Proper Use and Display of Credentials
Those letters displayed after your name on your business card, websites, email signature, reports, clinical records and other documents to which you sign your name, serve a significant purpose. They indicate to the reader that you have a level of education and/or a qualification in a discipline or profession. They verify that you have earned that qualification through means of education and training. Some credentials indicate more than minimum standards for a discipline, ie; the MLADC is an advanced standard for the discipline of SUD counseling. Credentials let others know that you meet standards for a discipline as governed by a credentialing body or credentialing board.
Our use of credentials informs the public we are qualified to perform a particular scope of work. It also lets the public know there is a credentialing body or licensing board to whom we are accountable and to whom they can seek relief or assistance if they believe they are being mistreated or harmed.
The primary purpose of a licensing board is to ensure public safety by upholding the statutory requirements and administrative rules that govern professional practice. Scope of practice and boundaries of competence are specific to each provider– standards of practice are specific to a field of practice as a profession. The credentials issued by that board are serious. They matter. In fact, misrepresenting one’s credentials issued by that board or implying that one holds a credential or it’s equivalent is against the law in New Hampshire and can result in conviction for a class A misdemeanor.
For NH substance use counselors it states in NH Statute Section 330-C:31 (II): It shall be unlawful for any person or entity to: Represent oneself in any way or use, in connection with the individual’s name, any designation tending to imply licensure as an alcohol and drug counselor or clinical supervisor or certification as a recovery support worker unless so licensed or certified.
For other mental health professionals it states in NH Statute Section 330-A:23 (I) . . . it shall be unlawful for any person to be engaged in mental health practice unless that person is licensed by the board, working as a candidate under the direct supervision of a person licensed by the board . . . . The license or the registration of such person shall be current and valid. It shall be unlawful for any person to practice as or to refer to oneself as a pastoral psychotherapist, a clinical social worker, a clinical mental health counselor, or a marriage and family therapist, or use the word “psychotherapist,” or any variation thereof, in such person’s title unless that person is licensed by the board or working as a candidate under the direct supervision of a person licensed by the board. (II) Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, any person who violates paragraph I or paragraph III of this section . . . shall be guilty of a class A misdemeanor. . .
Although taking the steps to earn a credential is a time consuming process, it is misleading to indicate that one is “License (or Certification) eligible”. This is not a credential. It is a phrase that should be avoided to prevent misleading the public. One should not be signing their name as “license eligible” because that has not meaning with respect to one’s practice or display of credentials.
If you are unsure what to list after your name consider the following points:
* Only list the credentials validated by the Board governing that practice or by an educational institution where you successfully completed an educational degree or certificate.
* Never use the term “licensed” or “certified” until you are issued a valid license or certification from a credentialing body. If you hold an additional credential in a state other than the one you practice within include the state with the credential such as: LADC (VT). Remember that being licensed in another state does not give you a valid credential in New Hampshire.
* After one’s name is the college degree, then credential in order of broadest scope of practice such as: Charlie Brown, MA, LCMHC, MLADC.
* Or if you choose to not include the college education: Charleen Brown, LICSW, MLADC.
* If you have not finished the college degree, do not include it.
* If you have not been granted a licensure or certification do not use phrases such as “in-process” or “license eligible”. Just state your name and on the next line indicate the title of the job for which you are employed.
* In listing your job title, whenever possible, avoid using a title that implies that you hold a credential that you do not. For example, if you are working as a substance use counselor and the credential in your state is Licensed Alcohol & Drug Counselor (LADC) indicate: Darleen Pepper, MEd.
Substance Use Counselor
Rather than: Darleen Pepper, MEd.
Alcohol & Drug Counselor
Because the second version is very similar to the actual license and could be mistaken for someone with a license.
Remember, the public is looking at the credentials as a measure of competence. We display our credentials in the workplace to assure the public of our education and qualifications as a practitioner. It invites trust. Misrepresenting one’s credentials is breaking the public’s trust.
NHADACA Peer Assistance and Ethics Committee 4/12/2017