You have walked a long, arduous path to become a licensed psychologist in New Jersey. You have fulfilled all of the requirements and put in the hard work, and now you serve a critical role in the community, helping those in need of better mental health. That's why it can be so devastating to discover that your license is under investigation because of a complaint. Your entire career hinges on your license, and all it may take is one allegation of wrongdoing to have that license revoked.
The New Jersey State Board of Psychological Examiners takes allegations of misconduct seriously. Whether the complaint stems from a misunderstanding, a false accusation, or a lapse in judgment, if the board becomes convinced that you have violated their ethical or professional standards or broken the public trust, they have the authority to revoke your license.
Joseph D. Lento is an experienced New Jersey professional license defense attorney who can work on your behalf to protect your career as a psychologist if your license is in jeopardy. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
What Types of Allegations Could Put Your License in Jeopardy?
The New Jersey Board of Psychological Examiners can investigate you for any number of reasons, but some of the most common allegations that could lead to a loss of your license involve violations of their standards of conduct or breaking public trust. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- Sexual misconduct. Engaging in a romantic/sexual relationship with a patient you treat is a serious breach of ethics. Other examples of sexual misconduct could include sexual harassment or unwanted advances toward employees, patients, or coworkers.
- Dual relationships. Psychologists should not treat patients with whom they have other connections (such as financial or business relationships) because these relationships could impact their advice.
- Fraud. Examples include charging for services not provided, "upcoding" insurance paperwork to get more money, overcharging patients, misrepresenting your credentials, etc.
- Violating patient confidentiality. Examples include sharing information told by a patient in session (except for discovery of abuse), failing to protect patients' personal info, etc.
- Failing to report abuse. When a patient divulges abuse against a child, spouse, or elderly person, this is not covered by patient confidentiality; you're required by law to report it. If you don't, it can cost you your license.
- Substance abuse. Your license could be in danger if alcoholism or drug abuse casts doubt on your ability to provide care for patients and clients.
- Criminal convictions. If a psychologist is convicted of any crime, but especially one involving moral turpitude, their license may be in danger.
What Is the Disciplinary Process for Psychologists in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, most psychologist disciplinary cases start with a formal complaint submitted to the state's Board of Psychological Examiners. Complainants can be patients, colleagues, insurance companies, or other members of the public. From there, the disciplinary process typically moves forward in the following stages:
Request for Response
The board will notify you about the complaint and request that you submit a response in writing. If you provide a compelling explanation and supporting evidence, the board may dismiss the complaint at that point. A skilled license defense attorney can assist you with drafting a persuasive written response.
The next stage is for the board to submit the complaint to a Preliminary Evaluation Committee (PEC) to investigate whether there is evidence to support the complaint. The committee will then assign an investigator who will look into the complaint and gather evidence. The PEC's investigations may include interviews with the complainant and witnesses and a request for documents from you. You may also be asked to testify under oath.
To avoid a formal hearing, the board might offer to negotiate a consent agreement with you. A consent order is an enforceable agreement where you acknowledge your misconduct and agree to submit to the board's recommendation for disciplinary action. Although a consent order may not be the best solution in every case, it can be a viable option if disciplinary action is likely because you may be able to negotiate for more lenient terms. A well-negotiated consent order can also include a path to reinstatement of your psychologist's license.
If the board moves forward without a consent order, you will be summoned for a formal hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). This hearing will allow you to explain why the board should not suspend your license or revoke it. An attorney can represent you. Based on the evidence presented, the judge will make recommendations to the board regarding disciplinary actions. The board will then decide on the appropriate action against you, up to and including having your license revoked.
Why You Need a New Jersey Professional License Defense Attorney
The New Jersey Board of Psychological Examiners takes disciplinary action against psychologists very seriously. It is important to remember that the board's ultimate goal is to protect the public, not its licensees. The board has sweeping authority to impose disciplinary action with a low burden of proof, and there is no guarantee of presumed innocence in such cases. This puts you at a disadvantage from the beginning.
A good license defense attorney can greatly improve your chances of getting through the disciplinary process with your license intact. An attorney who knows how the process works can help you navigate the process, prepare a strong defense, negotiate with the board for leniency, and give you the best chance of having your case dismissed or avoiding a formal hearing altogether.
Your attorney can:
- Act as your official legal counsel in all interactions with the board.
- Evaluate the complaint against you and develop a solid defense strategy.
- Draft a compelling written response to the complaint.
- Collect evidence and find witnesses to support your position.
- Negotiate directly with the board to have the complaint dismissed or for lenient penalties.
- Defend you vigorously at a formal hearing.
- In some cases, coordinate the process of reinstatement if your license is already suspended or revoked.
If you're facing an unjust accusation that could cost you your license, don't wait to take action. Hire a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.