Question/Answer Corner: What’s On Your Mind?
Q: A client’s attorney asks you to provide an opinion for use in court proceedings. Let’s say it concerns clinical and/or safety recommendations about a child. You feel compelled to help the family and/or to protect the child. Should you provide the attorney with your statement for use in the litigation?
A: NO!! Not without a subpoena being issued and proper methods being employed to obtain any relevant authorization from clients before sharing confidential information. Or, if no confidential information, but just opinion about the child’s best interests, perhaps only authorization is necessary from parent who brought child in for treatment, but beware of furnishing an opinion statement without doing so pursuant to subpoena. The other parent likely will retaliate by filing a Complaint alleging you were biased, etc. if you do. If you receive a subpoena and do not have proper authorization, then you must file a motion to quash the subpoena and have the judge order you to testify or provide clinical records/opinion. That way you are covered.
I have defended so many clinicians who are well meaning and try to help out by furnishing their opinions upon request of the attorney for one parent. Please do not do this. You are putting yourself in jeopardy. Seek legal consultation if such a situation arises to avoid a problem down the road. And, good luck!!
Recent blog posts you might be interested in:
DORA: What’s On the Various Boards’ Radar?
I try to attend all the public Board meetings of all the Mental Health Boards: Social Work, Professional Counselors, Psychologists, Marriage & Family Therapists, Addiction Counselors, and Registered Psychotherapists. Each month, this section will address current issues that arise in various Board meetings that may seem helpful for practicing clinicians.
Social Work Board Meeting: One case involving the above came up at the most recent Social Work Board meeting. The allegation (by ex-husband) was that the therapist spoke to wife’s attorney without hubby’s permission. This matter went into Executive Session for the Board to discuss discipline.
There was another case involving a high-conflict divorce. Complainant alleged the social worker treated the kids without his permission. The facts indicated that the therapist had only seen the kids each once and that was in a family session. Case was dismissed.
Failure to report a felony conviction on the application and renewal of licensure was the subject of another matter. This case was initiated by the Board when it somehow discovered the omission.
Another matter involved the self-report of DUI – the licensee said s/he had taken Ambien and does not recall driving. This went into Executive Session.
There were also several cases involving allegations of the social worker’s substance use/abuse. If these seem credible, the licensee will be required to get a substance use/abuse assessment. Same with mental health concern – mental health assessment will be required.
What people said about my most recent seminar:
- “I always enjoy your trainings. I appreciate your flexibility in regards to discussing audience members’ concerns/experiences.”
- “My third seminar with you — you are great! Keep on teaching this class…”
- “Always great! Thank you! Wish you had more throughout the year… You are engaging and positive.”
- “Excellent! I could not think of anything to improve on this workshop. Keep doing what you’re doing.”
- “Excellent presentation. Very informative and well thought out frame work. Thanks Deb!”
- “Presenter was engaging, knowledgeable, and very thorough.”
- “Great seminar and very informative. Thank you!”
- “Very intriguing and engaging session.”
- “Nice work! Very interesting, especially when examining specific case studies.”
Training/Consultation For Clinicians/Agencies
Deb has been providing training for high risk clinical situations and legal involvement of the therapist for groups here in Colorado. Deb consults with agencies to help therapists prepare for deposition or trial testimony, or to handle a subpoena request for clinical records.
Deb is available to meet with individual therapists who need risk prevention consultation and/or with groups of any size for any type of self-protective, clinical practice in this litigious age. Deb will be working with a staff group of around 70 in the new year. She can custom tailor training to your particular agency or small group with questions submitted in advance by participants, if desired.
She is offering the following training in New Orleans in 2017 and would be happy to provide a similar presentation for groups in Colorado: Ethical, Clinical Practice in the Electronic Age.
NEW to Deb’s Practice
(1) Referrals being accepted for women’s therapy group to begin later this fall. Good candidates include women between ages approximately 35 – 60 who are undergoing a significant life transition, such as (a) loss of job, (b) major health issue, (c) divorce or death of partner, or (d) depression/anxiety that you believe group work would help. Client would continue in individual therapy with referring therapist – group would only augment clinical work. Group will meet in the evening at Deb’s Lakewood office.
(2) Deb has recently attended a fabulous seminar on Working with Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Clients – children through adults. One take-away was that the families of Gender non-conforming children and teens are incredibly underserved. So, Deb is offering family counseling to those who have a LGBTQ kid of any age coming out. If sufficient referrals come forth, Deb will start a multi-family group, which is very potent for families who feel isolated as in these situations. For more info, please call or have the family member call Deb at 504.232.8884. Deb is also a new Board member for PFLAG and will be assisting with the support groups in the near future, including the family and significant other support groups.
(3) Deb will be teaming up with a Yoga instructor who offers Trauma Sensitive Yoga for survivors – both a teen group and a women’s group. We will be offering short-term (probably 6-week) groups starting in the New Year. These groups will be structured around providing a safe space for survivors of any type of trauma. Here is the blurb about the group:
Certified Trauma-Sensitive Yoga Instructor Rachel Stroud and Therapist Deborah M. Henson, LCSW are collaborating to offer two 6-week Trauma-Sensitive Yoga Workshops. One workshop is aimed towards teens who have survived or are enduring any type of trauma and the other is geared towards women trauma survivors. We are reaching out to the communities in Denver/Lakewood and surrounding areas to invite trauma survivors to start or continue their healing journey. If you are a trauma survivor or know of someone who could benefit from this type of workshop, we’d love to hear from you so we can come together to find a 6-week slot that works for the majority. Please email Rachel Stroud at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 405-640-5132 to express interest and to collaborate meeting times.
(4) Post-Divorce Facilitation – if any of your clients are considering divorce or have recently gotten divorced, I am available to help facilitate the process between the parents with the co-parenting of their children. It takes a new headset to become successful, non-conflictual co-parents, especially when the baggage of divorce litigation is hanging heavy over their heads. If you want more information about the co-parenting facilitation, feel free to email or call me or have the interested client contact me.
(5) Deb’s therapy office in Lakewood (Green Mountain area) is available for reasonable subletting by day, half-day, or evening. A couple evenings have been taken, but some remain as do a few days or half-days. Please check out her listing on Craigslist Denver or call her for more info or to schedule a time to visit the office: 504.232.8884.
Legal Services Offered
- Legal Representation & Consultation for grievances (complaints) to licensing boards and/or malpractice lawsuits
- Training & Consultation for Clinicians and Agencies (e.g., respond ethically to subpoenas while protecting yourself and your clients; identify high-risk clients and situations to avoid client disciplinary complaints and harm to clients or third parties)
Deb Henson is an Attorney and LCSW (Tulane School of Social Work, MSW) in private practice in Denver and New Orleans, specializing in mental health licensing defense. She represents clinicians in DORA grievances (CO) and licensing board Complaints (LA) and regularly consults with clinicians in both states to help them deal with legal and clinical conundrums, such as: (1) the receipt of subpoenas for records or testimony; (2) the escalation of high-risk clinical situations; and (3) other sticky ethical wickets that arise in clinical practice. Deb helps clinicians develop self-protective, clinically sound and legally proper strategies for risk prevention.
Deb also maintains a clinical practice in Denver, with an office in the Green Mountain area of Lakewood. Through that private practice, Deb offers individual and couple therapy, primarily, and will be starting an ongoing women’s therapy group in the Fall (ages 35-65; interviews for group placement will be conducted upon referral). Referrals for the group are welcome – 504.232.8884.
Deb has been presenting half- and full-day seminars on “Avoiding Ethics Complaints and Malpractice Lawsuits” or “Legal and Ethical Issues in Clinical Practice” around the country through PESI, Inc. for over 7 years and presenting for many CEU groups in Louisiana and Colorado. She also has lectured for Tulane School of Social Work Continuing Education and the University of Texas School of Social Work (Austin) Continuing Professional Development program, and for many other clinical and counseling groups. Deb started her own training biz — Beyond Ethics, LLC — in 2009. Contact Deb for group presentations to agency staff and/or private practice consultation groups.
Deb can be reached through her law and social work web site: www.deborahmhenson.com or through her training web site: www.beyond-ethics.com. Deb can also be emailed at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. And, you can use the old tried and true method of calling her at 504.232.8884.