Every year, the California Board of Psychology (BOP) receives more than 600 complaints against mental health professionals. The allegations of ethical misconduct range from sexual abuse to unfair billing practices to incompetence. The BOP takes every complaint very seriously and has a spectrum of disciplinary actions that it can implement against professionals whom it finds guilty of wrongdoing.
What to know about California’s disciplinary measures
When handling a complaint against a psychologist, the BOP has two categories for its responding actions. Non-disciplinary administrative options include closing the case and taking no action, sending an educational letter to the practitioner or issuing a citation and a fine. Disciplinary administrative options, though, are more severe. These include:
- Letters of reproval
This action involves the BOP president formally reproving the psychologist in a letter. This is the least serious disciplinary option, usually reserved for cases in which the patient did not experience harm.
- Probation and suspension
A stipulated settlement or a decision by an administrative law judge could lead to suspension of the psychologist’s license and then probation. The BOP suspends the license for a period and its reinstatement is contingent upon adherence to the probationary terms.
- Interim suspension
Interim suspensions are not necessarily connected to a probationary period. They occur when a judge orders the immediate suspension of a license due to evidence that the psychologist has a high likelihood of re-offense.
- Surrender of license
This option allows psychologists to relinquish their licenses if they wish to avoid an administrative hearing. A surrender of license must go through a stipulated agreement with the BOP.
- Revocation of license
Finally, the most devastating of the disciplinary options: the revocation of one’s license. Revocation is reserved for the most serious of offenses in which a patient suffers harm. In these scenarios, a psychologist must wait at least three years before petitioning for another license.
All disciplinary actions are a matter of public record and available to potential clients. Just one of these actions against an otherwise reputable psychologist could permanently damage their reputation and their practice. It is crucial for every psychologist to have a strong defense to any allegation of misconduct, experienced representation for an administrative hearing and counsel that can advocate for his or her best interests against the Board of Psychology.