Skip to main content
Counselor Brian Tingley challenging Washington State law

Washington State to Counseling Clients: Your Goals and Needs Don’t Matter

By Sarah Kramer posted on:
May 17, 2021

Brian Tingley has been practicing as a Marriage and Family Therapist in Washington State for 20 years.

As you can probably imagine, that means he has had countless open and honest conversations over the years on a wide variety of subjects. After all, that’s his job.

But in 2018, that all changed.

That year, Washington passed a state law allowing the government to police those private conversations and determine what can and can’t be discussed in a counseling session.

Brian knew this wasn’t right… and he knew it wasn’t what was best for his clients. So, he’s taking a stand.

Last week, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on Brian’s behalf, challenging the Washington law that puts these unconstitutional restrictions on Brian and his clients.

When counselors are censored, it is the clients who are robbed of the freedom to pursue the lives they want to lead.

The fact is that Brian always works with his clients in achieving a goal they set for themselves. He does this by simply talking with his clients and helping them work through a wide variety of issues that they face. Brian listens to his clients as they explore their own feelings, desires, and reasons, and he provides support and feedback to help them towards the goals they have chosen to pursue.

But the government has determined that some goals aren’t acceptable. And Brian could violate the law simply for having discussions with his clients on matters of gender, sexual orientation, sexual behaviors, or sexual attractions.

If he does have those discussions, Brian faces fines of up to $5,000 per violation, suspension from practice, and even a permanent loss of his license under the Washington law.

This is ridiculous—not to mention a gross violation of free speech and religious freedom. If a client’s life goal includes achieving comfort with his or her biological sex or building opposite-sex attraction to live consistently with his or her faith teachings, that’s the client’s choice—the government has no right to stop him or her from pursuing that goal. And if Brian provides counseling support to help his client achieve these goals, the government shouldn’t get to take away his license, and his livelihood.

Brian’s whole profession revolves around helping people. In contrast, this law is a selfish attempt by the government to further a political and ideological agenda by abusing its power.

That’s why Washington’s law is so shocking.

Our country has long recognized the privileged relationship between a counselor and client. This relationship is so sensitive and important that it is confidential under state law.

Americans are entitled to free speech on the topics of their choice—both in public and in private with their chosen counselor. That’s the right Brian is fighting for with this lawsuit.

The bottom line is the government doesn’t get to censor the viewpoints it doesn’t like. And it certainly doesn’t get to intrude into a private conversation between a counselor and client in order to do that.

Brian is committed to helping his clients achieve their goals—not helping the government achieve its preferred political agenda. And he will not be used as a tool to impose the government’s views on his clients.

To stay up to date on this case and others like it, sign up for our newsletter.


Sarah Kramer

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

Religious Freedom

Does Artistic Freedom Still Exist? Lorie Smith Asks Supreme Court to Weigh In and Say Yes

Lorie Smith could use some clarity—as could creative professionals across the country.

Religious Freedom

This Alarming 10th Circuit Decision Said That the Government Can Both Compel and Silence Speech

The court ruled 2-1 that the state of Colorado can force Lorie to design and publish websites promoting messages that violate her religious beliefs.

Religious Freedom

10th Circuit Court Ruling Puts Freedom of Speech On the Chopping Block

If the state can override the First Amendment in this situation, then everyone's rights are on the chopping block.