Florida Psychologists Defense Attorney

Have you been served with an Administrative Complaint from the Florida Board of Psychology? Are you worried about the future of your career and professional reputation because of the complaint lodged against you? As a mental health professional, any complaint filed against you may result in long-term damaging consequences on your future wellbeing. Any license discipline can leave a lasting impact on your current employment and future prospects, so it’s critical that you hire an experienced license defense lawyer who can fight on your behalf and safeguard your license, career, and reputation.

At The Umansky Law Firm, our Florida Board of Psychology defense attorneys recognize the commitment and sacrifices you make each day in this occupation. Our lawyers can walk you through this difficult time and fight on your behalf to defend the license that you’ve dedicated your life to attaining.

What Legal Responsibilities Do Mental Health Professionals Have?

Mental health professionals are bound to five general principles set forth by the American Psychological Association that includes:

  • Beneficence and nonmaleficence (to do no harm)
  • Fidelity and responsibility
  • Integrity
  • Justice
  • Respect for people’s rights and dignity

Florida Statute Chapter 490.003(4) defines the practice of psychology as:

“The observations, description, evaluation, interpretation, and modification of human behavior, by the use of scientific and applied psychological principles, methods, and procedures, for the purpose of describing, preventing, alleviating, or eliminating symptomatic, maladaptive, or undesired behavior and of enhancing interpersonal behavioral health and mental or psychological health.”

Psychologists work with patients as therapists or counselors to use psychotherapy to support patients dealing with trauma and mental illness. Most often, psychologists work with patients closely to dissect and work through personal issues and learn healthy coping mechanisms for emotional problems.

Why Is Having a Professional License Essential for Psychologists in Florida?

To work in Florida, psychologists must become licensed. Many psychologists are required to have a doctoral degree, or in some instances, a specialized master’s degree, but a license is non-negotiable to practice as a mental health professional. A professional license is necessary to show patients and clients that you are qualified to help them out and offer advice. Licensing requirements also protect the general public from seeing a mental health professional who is not eligible to provide counseling or advice.

Who Licenses Psychologists in Florida?

The Florida Board of Psychology is responsible for licensing, monitoring, educating, and disciplining psychologists. Florida psychologists must adhere to the rules and regulations set by the Board and meet minimum requirements for safe practices. The Board of Psychology assures competency and safety to mental health practices in the State of Florida.

What Are Common Complaints Against Psychologists That Could Result in Disciplinary Action?

Throughout the course of their careers, psychologists face a plethora of ethical questions or challenges that, if not handled correctly, can result in a complaint to the Florida Board of Psychology. According to an article by the American Psychology Association, an estimated 40 percent of psychologists will receive a complaint to the licensing Board at least once over a 20-year career. However, malpractice lawsuits are much more infrequent, with an estimated two percent of psychologists who face a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Some of the most common complaints against psychologists in Florida include:

  • Conviction of a felony
  • Forming a sexual relationship with a patient
  • Incompetence or deception
  • Filing fraudulent claims
  • Misleading or false advertising
  • Aiding someone who is not licensed practice psychology
  • Failing to abide by conditions for prescribing controlled substances
  • Receiving a kickback for a referral or paying a kickback to a patient or client
  • Gross malpractice

Kickbacks, or bribes, are corrupt in nature. They’re illegal payments intended as compensation for inappropriate services or favorable treatment that are often used in political circles. Psychologists who treat high-risk patients such as those with severe mental illnesses, personality disorders, or who are suicidal should be especially careful and have sufficient malpractice insurance to help safeguard any complaint filed against their license.

How Are Complaints Filed Against Psychologists in Florida?

The Florida Board of Psychology refers to complaints against licensed psychologists to the Florida Department of Health (FDOH). The FDOH assigns an investigator to review the allegation and move forward with prosecutorial tasks involving licensed psychologists. Any person who wishes to file a complaint against a mental health professional would do so through the Florida Health Care Complaint Portal.

How Does the Complaint Process Against Mental Health Professionals Work in Florida?

After a complaint is filed against a licensed psychologist, psychiatrist, or any mental health professional, an investigator from the FDOH will be appointed to examine your case. The inquiry includes gathering sufficient information to determine whether the complaint can move on to the next step.

Material collected during an inquiry typically includes:

  • Interviewing complainants
  • Interviewing the subject of the complaint
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Issuing subpoenas
  • Recording sworn statements
  • Gathering documented evidence
  • Preparing reports

The investigator will contact you early in the investigation to request a meeting where you’ll learn details of the complaint lodged against you. It’s essential that you hire an experienced attorney as soon as you become aware of a complaint against you. Your attorney will be with you through this meeting and

Most times, the investigator will contact you to ask for a meeting. As a professional nurse, you must not ignore the complaint filed against you. You must contact a knowledgeable lawyer at your first opportunity before the investigator’s meeting. Partnering with a Florida psychologist defense lawyer will enable you to create a detailed and robust response to the investigation process. In some instances, a skilled lawyer can end the investigation process before it moves forward, and additional actions are initiated.

The Probable Cause Panel Assesses the Complaint

If the investigation acquires enough evidence to move the complaint to the next phase, it will be reviewed by a Probable Cause Panel. That will typically involve members of the Department of Health who examine the information and evidence related to the charge.

Throughout this process, it’s vital that you have your defense attorney at your side and do not try to manage it on your own.

The panel review may lead to three possible results:

  • Finding “no probable cause”
  • Issuing a “letter of guidance”
  • Issuing a formal Administrative Complaint

A finding of “no probable cause” is a dismissal of the case, which means there was not enough evidence proving that you violated any rule or regulation. A “letter of guidance” is not a disciplinary action, but it’s issued when the panel finds that a slight infringement did occur. The most severe outcome is when a formal Administrative Complaint is issued against you.

Process of the Administrative Complaint

An Administrative Complaint against you defines the statements and evidence against you assessed during the investigation, along with the specific laws or regulations that you’re indicted for violating. The complaint becomes public record at this point. So, even if the claim is thrown out, your reputation as a professional mental health professional can be tarnished. After consulting with your lawyer, you can choose whether you want to appear at either an Informal Hearing or Formal Hearing.

Informal Hearing

If you choose to proceed with an Informal Hearing, you have no intention to dispute any of the accusations against you, nor do you intend to reveal any new evidence. Instead, you’re accepting the complaints, and you’ll face the FDOH and the Board of Medicine where they’ll make a final decision on what penalties will be imposed against you.

Formal Hearing

If you wish to dispute the accusations and evidence found against you during the inquiry, you proceed with a Formal Hearing. This hearing is before Florida’s Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) and is chaired by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ hears the evidence from both sides and makes a final Recommended Order to the Florida Department of Health. The Board of Psychology then makes a final decision regarding disciplinary measures.

If your psychology license is suspended or revoked, you can appeal the decision by filing a judicial review petition. Your attorney is your most valuable advocate as you go through this process – always seek counsel from them before you make any decisions.

How Can a Florida Board of Psychology Discipline Defense Lawyer Help?

At The Umansky Law Firm, our professional license defense team thoroughly examines every case to find the relevant facts and the most efficient way to protect your psychology license. Sometimes, complaints against mental health professionals, like improper prescribing of controlled substances, can go to criminal court and face criminal charges. Having an accomplished criminal lawyer who handles professional license defense is the highest priority.

Umansky attorneys can help you in many ways, including:

 

  • Examine the complaint against you and build a defense by securing evidence, documents, and witnesses that help you
  • Prevent you from incriminating yourself as you defend against the accusations
  • Defend against potential criminal charges that may arise from the complaint
  • Determine the motive or bias behind the person who made the complaint against you
  • Help you respond to the Probable Cause Investigation by securing documents, witnesses, and other methods to determine there is no probable cause for the complaint
  • Help to try and get the complaint dismissed by the Probable Cause Panel
  • Argue that a guidance letter is better than a prosecution
  • Mitigate any potential punishments the FDOH may want to take
  • Present evidence, witnesses, and cross-examine State’s witnesses at a formal review hearing
  • Dispute the findings at an informal review hearing
  • Appeal the hearing

Protect Your Career in Psychology by Partnering with The Umansky Law Firm

If a former patient, client, competitor, or other individual filed a complaint against you, contact The Umansky Law Firm to secure trusted and experienced advocacy for your professional reputation and future. Attorney Bill Umansky has helped countless professionals in Florida defend their licenses and will leverage his knowledge and successful defense experience to effectively protect your rights, your reputation, and your career.

The sooner you secure qualified legal representation, the better your prospects are for resolving the complaint in your favor so you can move forward without worry about your career. To speak with an experienced medical license defense lawyer, complete an online contact form or call today at (407) 228-3838.