Protect your Psychology License with Clear Patient Boundaries
By Priscilla Lord, Esq.
You have been counseling a client for several months and find that you two really hit it off. This client is someone you enjoy being with and you are thinking of becoming friends, or more. STOP! Crossing this boundary with your client is a violation of your practice standards and could be devastating to the health of your client.
Setting Boundaries When Counseling a Patient/Client
Boundaries are the rules by which we live and interact with others. In a psychotherapy practice, firm client boundaries and expectations must be set by the therapist when entering a therapeutic relationship.
Common boundaries to implement:
Set communication standards from the start
Avoid social media interaction
Avoid interactions outside of sessions
While therapy always involves discussing your client's personal life, your personal life should always be off limits. Additionally, avoid any physical touching that may be interpreted as a violation of ethical codes and standards set by your licensing board. Respect for boundaries goes both ways and must be honored by both you and your client. Healthy boundaries are critical to the integrity of a positive therapist-client relationship.
For additional resources, check out Five Ways to Protect Your Therapist or Social Worker License
Protecting the Patient/Client Relationship When Counseling
You as the therapist are always in a position of power over your client: the client is vulnerable because they have come to you asking for help and seeking answers. This is very important for you to understand. When you are meeting with a client in a private setting, it may occasionally be tempting to allow the relationship to become more intimate. It may start very innocently by sharing an experience or story from your personal life, but this is always a very slippery slope. As the therapist, you have the power in the relationship. And when the therapist allows the working relationship to become intimate, the client usually does not have the skills to navigate the relationship because of the power differential. Set clear boundaries early and often.
The Minnesota Board of Psychology, Minnesota Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy, and Minnesota Board of Social Work take boundaries violations very seriously and it is likely that they will discipline licensees who have violated patient boundaries. Consequently, it is critical that as a psychotherapist you are always mindful of your proper role in the relationship and uphold strict and firm boundaries in all client interactions.
The State of Minnesota spells out the expectations and rules that must be followed for therapists in each profession's practice act as follows:
Minnesota Board of Psychology Minn. Stat. §148.88 -148.89
Minnesota Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy (LPC and LPCC) Minn. Stat. §148B.50-148B-593.
Minnesota Board of Social Work: Minn. Stat. §148E.001-148E.290
For more information about professional boundaries and the Minnesota statutes and rules that govern your practice, visit your licensing board website here:
Minnesota Board of Psychology / Minnesota Board of Psychology (mn.gov)
Minnesota Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy
Minnesota Board of Social Work
Understanding Licensing Boards for Therapist License Defense
The State of Minnesota has created a licensing board for each type of professional license. The primary purpose of a licensing board is to prevent possible exploitation and harm to the patient or client. The general public may not have sufficient knowledge to recognize when a mental health licensee is unqualified. As a result, each licensing board upholds the minimum standards set by the legislature that each licensee must meet.
When we receive calls from a licensee, usually they have already received a letter from their licensing board, requiring that they appear before a Complaint Review Committee who is charged with investigating complaints. Each letter is unique to that individual and must be responded to within a certain amount of time. The letter instructs the licensee that they have the option to hire an attorney to assist them in writing a written response to the allegations and to appear with the Licensee at the Review Committee's meeting.
How We Can Help You Defend Your Therapist License and Psychologist License
In our law practice at Lord + Heinlein, we have successfully represented over 200 + clients holding professional licenses in the state of Minnesota. If you should receive a letter from your licensing board's Complaint Review Committee, call us at 612-333-5673 for a free consultation. We will provide you with a detailed assessment of your case and walk you through step by step as we defend your professional license. We have the wisdom and experience to guide you through the process, assist you in composing your written response to the allegations, and prepare and accompany you to any hearing or conference you have been asked to attend. We understand how important your livelihood is to you. At Lord + Heinlein, we are your powerful legal voice.