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.

Your Professional Therapist License Is a Valuable Asset; Insure It!

George Indest HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Time and time again, I am contacted by mental health counselors, social workers, and other therapists who have worked hard for years, have paid tens of thousands of dollars for tuition, fees, books, and board, and made sacrifices in order to obtain a professional degree and a professional license. Yet they have not purchased professional insurance to protect their licenses.

Your professional license is arguably your most valuable asset. Yet, I am continuously surprised to learn the number of health professionals who come to our firm in serious trouble because a complaint has been filed against them. Complaints can come from anyone, including an unhappy patient, patient’s family, former employer, vengeful co-worker, or disgruntled former spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc. Often the issues are complex. The legal procedures surrounding administrative complaints and administrative hearings are certainly complicated and confusing. Hiring an experience attorney is your best line of defense. However, it can also be costly.

Hypothetical Situation to Consider.

Here is a hypothetical situation to consider: You want to buy a particular item that is extremely expensive, such as a large piece of manufacturing equipment or a luxury stretch limousine. This item could not only produce an income for you for years to come, but it may also add to your prestige and self-esteem, knowing that you have achieved something that few others ever do.

Would you insure your expensive item? I certainly would and I expect you would, too.

Why You Need Professional Liability Insurance.

When I am writing this, I am speaking of insurance to cover your legal defense expenses in case a complaint is filed against you that could jeopardize your professional therapist license.

In my experience, health professionals such as mental health counselors, social workers, and other psychotherapists are more likely to have a complaint filed against them that results in an investigation. That is why I say that you should purchase professional liability insurance because of the professional licensure defense coverage it provides; not because it pays in the event of a lawsuit.

Furthermore, given that most popular liability insurance, such as Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO) Insurance, CPH & Associates Insurance, Chicago Insurance, Affinity Insurance, is cheap, it is foolish not to be insured.

You have an extremely valuable asset that could easily produce a million dollars in income during your lifetime. Don’t you think a few hundred dollars a year is worth paying to help protect it? That is why I say, “Buy professional liability insurance. Buy it now! Be sure you are covered for at least $25,000 in professional license defense expense coverage and preferably more, if you can get it. But buy it!”

Comments?

Have you dragged your feet in purchasing professional liability insurance? If so, why? Did reading this blog change your mind? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact A Lawyer Experienced in the Representation of Psychiatrists, Mental Health Counselors, Social Workers, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists and Other Mental Health Professionals.

We routinely provide deposition coverage to psychiatrists, mental health counselors, social workers, licensed marriage and family therapists and other mental health professionals being deposed in criminal cases, negligence cases, civil cases or disciplinary cases involving other health professionals. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing psychiatrists, mental health counselors, social workers, licensed marriage and family therapists and other mental health professionals in investigations at the Board of Medicine, Board of Psychology, or the Board of Clinical Social, Marriage and Family, and Mental Health Counseling.

Call now or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

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.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Go to Top