Question/Answer Corner: What’s On Your Mind?
Q: You are asked by an attorney of your client to provide a summary of your clinical opinion for the attorney’s use in the client’s divorce litigation. Should you do it? You believe that your opinion would be helpful to the client.
A: Protect yourself!! Never willingly provide any written statements for use in litigation unless you have received a subpoena and follow all the steps for ethically responding to that subpoena (discussed in previous newsletters and in ALL my trainings).
If you offer up your opinion, even if you believe it would be helpful, that can backfire against you in many ways. More details will be given in future newsletters, but heed this advice because I have represented numerous clinicians who were only trying to help the client by providing such opinion letters or emails that the attorney then incorporated into a pleading for his or her (and the therapist’s client’s advantage). In some of these cases, the other parent alleged bias against him/her as well as lack of competence due to the therapist’s opinion being given without sufficient assessment information (e.g., if the therapist did not see that other parent, but merely took the word of the client-parent and/or the child).
Protect yourself! Require a subpoena and go through the process for handling subpoena before giving any of your clinical opinions to be used in the legal arena.
New Legislation That Affects Our Clinical Practices
This new bill – Colorado HB-17-1011 – is waiting to be signed by the Governor, but if signed as expected, would be good for clinicians because it provides a statute of limitation for filing grievances and allows us to destroy records after 7 years (for adult clients).
What the bill requires of us:
The bill requires that any complaint filed with the division of professions and occupations in the department of regulatory agencies against a mental health professional alleging a maintenance-of-records violation must be commenced within 7 years after the alleged act or failure to act giving rise to the complaint. Mental health professionals must give notice to former clients that a client’s records may not be retained after the 7-year period. Complaints subject to the 7-year filing period must be resolved by the agency within 2 years after the date the complaint was filed.
[This info was posted to the CSCSW listserv by Sarah Lincoln LCSW BCD 303.691.6140]
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.
For this month, I want to reiterate that the mental health boards are very concerned about therapists using the correct mandatory disclosure forms. To be safe, you may want to download the one DORA has posted and modify it to fit your practice, but include what they list in their sample form.
Teaching at GSSW
Deb has been invited to join the respected pool of adjunct faculty at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work. Deb formerly taught in the MSW program at the Tulane University School of Social Work and at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. She is looking forward to resuming part-time graduate level teaching as she finds interactions with passionate, committed graduate students to be an enlivening, exciting addition to her law, clinical, and training practices. Once class assignments have been sorted, Deb will announce the specific classes she will be teaching this coming academic year.
Training/Legal 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 March 2017. She can custom tailor training to your particular agency or small group with questions submitted in advance by participants, if desired.
Deb will be presenting a 3-hour seminar on April 17, 2017 to SungateKids, Colorado Child Advocacy and Abuse Services entitled:
Self-Protective, Ethical Practices for Clinicians to Handle High-Risk Clients and Legal Involvement
For more information, contact Steffanie Walstra, Clinical Coordinator, at email@example.com.
Deb will be doing another 3-hour Beyond Ethics training in New Orleans on June 2, 2017 entitled:
Ethical, Clinical Practice in the Electronic Age
What people said about my most recent seminars:
- “Ms. Henson is extremely knowledgeable and delivery was excellent!” – (Participant, 2.17.17 Seminar)
- “Fantastic! Great information.” – (Participant, 2.17.17 Seminar)
- “Excellent presentation. The materials was well researched. The presenter is very knowledgeable.” – (Participant, 2.17.17 Seminar)
- “Excellent presentation – engaging and knowledgeable. Thanks, Deb!” – (Participant, 2.17.17 Seminar)
- “Excellent: presenter and content.” – (Participant, 2.17.17 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.”
- “Nice work! Very interesting, especially when examining specific case studies.”
Deb’s Clinical Practice
(1) Referrals being accepted for women’s therapy group. 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 will be teaming up with a trauma 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. 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.
Rachel & Deb are passionate about helping trauma survivors navigate through their healing journey and offering a safe place for them to heal from the deep places where trauma is held within the body. Trauma-Sensitive Yoga provides survivors with the opportunity to heal from the source, empowering them with renewed relationships with their bodies.
- Learn how to connect with your breath, mind and body to provide calm and safety within
- Learn techniques to help release stress, tension and anxiety
- Find connection, strength and support with others in a safe setting
- Learn to process your trauma & healing through movement, optional group sharing, journaling and mindfulness.
Trauma is different for everyone. The exact same traumatic event can, and likely will, affect individuals differently. Trauma can be, but it not limited to:
- PTSD of any kind
- Childhood trauma
- Sexual trauma
- Surviving a natural disaster
- Surviving/witnessing an attack
- First responders holding trauma from their first-hand accounts on the job
- LGBTQ processing/marginalization/discrimination/questioning…etc.
- Emotional/spiritual/physical abuse or trauma
- Death of a loved one and/or close encounters with death
- Surviving an accident
- Surviving or witnessing anything horrific and/or traumatizing
(3) Deb offers family counseling to those who have a LGBTQ kid or family member 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.
(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.
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, and work with LGBT individuals and families. Call her for more information about clinical services or to schedule an appointment: 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.