The Law Offices of Brian E. Quinn

When the counselor's boundaries blur

How often have you heard someone refer to you as a people person? You probably see this as a compliment. It is even possible that you chose to go into psychology because of the satisfying feeling of helping people who come to you with their problems.

Completing your education and fulfilling the requirements to counsel people may have been the beginning of a lifelong dream. However, dealing with troubled people can be a burden, and countless in your profession have stepped over the line when their emotions got in the way. In fact, 40 percent of psychologists with a practice lasting 20 years have received complaints for which they must answer to the state licensing board.

Your license in jeopardy

If you have questions about Pennsylvania's policies regarding confidentiality, licensing requirements, patient records or other items specific to your practice in psychology, you may see the state licensing board as an ally and advocate. However, if you are dealing with a complaint about your practice of psychology, the last place you want to end up is in front of the licensing board. There are numerous reasons why someone may file a complaint against a counselor, including:

  • The psychologist becomes involved in a child custody dispute.
  • A patient commits suicide or attempts to commit suicide.
  • The counselor breaches the laws of patient confidentiality.
  • The counselor's relationship with the client extends beyond therapy.

Such a relationship need not be sexual or romantic. For example, if you hire a patient to do work for you or friend that client on Facebook, the licensing board may see that as a multiple relationship violation. Social media relationships also open you to privacy violations. Professional advisors recommend you establish a strict policy for social media and non-therapeutic relationships and inform your patients of that policy at your first meeting.

Like-minded advocacy

Of course, the most common reason why psychologists and other counselors face disciplinary hearings is because of inappropriate sexual relationships. Like most other psychologists, you probably think this will never happen to you, but it is difficult to predict one's actions until the circumstances arise. As a people person, you may be prone to becoming emotionally involved, and that involvement may take you to unethical places.

In your line of work, you understand the importance of finding someone who will listen and offer objective advice. When you find yourself in a situation that will ultimately lead to a disciplinary hearing, you may look for someone of that same caliber. Since a disciplinary hearing means your license to practice is on the line, having a compassionate advocate will provide you with a decided advantage.

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The Law Offices of Brian E. Quinn
1420 Walnut Street
Suite 1200
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Toll Free: 866-657-7318
Phone: 215-268-7241
Fax: 215-557-0087
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