If you're a licensed psychologist in New York, you hold an office that depends heavily on the public trust. As mental health continues to be a major priority in today's world, and as patients coming for counseling can be particularly vulnerable, it's little wonder that the State of New York holds psychologists to a high standard of care.
Unfortunately, this also means that all it may take to put your professional license in jeopardy is a single allegation of misconduct or wrongdoing. The New York State Office of the Professions (OP) investigates complaints against licensed psychologists. If they find reason to believe that you have violated the terms of your license or public trust, they will take disciplinary action against you--up to and including revoking your license to practice.
A license defense attorney who is familiar with the disciplinary process can help guard your rights if you find yourself in this situation. Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents licensed psychologists and other New York professionals whose licenses are under scrutiny. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case and your options.
What Types of Complaints Can Lead to a Psychologist Losing Their License in New York?
The Office of the Professions requires licensed psychologists to adhere to high ethical and professional standards. Most claims that could threaten your license are related either to a violation of these standards or a breach in public trust. Among the most common accusations are:
- Sexual misconduct. Sex with one's patients is a major violation, and an allegation of such could quickly result in the loss of license. Other examples of sexual misconduct include sexual harassment or unwelcome sexual advances toward employees, patients, and coworkers.
- Dual relationships. Establishing a separate financial relationship with a patient (e.g., borrowing money or soliciting investments) is grounds for losing your license because these relationships may have conflicting interests and affect the advice you give.
- Fraud. Examples are "upcoding" insurance claims to get more money, overcharging patients or insurance, false advertising, or misrepresenting credentials.
- Substance abuse. If the board finds that you are impaired in judgment or professional ability due to alcoholism or drug abuse, your license could be revoked.
- Criminal convictions. If a psychologist is convicted of a crime, especially a crime of moral turpitude, their license could be at risk.
- Violation of patient confidentiality. You could lose your license if you share what a patient says to you in confidence (except in cases of abuse) or if you are negligent with a patient's personal info.
- Failure to report abuse. When a patient discloses abuse against a spouse, child, or the elderly, patient confidentiality no longer applies. You're required by law to report it to the authorities, and if you don't, you could lose your license.
What Is the Disciplinary Process for Psychologists in New York?
Most disciplinary actions against licensed psychologists begin with a formal complaint. New York has standardized the procedure by which complaints can be filed against licensed professionals, including psychologists. Any member of the public can file a formal complaint with the New York Office of the Professions. Most complaints about psychologists are made by patients, coworkers, other practitioners, or occasionally insurance providers. After the OP receives a complaint, the standard disciplinary process usually progresses through the following stages.
The OP begins by launching an investigation to determine if the complaint is supported by evidence. The investigation involves interviews with the complainant and applicable witnesses, reviewing documents, etc. If the investigation uncovers insufficient evidence to verify the complaint, the OP will dismiss the complaint and consider the matter closed. However, if sufficient evidence is discovered, they will refer it to the NYS Education Department Board of Regents for review.
The board may offer to have you sign a consent order as an alternative to a formal hearing, particularly if the evidence suggests discipline is likely. A consent order is a legally binding agreement in which you effectively acknowledge wrongdoing and agree to submit to the board's recommendations regarding disciplinary actions. A consent order is not the best choice for everyone, but it can work in your favor in certain situations, especially if it includes a path to reinstatement of your license.
Next, the Board of Regents meets to review the complaint and determine if disciplinary action should be taken. The board may summon you to appear and show cause why your license should not be revoked. You're permitted to have an attorney represent you at this hearing. The board will then make a decision on guilt or innocence based on a preponderance of the evidence, and then decide whether to invoke disciplinary action, up to and including revoking your psychology license.
Why It's Important to Hire a License Defense Attorney to Help You
If someone files a complaint against your psychologist's license, you're at an immediate disadvantage. The NYS Office of the Professions is obligated to protect the public from potential harm and has broad authority to discipline psychologists accused of violating boundaries or committing misconduct with a relatively low burden of proof. To be certain that your legal rights are being upheld and to give yourself the best chance possible in this stressful situation, you need a New York psychology license defense attorney by your side. A good attorney can help you at every stage of the disciplinary process, including:
- Acting as your official legal representative in all interactions with the OP and Board of Regents
- Filing a compelling response to the complaint
- Gathering evidence and witnesses to support your position
- Negotiating for a dismissal of the complaint and/or lesser disciplinary actions
- Negotiating the best possible terms of a consent order
- Defending you at a formal hearing, if necessary
In short, your chances of keeping your psychology license go up greatly when you have a license defense attorney in your corner as opposed to facing the allegations alone. And saving your license, by extension, means saving your career.
If you are currently facing disciplinary action from the New York State Board of Regents or have received notice that an investigation is being conducted against your psychologist's license, don't wait to get legal help. The sooner you involve Attorney Joseph D. Lento, the better your chances of a favorable outcome. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.