Therapists in the United States are not required to be drug tested. But, it is essential to note that the policy varies depending on your state and your place of work. Therapists can still be drug tested, but only by the place of employment.
The United States has many therapists who might have to pass a 5-panel drug test in their state and a smaller number that are not. The public policy concerning the testing of counselors is usually up to individual states and their respective regulations.
In addition, there is no Federal requirement to drug test therapists. Also, there has been no recent effort to require that therapists be drug tested, except for certain positions within the Department of Transportation (DOT).
Table of Contents:
- Therapists’ Drug Testing Policy In The United States
- When Can A Therapist Be Drug Tested?
- What Might Happen If The Therapist Fails A Drug Test?
Therapist’s Drug Testing Policy in the United States
There are a few situations where therapists are required to be drug tested. A few states require drug testing for therapists, notably Washington and New York.
If the therapist is drug tested by the state of their employment, this typically happens in two ways. The first is if the individual works in some type of professional capacity.
It includes therapists who work in law enforcement or military service and doctors and nurses. Also, in many cases, if a therapist is a health care provider, they will often be required to be drug tested.
There are also some situations where it is unclear whether the therapist will be required to undergo a drug test. In some states, counselors and therapists licensed by the state are forced to undergo random drug testing. But in other states, this can only occur if specific guidelines within the state require it.
In these cases, an employer has the right to require that their employee be tested. The second way is if a therapist treats vulnerable individuals due to age, disability, or illness.
In these cases, the therapist will likely be required to be drug tested. The reasoning is that the therapist cannot help the patient if there is a possibility of being under the influence of a drug. The therapist may have to submit to a drug test because they are in a professional relationship with the patient. The purpose and reason for drug testing policy for Therapist in the United States are as follows:
- The policy is to ensure that the well-being of patients is protected.
- The policy is essential to allow a therapist or counselor to be professional.
- The policy is essential to protect the reputation of a professional counseling company.
- The policy is essential to ensure that there is no abuse of drugs by a therapist or counselor.
When Can A Therapist Be Drug Tested?
Therapists, as well as counselors, are not required to be drug tested. When they are required to be drug tested anyway, the policy must be according to the individual states. But, some states have specific policies and guidelines.
In these cases, the therapist might be subject to drug testing in the following situations:
- Pre-employment testing:
Almost all states have a policy that requires pre-employment drug testing of health professionals. But, the primary goal is to ensure that the therapist will not be under the influence of drugs while on the job.
Pre-employment drug testing occurs because of therapists and counselors’ power over others. Therapists and counselors often have access to private information about their patients and their trust.
Since the patients are often vulnerable because of the issues they are dealing with, there is a need for drug testing at the pre-employment stage to ensure that the therapist is not under the influence while on duty.
Additionally, this mostly happens if the therapist is working in a position that has specific regulatory guidelines.
- Random drug testing:
In some states, therapists must be drug tested on a random basis. These typically include therapists practicing within the state and at facilities that receive or provide funding from the government.
Although this is typically a requirement for larger companies and large institutions, it may also apply to mental health professionals employed by private companies.
- Reasonable suspicion:
Another situation where therapists might be subject to drug testing is if there is reasonable suspicion that the therapist has been abusing drugs. It could happen if a patient mentions drug abuse or if the therapist reports that they are taking drugs.
It is rare for professionals to be drug tested for this reason, but it is something that can occur in some cases.
What Might Happen If The Therapist Fails A Drug Test?
The drug test itself is not as crucial as the repercussions if the therapist fails. The test is intended to protect the well-being of patients, which is why it exists. But, there are other reasons to have these tests in place.
If a therapist or counselor fails a drug test, they may face the consequences such as:
- Loss of employment: If a therapist or counselor fails a drug test, it could be grounds for terminating their employment. The idea is to ensure that the patient remains safe and there is no possibility of abuse. But, if the therapist loses their job, they will likely file a lawsuit.
- Suspension of license: If a therapist or counselor uses drugs, they may lose their license. These are required for anyone who wishes to practice as a therapist. However, it is not as permanent as losing their job. In most cases, the therapist can reapply for their license after some time.
- Retest: If a therapist uses drugs, they might often be required to retake the drug test. The idea is to allow for a second chance for the therapist to prove that they are not under the influence. If a therapist fails a drug test on more than one occasion, it can eventually lead to termination.
Drug testing for any professional, including therapists, is controversial. The main reason behind drug testing a therapist is to ensure patient safety. Therapists are held to a higher standard than the average employee, and they often have access to private information about their patients.
However, drug testing for therapists is rarely enforced because of state policies or the financial burden of administering the tests. Although very few state policies require therapists to be drug tested, many private companies require drug testing.
These policies usually require drug testing for all employees. If a company with these policies employs a therapist, they will likely be required to take a drug test.