Legally Speaking: Psychologists, Mental Health Counselors, Social Workers and Therapists

Today begins a multi-part series focusing on the legal matters and needs concerning healthcare professionals, starting with those who practice in the field of psychology, including psychologists, Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs), Clinical Social Workers (CSWs) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs).

Supervised by the Board of Psychology and the Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling, psychologists, Licensed Mental Health Counselors, Clinical Social Workers and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists are responsible for an important component of patient care: mental health. Insuring the mental health of a patient does not come without risks.

For this reason, every mental health professional should carry professional liability insurance that includes professional license defense coverage (sometimes called disciplinary defense, license defense, administrative hearing coverage or broad coverage). Most often this type of insurance coverage is included in most professional liability policies; however, if it is not, it can often be added as a rider to the insurance policy for a slight additional charge. Mental health professionals should be sure that coverage for professional license defense is at least $25,000 and a $50,000 increase is recommended.”Broad form coverage” should also be requested and obtained that includes coverage of legal fees for defense of all administrative or governmental proceedings, including Medicare audits, Medicaid audits, EEOC complaints, and other types of governmental actions that could be initiated.

Though mental health may not seem like a high-risk field, if dissatisfied, patients can file complaints that can lead to serious consequences. These complaints can be initiated against a mental health professional based solely on anonymous calls to the Department of Health Hotline, newspaper reports, prior arrest reports, disgruntled patients, disgruntled insurance companies, competitors, or other sources. Once an investigation is initiated psychologists, therapists, counselors and other mental health professionals should obtain legal representation immediately to ensure that each action on the part of the psychologist or other mental health professional will result in a more favorable outcome A board certified health lawyer experienced in representing mental health professionals will be the most qualified to handle a Department of Health case.

A mental health professional may never face a Department of Health investigation or Board of Psychology or Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling administrative hearing, but it is important that every psychologist and counselor has knowledge of current legislation impacting the psychology field. The Florida Statutes  have recently been updated to prohibit anyone from using the title of “social worker” unless certain requirements are met. Additionally, there have been changes made to guidelines for treatment programs for impaired professional and psychologist reporting requirements.

For more information about legal matters concerning mental health professionals, visit www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

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