As a licensed social worker, counselor, psychologist or therapist, you may think that your clients are the ones with the troubles. However, you may not have to look far in your profession to find those who have garnered their own problems by violating regulations established by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. When this happens, they place their licenses and their livelihoods in jeopardy.
While each case is different, some commonalities exist that can bring about disciplinary action. To help you avoid those actions, advocates for those in your field recommend that you learn and never stop learning about the ethical issues that govern the delicate work of mental health professionals. Additionally, there are some guidelines you can consider adapting to your practice.
Common licensing issues
Because many people you counsel are in emotionally vulnerable places, the board has set strict boundaries for relationships. These relationships aren’t limited to romantic or sexual associations, but may include connecting through social media, developing friendships or hiring clients to do work for you. Most states place a limit, for example five years, between the time the person ceases to be your client and the time you may begin a physical relationship. However, even a casual friendship can overstep boundaries if the client’s judgement is impaired.
While participating in inappropriate relationships is one of the most common violations bringing disciplinary action, you may find your license at risk for far simpler reasons, for example:
- You neglect to keep your patient records accurate and up to date.
- You fail to complete the continuing education requirements for your license.
- You falsify the application for renewal by indicating you have completed your required credit hours.
- You disregard the importance of continued ethics training.
- You miss information about changes in laws and licensing requirements.
One way to avoid many of these issues is to communicate with others in your profession. Joining professional organizations, networking with peers and communicating with your supervisors are excellent ways to remain accountable and current on the important issues in the mental health profession.
Of course, there is always the possibility that someone will file a complaint against you or the board will summon you to a hearing about some perceived ethics violation. These matters are too serious to face without solid legal representation and advice. The assistance of an attorney who is dedicated to defending professionals in danger of losing their licenses will provide a clear advantage.