Somewhere in the back of every therapist's mind is the nightmare scenario: although convinced of your innocence and therapeutic intent, you're sitting in a courtroom or in front of a license board, accused of failing to live up to your professional responsibilities as a clinician. While some of the transgressions that can put therapists at risk are clearly spelled out-sexual relationships with clients, billing fraud, professional incompetence that leads to physical or psychological damage-other violations may be more ambiguous. In what follows, two experts respond to common questions clarifying how therapists can avoid putting themselves in jeopardy, legally and ethically.
Legal Do's and Don'ts
A brief guide to risk management
By Steven Frankel
Q: What are the things that get therapists in trouble more than anything else?
The two most frequent problems are competence and dual relationships, including sexual transgressions. The third and fourth are personal or unprofessional conduct-violating the statutes, regulations, or rules of your license board.
By "competence" I mean learning some new techniques at a workshop and then applying them without supervision or consultation. Since you're not competent with the approach yet, you get into trouble because someone claims he or she got hurt, and that becomes a case.
Q: What are the main distinctions between a malpractice suit…