Governing bodies need to do a better job protecting people from unethical therapists. I want two two legislative changes that would make a big difference.
I want two laws passed so clients are better protected from unethical mental health professionals.
1. Provide a Client Fact Sheet
When a client starts therapy, I believe the law should be that they are given a Fact Sheet to help protect them from therapist misconduct and abuse. I also believe this information should be a required webpage on every mental health professional’s website. California is the only state I know of that has implemented a similar measure. I don’t know of any countries that have.
Most clients have no idea that if their therapist kisses them, gropes them, or has sex with them, that it is an ethical boundary violation or a crime worthy of jail time. Instead, they often blame themselves and feel guilt and turmoil because they are confused and traumatized by the therapist’s actions.
Clients are not responsible for their therapists’ ethical violations. Governing bodies need to make that clear to clients from the start.
The Fact Sheet should include:
- a definition of boundary violations
- examples of boundary violations
- a copy of the statutes and punishments for relevant ethical breaches
- resources to call or read online if a therapist begins to make boundary violations
Clients need to know where to go for help.The current method of client care does nothing to help the client at all. Because clients don’t know the licensing board Code of Ethics, unethical mental health professionals have even more power and opportunity to hurt them.
Clients seeking help from mental health professionals are hurting and vulnerable. Actions need to be taken to protect them from predators. A simple Fact Sheet with the above information could reduce these crimes and breaches of ethics significantly.
Additionally, the very act of having to hand every single client this Fact Sheet could be a subtle, but powerful, reminder to mental health professionals who may get lackadaisical in their thinking about the harm boundary violations can cause.
If mental health professionals know clients are educated about what is and isn’t ethical behavior, they may think twice about crossing those lines.
Referrals are common in all industries. In medicine and mental health, I believe an additional measure should be taken to protect already vulnerable clients.
No one at the Center for Brian Training checked the credentials of the professionals they referred and recommended. This is not a legal or ethical violation. I do; however, believe it is negligence.
Require License Verification
In mental health, professionals in the State of Florida (I don’t know about other professions or locations) are required to give clients three referrals so clients have a choice.
Would it be so hard to require mental health professionals making referrals to take the one minute necessary to verify the licensing status of the people they refer?
Being properly licensed and credentialed is certainly no guarantee of professional, ethical behavior. There are a number of properly licensed professionals who still violate boundaries and harm their clients. Also, there are spiritual advisers and other complementary practitioners who are are not bound by licensure. Many behave ethically and help their clients.
I do know for sure, that if license verification were part of the Code of Ethics statutes, I never would have gone to Terry Ganaway. Clients would not have been referred to Lyn Ganaway, who only has a bachelor’s degree. If license verification were a requirement prior to making a referral, Terry and Lyn Ganaway may have been shut down years ago or gotten properly trained and properly licensed. Instead, they disregarded the law for well over a decade.
Additionally, if a mental health professional has had disciplinary action taken against them in the past, even if they are still practicing, that will often show up when doing a license verification.
Here is an example:
In many countries, clients, too, can check licensing statuses. However, clients often don’t know what that means. They hurt, someone they trust referred them, and they see the person recommended.
Even if I had checked Terry’s license and seen that he was a “Registered Clinical Social Worker Intern”, I wouldn’t have known what that meant. But I can guarantee that Catherine Moritz, the former Clinical Director for Center for Brain Training, would have known. She would have known immediately that something was wrong, that he should not be in private practice, and that he was not what he said he was.
Mental health professionals, if you read this, please take this small step to help protect your clients. While it may be rare that you run across an unlicensed or improperly licensed practitioner, the one time you do may save a world of hurt for your client.
Please become part of the solution.