As a licensed marriage and family therapist in Pennsylvania, your profession relies heavily on public trust—and you've worked hard and long to be worthy of that trust. The counsel you give to couples and families, and your behavior toward them, can have a profound impact on their lives--for good or for bad. That's why, although your career can be highly rewarding, it's also highly regulated. It's also why a single complaint or allegation of wrongdoing could potentially derail all you've worked for by jeopardizing your license.
The Pennsylvania State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Professional Counselors has incredibly rigorous standards for their licensees' ethical conduct and professional proficiency. If a violation is reported, the board will undertake an investigation that may culminate in having your license revoked or suspended, resulting in you being unable to practice professionally anymore.
When your Pennsylvania MFT license is in trouble, the best way to protect it is to enlist an experienced Pennsylvania license defense attorney as early in the process as possible. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team possess years of experience in disciplinary cases with licensed professionals, and they understand what is needed to get the most favorable resolution possible. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
Allegations that Could Endanger Your Marriage and Family Therapist's License
Since marriage and family therapy is a role of public confidence, the majority of offenses that can lead to one's license being revoked are related to breaching this trust or disregarding state codes of ethics. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- Relationship misconduct. It is highly unethical to initiate or pursue any romantic or sexual relationship with a client. Moreover, any other misconduct, such as unwanted sexual advances between colleagues/clients or having dual relationships with clients (e.g., financial or familial) that might be considered manipulative, could result in disciplinary action.
- Fraudulent activities. Some examples of fraudulent practices may include submitting overinflated billing to insurance companies, overcharging patients, deceptive advertising claims, etc.
- Substance abuse. Addiction to alcohol or drugs can put your professional license in jeopardy due to the uncertainty that you are equipped to serve clients competently while under its influence.
- Misrepresenting credentials. If you make deceptive statements concerning your qualifications, you could put your license at serious risk. Likewise, if you provide treatment or therapy outside the scope of your license, you could face disciplinary actions.
- Record-keeping/confidentiality violations. Counselor-client confidentiality is something of great importance to be respected and upheld. Thus any breach in records or disclosure of confidential client information (even accidental) can result in disciplinary action.
- Criminal convictions. In Pennsylvania, being convicted for crimes of moral turpitude or sexual or violent offenses can disqualify you from being a licensed MFT.
The Pennsylvania License Discipline Process
In Pennsylvania, all complaints against state-licensed professionals are received and processed through the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA). Any member of the public can file a complaint against you with the BPOA. If such a complaint is filed, you can expect the disciplinary process to move through the following steps.
When the BPOA receives a complaint, they appoint an investigator from the Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation (BEI) to search for and collect any corroborating evidence. The investigation process may include interviewing the complainant and relevant witnesses as well as issuing subpoenas for documents. You may also have to send in a written response to the complaint, along with any proof that validates your story. If the BEI investigation turns up insufficient evidence to substantiate the complaint, the BPOA will likely dismiss it.
If the BEI finds enough evidence to suggest that you have committed misconduct or a violation, the Board may offer you an opportunity to enter into a consent agreement instead of going through a hearing. Agreeing to this form of settlement effectively means you're voluntarily submitting to the Board's recommendations for disciplinary action, whether it's fines, probation, suspension, or surrendering your license. Signing a consent agreement isn't always in your best interests, but if disciplinary actions are likely based on the evidence, it may be your best option--especially if your attorney can negotiate terms for keeping or reinstating your license into the agreement.
If the complaint reaches the formal hearing stage, you will be summoned to appear before an official state examiner to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against your MFT license. In the hearing, you may be accompanied by your attorney to present your defense and protect and assert your rights. After concluding this hearing, the Board will make a final determination regarding relevant disciplinary measures--including revoking your license should it be deemed necessary.
How a License Defense Attorney Can Help You
When a complaint has been filed concerning misconduct in license investigations, you are effectively entering the process at a disadvantage. The State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Professional Counselors take these matters very seriously with their prime directive being to protect public health and safety. They need only determine one's guilt or innocence by relying on a preponderance of evidence available—granting them broad authority to decide disciplinary actions against you without regard to a presumption of innocence. It is, therefore, essential that you have an experienced Pennsylvania licensed defense attorney in your corner to help protect and assert your rights, ensure your due process rights are observed, and work towards achieving a favorable outcome for the situation.
A qualified attorney can provide valuable guidance throughout the proceedings, from submitting responses to complaints and negotiating consent agreements to preparing for and defending you at a formal hearing, if necessary. However, an experienced attorney with strong negotiating skills can often hammer out a favorable resolution with the Board before the matter even makes it to the formal hearing stage. In short, your odds of keeping your career intact are much higher with the right attorney working on your behalf.
Remember, for a licensed marriage and family therapist in Pennsylvania, all it may take is a simple mistake, misstep, or misunderstanding to put your license in jeopardy. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team have the experience needed to help you get a favorable outcome that keeps your career intact. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation.