By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
From our experience mental health counselors, psychologists, social workers and family therapists are at a high risk of having a client or patient file a complaint against them with their licensing board.
Many of their clients/patients have mental health problems, emotional problems or personality disorders; this is why they are seeing a therapist to begin with. If there is a disagreement between the therapist and the client/patient over treatment, diagnosis or other issues, this can easily result in that person filing a complaint.
We have also seen complaints filed when a therapist is retained to evaluate someone for a court proceeding, for vocational rehabilitation programs, for disability insurance and for other types of evaluations where the person is not the client or the patient of the therapist.
Situations to Be Aware of As a Mental Health Counselor, Psychologist, Social Worker and Family Therapist.
Many complaints seem to arise out of situations in which the therapist has socialized with the client or patient. Socializing with a client or patient should be strictly avoided.
Divorces, custody disputes and other family law matters have resulted in an increase in the number of complaints filed against therapists.
If one parent disagrees with an evaluation in a child custody dispute, this may result in a complaint against the professional with the licensing board. We have experienced cases in which family law attorneys have suggested to their clients that they file such complaints in a misguided attempted to have that therapist disqualified from giving an opinion or intimidated into withdrawing.
Steps to Take to Help Alleviate the Consequences of a Complaint Against Your License.
Defending oneself in the investigation of a complaint against your license can be expensive and time consuming. There are two primary actions that can be taken to help alleviate the consequences of such actions by disgruntled clients/patients.
1. Be sure you have and maintain good professional liability insurance that provides professional license defense expense coverage of at least $25,000. You can easily spend this amount in legal fees to successfully defend yourself, even from a completely meritless complaint. This type of insurance is cheap and easy to obtain. Two insurers we know to provide this are Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO) and Lloyd’s of London. Check with your insurance agents for others.
2. Immediately retain the services of an attorney who has experience with your type of case and with your professional board. Ask for numbers of cases and outcomes. Usually this will be a health law attorney or administrative law attorney, but make sure the attorney has experience with your board. Many states now recognize the legal specialty of health law. In these states, you want an attorney that is board certified in health law.
Discipline is Forever-Hire an Attorney to Help.
Hire an attorney as soon as you suspect there may be a complaint or an investigation. Do not attempt to do this yourself. Do not make any statement, oral or written, to any investigator until you consult with an attorney. The simplest statement can be used against you to help prove a charge resulting in discipline on your license.
Discipline is for life. Don’t take a chance.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced Investigations of Mental Health Counselors, Psychologists, Social Workers and Family Therapists.
The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to mental health counselors, psychologists, social workers and family therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, FBI investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers. To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Have you ever had a patient or client file a complaint against you with your licensing board? Do you have professional liability insurance? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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