This is the first post in my series on defending your behavioral health license when you are accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a client. When Phoenix, Arizona area therapists are working with someone closely as a social worker or counselor, sometimes lines between what is personal and professional become blurred. This is possible on both the client and professional side of the relationship. People in caring professions all share the difficulty of maintaining good boundaries. My upcoming posts will cover the following topics:
- Common explanations for false claims
- The hearing process
- Understanding appeals
I understand that your license is your livelihood and when you are accused of inappropriate behavior with a client you need your lawyer to bring his or her A-game. I have experience handling licensing negotiations and hearings in many different fields, including behavioral health.
The first thing that will happen after a client brings a claim against you is that the Board of Behavioral Health Examiners (Board) will conduct an investigation. They are authorized to immediately suspend your license when the complaint is received, but may not do so in all cases. It is required that they make a special finding that the complaint affects public health, safety or welfare. If your license was temporarily suspended, you have the right to a hearing before the Board or an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) within 60 days. The investigation will include interviews and possible physical examination of the licensee. When you are notified of a complaint it is imperative that you contact an attorney immediately. If you have warning it may happen then you should still contact a lawyer. Early intervention and investigation can help you successfully defend your license.
There are both informal and formal hearing processes available to the Board. In many cases, the licensee can reach an acceptable resolution with the board before formal proceedings are necessary. The agreement might include hours of continuing education or training targeted to maintaining better boundaries with clients. I will discuss the hearing processes in more detail in post three of this series. If your counsel is unable to resolve your case favorably with the Board, you may appeal to the Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings.
Your lawyer will independently investigate the claim against you, including checking the background and motives of the complaining client and collecting any evidence (such as recordings) that may exist. I understand that your license is a matter of pride and your primary means of support. As a Phoenix licensing attorney, I can help you navigate the process. Contact my office today for more information. I also represent those in other Maricopa County cities such as Mesa, Glendale, Scottsdale, Chandler, and Gilbert, as well as Pima County residents in Tucson.