicant was not entitled to reciprocity. The court pointed out that Kansas’ educational requirements were much less stringent than Missouri’s. Also, the court noted that Missouri requires post-graduate work, whereas Kansas does not. Thus, the applicant failed to meet her burden of proving she qualified for reciprocity.

For Further Information

Missouri and Kansas Professional Licensing Attorney Danielle Sanger is an ardent advocate for professional licensees. Call Attorney Sanger today at 785-979-4353 to schedule your free, no obligation consultation.