If you hold a professional license issued by the California Board of Psychology, you have worked long and hard to get where you are today. Besides the classroom and hands-on training that goes into earning a California psychology license, the application process is in itself tedious and expensive.
And yet, it is not at all uncommon for psychologists to find their hard-earned license suddenly threatened by a complaint registered with the Board of Psychology. The very existence of an investigation against you can be intimidating, and you may not be sure how to proceed to protect your license and your future career.
At California License Attorney, we have the in-depth legal knowledge and longtime experience necessary to combat all manner of challenges to your psychology license and your professional record. We understand the intricacies of the administrative process, how its "wheels turn," and how and when to fight for a dismissal or for a reduced penalty via a negotiated plea.
To learn more and to avail yourself of a free consultation, contact us anytime 24/7 at 888-959-0068.
The Important Roles Filled by Modern Psychologists
As a psychologist, it is your job to observe and interpret human behavior as a clue to the inner workings of the human mind. You work not only with theories but with people and relationships. You need to be able to put on your "detective" hat when necessary but also be ready to give out timely, sound counsel to those in need of positive changes in their lives.
It is also in the job description of many psychologists to use scientific approaches to identify behavioral patterns and conduct a variety of specific test. This information can then become the basis of treatment or of predictions made concerning a patient's likely future behavior.
Many psychologists make combating substance abuse the special focus of their services. They may be permanent fixtures at hospitals or local clinics. And families may come to you with their problems regarding addiction, depression, suicidal thoughts, or mental health conditions concerning their children or other relatives.
And there are many other specialty areas for modern psychologists as well, including developmental psychologists, who focus on the needs of those in the different "stages of life;" social psychologists, who focus on relationships and the intersection/interaction of "world and individual;" experimental psychologists, who conduct in-depth studies at institutions of higher learning; and forensic psychologists, who serve as a source of information for those involved in criminal cases.
At California License Attorney, we understand that the very nature of your work as a psychologist puts you into situations where your license can become vulnerable. It is easy for unrealistic expectations, misunderstandings, and reactions against you based on outcomes instead of on the kind and quality of treatment rendered to result in a complaint being filed with the California Board of Psychology. It is also easy for even the best psychologists to make a mistake.
We can help you defend your license and your future in spite of any and all manner of accusations filed against you. We understand the special rules of evidence and the details of the administrative processes relevant to your case. We know how to talk to the board and board-appointed investigators and fight for your best interests every step of the way.
Disciplinary Guidelines of the California Board of Psychology
You can find the full disciplinary guidelines of the California Board of Psychology, last updated in February of 2014, posted online. Below, we will summarize some of its key points.
First, it is important to understand that the Board of Psychology's mission is not to protect psychologists but to protect their patients and the general public. This very basic fact tends to make it easier for the board to "play it safe" and investigate unsubstantiated complaints or recommend disciplinary actions that are, if anything, more severe than truly necessary. The board is not "on your side." We are.
That said, it is not impossible to work with the board and negotiate with them. By presenting proper mitigating or exculpatory evidence in a timely fashion to the right people, we can often get the allegations against you dropped or at least win you a reduction in the form of discipline rendered. We can often save your license by gaining a stay of revocation and fighting for minimal probationary terms.
What kinds of allegations do psychologists and their registered assistants typically face? Here is a partial list, noting some of the most commonly filed complaints:
- Drug/alcohol abuse, sometimes taking place on the job.
- "General unprofessional conduct."
- Gross negligence or incompetence in administering treatment.
- Exceeding the limits of your license in regard to the types of conditions/patients you care for.
- Past criminal convictions that are "substantially related to" one's practice.
- Insurance fraud.
- Obtaining one's psychology license by fraud to begin with.
- Letting others work under you who do not possess the proper licenses.
- Paying for or getting paid for referrals.
- False or misleading advertising.
- Violating the "confidentiality" of your clients.
- Sexual abuse or sexual relations with a client or anyone who had been your client within the last two years.
What are the possible outcomes to any of these or other complaints being filed against you? First, the board decides whether the accusation is even worth investigating. If so, you receive a notice of the investigation. This is the time to contact us for help. The earlier you act, the better your chances of a favorable outcome.
Next, realize that the investigation can sometimes continue for months or even years. If the board issued an interim suspension against you, we need to fight to reverse that so you can continue your practice during the process.
If your case continues to an administrative hearing, there we can present evidence and testimony in your favor. It is also possible to negotiate a settlement before the hearing or to get the charges dismissed before any hearing takes place.
There are two basic classes of outcomes to an investigation: disciplinary and non-disciplinary.
Non-disciplinary results are keep fully confidential, meaning they are not published on the board's official website for potential clients and employers to view. These include:
- Case closed with no action taken. Evidence was simply insufficient to justify any disciplinary action whatsoever.
- Letter of warning issued. An "educational letter" might be sent to you as a warning for very minor violations.
- Educational review. This means that the board suspects you departed from the standard of care or has serious concerns. They reviewed your case but do not believe they have enough evidence to proceed. They ask you to voluntarily appear before them for a review, but do not consent without first speaking to a good license defense attorney.
- Citation & fine. For lesser violations, you can be cited and fined from $100 to $2,500. An "order of abatement" may also be included, which demands you cease particular activities.
Disciplinary actions the Board of Psychology may choose to take include:
- Letter of Reproval issued. With lesser offenses that did not result in actual harm to a patient, it may be possible to negotiate for a Letter or Reproval instead of a license suspension/revocation. The letter is publicly posted, and there can be "cost recovery" and other stipulations involved as well.
- Stay of revocation with probation. Having your license on probation for a specified period of time and with specific conditions of probation that must be met is much better than losing your license. We can negotiate for a shorter probationary term and less restrictive probation conditions.
- License suspension. The license is suspended for a specific period of time, during which you cannot continue your practice. Often, a short suspension before probation begins may be necessary. Sometimes, you must complete a substance abuse or mental health program before your suspension can end and your probation begin.
- License revocation. This is the most serious form of discipline possible. It cancels your license indefinitely, but you can petition to have your license reinstated after a minimum of three years.
- License surrender. In some cases, the Board of Psychology will ask you to surrender your license after filing a formal accusation against you. This would require you to wait three years to petition for a reinstatement, just like with a revocation. Never comply and surrender your license without first talking to a skilled license defense attorney who may be able to win your case. It can be difficult to get a license reinstated after it was surrendered, especially if you had to admit to the truth of the allegation as a stipulation of the surrender.
Around 80% of formal accusations against professional psychologists result in a stipulated settlement that avoids the time-consuming, costly administrative process. These settlements require some form of admission of guilt by the psychologist against whom the complaint was filed and typically result in some form of professional discipline. When you agree to a stipulated settlement, you waive your right to make an appeal and must adhere to the board's initial determination.
Thus, you should not rush into agreeing to a stipulated settlement. In certain cases, such as settlement could be your best option, but you should first attempt to fight the allegation with the help of an experienced license defense attorney.
Finally, we should also mention matters related to a citation order. You may be tempted to just ignore a citation and fine, thinking that it is too minor to bother about, but in reality, it will go on your record and could affect your future career.
Note that fines will increase in amount based on the type of violation allegedly committed and the existence of any previous violations on your record. You will be ordered to cease the alleged activity and pay the fine, but paying it does not necessarily admit guilt. Still, you have the option to appeal the citation/fine if you act soon enough.
You have 10 days to request an informal conference and 30 days to request a formal hearing. if you wait too long, you lose your right to challenge the citation. If you fail to pay a fine after losing the right to challenge it, it will become a further violation on your record subject to additional disciplinary actions. If you appeal the citation in time, we may be able to get it eliminated or at least get the fine reduced.
Regardless of which type of accusation and disciplinary action you are facing, it is always worthwhile to do everything possible to defeat the charges. Most investigation end without a formal accusation, and most formal accusations do not result in discipline. But it is unwise to simply "play the odds" when your license and future career are at risk. We at California License Attorney know how to minimize the chances of any formal discipline being taken against you and how to minimize the form of discipline taken if it cannot be avoided outright.
Contact Us Today for Immediate Assistance
At California License Attorney, we are here to help you keep your professional psychology license. Our team of expert license lawyers can go to work immediately to protect your license and your livelihood. And we have a long track record of winning the best outcome possible across the full spectrum of legal challenges to a California psychology license.
For a free, no-obligation initial consultation and immediate attention to the details of your case, call us 24/7/365 at 888-959-0068. We are here to help.