If you are a licensed professional within the scope of the behavioral sciences in the state of California, you went through a demanding and expensive process to get where you are today. But when you are suddenly served notice that the California Board of Behavioral Sciences is conducting an investigation into a complaint filed with them against you, everything you worked so hard for is hanging in the balance.
At California License Attorney, we have deep experience in defending those holding a California behavioral sciences license against all manner of allegations. We understand how the system works and how to defeat career-threatening charges. We also have well seasoned negotiation skills that we can use in obtaining for you a favorable plea deal that can let you keep your license and/or reduce the severity of any administrative actions taken against you.
To learn more or to avail yourself of a free, no-obligation consultation, fee free to call us anytime 24/7 at 888-959-0068.
The Various Roles Filled by Those in the Behavioral Sciences
"Behavioral Sciences" is a broad-brush term, and the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (CBBS) issues licenses across a correspondingly wide range of specific practice areas.
Marriage and family therapists are one common role filled by professionals holding a behavioral sciences license. The home is meant to be a haven from the turmoil of the "outside world," but unfortunately, it often becomes a center or conflict. Child discipline problems, depression over the recent passing of a spouse, marital conflict, divorce, domestic violence, drug/alcohol addiction, and more are all too common. As a relationship counselor, you strive to give your patients a new outlook, help them implement positive behavioral changes, and help them identify the root cause(s) of their problems. Yet, you cannot actually control the attitudes and actions of your clients. And it is easy for a past client or a family member of a past client to cast blame on the therapist when something goes wrong.
Another behavioral sciences career is that of the clinical social worker. If you hold this license, you deal with the ill effects of poverty, addiction, and abuse on a daily basis. It is your difficult task to tackle some of the most troublesome issues in our modern society, identifying the real problems and giving people access to the resources they need to overcome these problems. Clinical social workers will often work in close cooperation with healthcare, government, business, and non-profit organizations, bringing counseling wherever it is needed most.
The educational psychologist specializes in children's issues, specifically anything that affects their ability to succeed in a school setting, whether academically, socially, or emotionally. Your expertise are relied on to monitor students' progress, and the comprehensive psychological evaluations you conduct are the basis of therapies and strategies adopted in behalf of struggling students. And when traumatic events, like the death of a student or a school-wide shooting incident occur, your counseling skills are called into action on a group-wide basis. On a routine basis, however, educational psychologists often focus on special ed and identifying students' strengths and weaknesses to help them grow and achieve. When parents, teachers, or other caregivers take issue with your conclusions or actions, however, it is not uncommon for complaints to be field and your professional license to suddenly be on the line.
Professional clinical counselors, the last specific behavioral sciences profession we will look at, is among the newest but fastest-growing of California professions within the "behavioral sciences orbit." And with around a fifth of U.S. adults suffering from some form and degree of mental illness and/or a substance addiction every year, clinical counselors are in high demand. And while you who work in this profession provide families, individual patients, military personnel and veterans, and others with valuable counsel and services, it is not at all uncommon for you to face a challenge to your license that threatens to cut off your livelihood.
At California License Attorney, we provide expert legal defense to every profession holding a behavioral sciences license. We have an intricate understanding of the laws and regulations that govern the administrative process, and we also understand the inner dynamics of how complaints come to be filed to begin with. On the one hand, there are many false or unreasonable allegations filed by disgruntled former patients; on the other hand, even a good behavioral sciences worker can make a mistake. Even if you made a mistake, we are not here to judge you but to help. We will apply our well seasoned legal skills and fight for your license and your future.
Disciplinary Guidelines of the California Board of Behavioral Sciences
The state Board of Behavioral Sciences exists both to screen candidates for a license and to monitor those already holding a behavioral sciences license in the public interest. Make no mistake, they are not "on your side." We are. On the other hand, the board is not "against you personally" either. Their interest is simply in maintaining high standards of professionalism, ethics, and competence within the industry.
In the interests of fulfilling their mandate to the public, the CBBS recommends a set of official disciplinary guidelines be used by the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who handles your administrative hearing, if your case should reach that stage of the process.
If you click on the link given above, you will see that the board's disciplinary guide book consists of four parts:
- Standards for use in cases involving substance abuse.
- Recommended penalties for specific violations, including both minimum and maximum disciplinary actions.
- "Model Disciplinary Orders," which is the section dealing with mandatory and optional license probation conditions.
- Additional "Board Policies and Guidelines" meant to ensure the penalty imposed reflects the nature of the violation.
Here, we will present a basic overview of the common violations and possible disciplinary actions found in the board's disciplinary guidelines.
Some of the most commonly filed complaints against those holding a behavioral sciences license include the following:
- Drug or alcohol abuse, sometimes taking place while on the job and involving illegal narcotics.
- Sexual misconduct involving a client or former client. Consent is not a valid excuse in regard to one's retaining their license.
- Sexual acts with a minor. Such could also be prosecuted separately in a criminal case.
- Your ability to perform your duties safely is allegedly compromised by mental illness, physical illness, or chemical dependency.
- Purposefully and/or recklessly causing physical or emotional harm to a client.
- Gross negligence or professional incompetence.
- Unprofessional conduct of all sorts.
- Having a criminal conviction that is "substantially related to" your ability to carry on in a therapeutic role.
- Fraud, be it insurance fraud, presenting yourself as an expert on issues outside your area of expertise, or securing your license by fraud to begin with.
- Allowing an unlicensed assistant to work under you.
- Not properly supervising your assistants.
- Failing to maintain required confidentiality.
- Failing to provide clients with the Sexual Misconduct Brochure.
- Failing to reveal fees in advance of service.
- False advertisement.
- Giving out or receiving kickbacks for making referrals.
- Failure to maintain proper and honest patient records.
- Not allowing patients to have proper access to their mental health records.
- Not complying with Telehealth regulations (Section 2290.5).
- Already being under discipline by another state agency or a federal agency.
This is a long list of possible complaints, and it by no means complete. It is easy to see how your behavioral sciences license could be threatened by any of these allegations, and only an experienced license attorney will know the special rules of evidence and agency-specific processes that will determine the outcome of an investigation or hearing.
Potential Disciplinary Actions and Rules of Probation
The California Board of Behavioral Sciences' recommended disciplinary guidelines give much room for a good license defense attorney to fight for not only a dismissal of the charges against you but also to fight for a less severe form of professional discipline.
Here are the main possible disciplinary actions if one cannot be avoided entirely:
- A public reprimand. This goes up for public view at the Board of Behavioral Sciences website and can affect your ability to gain future clients or employment positions. The reprimand may be specific to your profession or a violation of the more general California Business & Professions Code.
- A citation and fine. A citation and accompanying fine is not a disciplinary action covered in the official disciplinary guidelines but is a reality nonetheless. This would only be used for a lesser offense that did not cause actual harm to a patient or the general public.
- License probation. If probation is granted, your license suspension or revocation will be "stayed" and you will be permitted to continue your practice, albeit only if you agree to and comply with specific terms set by the board.
- License suspension. A suspension of your license will require you to quit your practice until it is lifted. An interim suspension that stops you from practicing during the investigation is sometimes issued, but we can often get those reversed. Otherwise, it is possible to negotiate for a shorter suspension period or one that ends once you meet specific conditions, when a suspension cannot be avoided outright.
- License revocation. This is the most severe form of formal professional discipline you can be subjected to. Even here, however, we can help you get a revoked license reinstated in as little time as possible.
By presenting mitigating evidence in your favor, it is often possible to get something closer to the minimum instead of the maximum form of discipline for each particular kind of offense.
With "general unprofessional conduct," for example, the minimum is a 60 day suspension and 3 years of probation, while for "sexual misconduct," the minimum is a 120 day suspension with a 7 year probationary period, besides passing licensure and psychological exams before resuming practice. The maximum discipline for many offenses is license revocation.
When chemical dependency is an issue, you may need to take part in a state-approved rehab program and support/recovery group, plus randomized drug testing. If mental illness is determined by the board, you may have to agree to random psychological evaluations in order to keep your license.
But in each case, the ALJ presiding over your hearing will have leeway to adjust the discipline and the terms of probation based on the specific circumstances. The judge will have to justify any deviations from the standard discipline to the board and gain the board's approval of his/her decision, but typically, there is much that a good license defense lawyer can accomplish via argumentation and presentation of evidence at the administrative hearing.
Anyone who is granted a stay of suspension plus probation will have to abide by such basic probation terms as avoiding criminal charges during probation, filing quarterly reports, appearing for regular interviews with the board, giving notification to clients/employers of your probationary status, and ultimately reimbursing the board for the costs of probation monitoring. But other conditions like psychological exams, drug testing, supervision of practice sessions, billing system monitoring, taking a law and ethics course, and more may be negotiable or depend on the type of violation at issue.
We always fight first and foremost for a dismissal of the complaint, then for a lesser disciplinary action that lets you keep your license and continue your practice. We know how to expose false or misleading evidence brought against you, cross-examine witnesses, and build you a solid defense. But just as importantly, we know how to reduce the severity of discipline that cannot be realistically avoided in its entirety. Thus, we always work to secure for you the best possible outcome to your case.
Contact Us Today for Immediate Help
At California License Attorney, we are committed to helping you fight back against any and all complaints or formal accusations filed against your behavioral sciences license.
Regardless of your specific practice area within the behavioral sciences, the severity of the allegations you face, or where you are currently in the administrative process, we are here to help.
For a free legal consultation on the details of your case, contact us anytime 24/7/365 at 888-959-0068. We will fight for your license and your future and secure the best possible outcome to your case.