Marriage and Family Therapist License Defense Attorneys
You most likely became a marriage and family therapist to help others improve their lives. A lot of training and time goes into gaining necessary credentials.
These careers are largely dependent on building trust, so when allegations of misconduct put your hard-earned Texas license in jeopardy, the best path forward is to review all your options with an experienced marriage and family therapist license defense attorney.
The Texas professional license defense lawyers with McDonald, Mackay, Porter & Weitz, LLP realize the dedication you have for your profession and know how to protect it. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.
About the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists
Marriage and Family Therapists across Texas are licensed and overseen by the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists. This regulatory board is under the umbrella of the Texas Department of Health and qualifies professionals either as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) or as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate. The board is comprised of licensed therapists and public members.
As you can expect from a licensing board entrusted with ensuring Texas Family and Marriage Therapists conduct themselves in a professional manner, they take claims of professional misconduct seriously and can sanction offenders severely. Possible disciplinary action can involve various restrictions and conditions or your MFT license being suspended or revoked. Reports of inappropriate behavior can come from just about anyone including previous and current employees, fellow therapists, insurance providers, friends or family of clients, law enforcement agencies, and obviously displeased clients themselves.
Some of the most common ways a family or marriage therapist can be put at risk of disciplinary action include:
- Inaccurate billing
- Inappropriate relationships/conduct with clients
- Being convicted of a serious criminal offense
- Violating confidentiality/other ethical obligations
If any of these situations apply to you, contact a MFT license defense attorney to help you navigate the waters with the Board. Our frequently asked questions may also provide some answers in the meantime.
Investigations and Disciplinary Actions
When accusations are made against a licensee in Texas, if enough credible evidence is available, the Board will most likely initiate an investigation. Agency representatives at times can be rather aggressive in conducting these investigations. Consequently, it is crucial for therapists to take these matters seriously and understand the Board’s role and the processes involved. Contacting an experienced MFT license defense attorney is most often the quickest way to get a handle on the procedures involved and the expectations of the agency with respect to documents and other evidence. Since most investigations and disciplinary processes involve set timelines and deadlines, it is important to move quickly to obtain counsel in order to timely and effectively respond to the agency.
Once the therapist has responded and the investigator has obtained the available information, the agency staff makes a recommendation regarding the allegations and the strength of the evidence. The information obtained by the investigator is presented and a decision is made regarding the case. At this stage, the matter may be dismissed or set for further action including:
The Ethics Committee will convene in a public meeting. The complainant and therapist are invited to attend. Both may address the Committee. The Committee may also ask questions of the parties present, and reviews the information presented to it. The Committee may vote to close and dismiss the matter or offer an Agreed Order to resolve the case.
If the evidence shows a violation of the licensing act or the Board’s rules and regulations, it may make a settlement offer in the form of a proposed Agreed Order. The Agreed Order will state the allegations against the therapist, the sections of the law that have been violated and the restrictions or conditions being placed on the individual’s license. The restrictions can vary and may include educational courses, job restrictions, a fine, employer notifications, supervision requirements, counseling requirements, practice restrictions, and other such actions. If there are any mitigating factors, the severity of the restrictions or the time frame of the order may be decreased.
If the therapist agrees with the proposed order and it is ratified by the Board, the resulting disciplinary action will be entered onto the Board’s website and typically printed in their newsletter and given to national data banks.
Informal Settlement Conference
If the therapist does not consent to the Agreed Order, the licensee has the right to an Informal Settlement Conference. This is a closed meeting and not open to the public. While the complainant is given the chance to be present and speak, they are not permitted to stay and participate or hear the therapist’s presentation. The complainant is not informed of the outcome until it has been finalized.
At the Informal Conference, the allegations and evidence are presented to Board members and agency staff. The licensee is allowed to present their side of the case and answer questions. The Board representatives will discuss the information and make a recommendation for final action. The therapist will usually be informed of the recommendation prior to leaving the Board’s offices. Possible outcomes include a dismissal, a proposed Agreed Order, or to have the case referred directly to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH).
If after the Informal Conference the complaint remains unresolved, the licensee is entitled to a formal hearing presided over by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at the State Office of Administration Hearings (SOAH). At this SOAH hearing, the licensee and the Board will present their respective cases at a trial requiring pre-hearing preparation, possible motion practice, the introduction of exhibits, and the testimony of witnesses. Post-hearing pleadings are usually required to include the exchange of written closing arguments.
After the hearing is concluded, the ALJ will examine the entire case record and provide a recommendation to all parties through a Proposal for Decision (PFD). The PFD will be sent to the Board for its consideration prior to a final decision and may require written responses from the parties. The final determination of the Board may follow the PFD or possibly deviate in significant ways. The outcome could be a dismissal, a fine, a reprimand, conditions of licensure, restriction on practice, or revocation of the MFT license. A timely motion for rehearing may be necessary to preserve the licensee’s right to appeal the decision. If properly preserved, appellate relief may be sought through District Court.
How a MFT License Defense Attorney Can Help
When a licensee is confronted with allegations, an investigation, and possible disciplinary action by the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists, they face a complex process with extremely serious implications. A Texas medical license defense attorney experienced in this area of the law can often help. Contact us for a consultation.