Question/Answer Corner: What’s On Your Mind?
Q: You receive a subpoena asking for therapy records of a client whom you are no longer seeing and have not seen for several years. The subpoena is served on a particular day and asks for the records to be submitted to the attorney the following day. Is this a proper subpoena? What should you do?
A: No, it is not proper service because it does not give you sufficient time to respond. A subpoena has to give the person receiving it a reasonable time to respond and one day is not reasonable. How do you handle this? Should you call the attorney and let him or her know of the problem? Not unless you want your day to get a lot more contentious!
Fax the attorney – if no fax number is listed on the subpoena, call the receptionist and request a fax number without saying who you are. Fax the attorney to let him/her know that you just received the subpoena and cannot respond by the next day. The attorney may have sent the subpoena to the court way ahead of time and the sheriff just did not get it out to you timely. But, you have a right to a reasonable time to respond. And remember the protocol that I recommend for responding to subpoenas.
First, get in touch with your client (if number is no longer good, you can get it from the attorney who sent the subpoena – again, by fax!!). Then, meet briefly with the client to get the Release signed on your letterhead and discuss the litigation and the client’s option NOT to release the records (and inform client that someone would have to have an attorney file a Motion to Quash the subpoena – client’s responsibility to pay for this legal action). If client gives permission for you to release records, fax the attorney again with the invoice for the records and make sure that the courier brings you a check when picking up the records. Do not mail records and wait for a check and do not release to a courier without being paid at that time.
No new blogs this month. If you have topics that you would like discussed in the blog format, please email them to me. You are welcome to join me in a blog if you like. All ideas and participation welcome!!
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.
For this month, I attended the Social Work Board meeting. Here are some of the issues that were addressed as allegations in the various Complaints presented at the meeting:
- Abrupt termination;
- Sex with client;
- Substandard practice with child client – child allegedly was only seen for 5 – 10 minutes and remainder of sessions were spent with parent;
- Unlicensed practice – person licensed in another state;
- Documentation issues;
- Reunification therapy – therapist was allegedly biased and bullying;
- Social Worker allegedly grabbed child client and placed him in a “basket hold” (used in inpatient settings) when child was destroying office property and mother (in room with kid and therapist) was ineffective in stopping kid;
- Medicaid fraud through fraudulent billing where sessions billed were not conducted;
- Dual relationship alleged (but really not – the Complainant said that therapist was seeing stepdaughter and then made a child protection report);
- Mandatory Disclosure form improper and licensee was late in responding to DORA;
- Social Worker allegedly recommended medication for client (but was dismissed because therapist only wrote in referral to psychiatrist that client’s family members had done well on a certain medication);
- Therapist recommended parenting time and was not the appointed PRE professional; and
- Therapist was appointed to conduct PRE and allegedly did not update information, but in Response, therapist stated that such was not true and she did review the old PRE and updated the information and even charged the parents $200 for such review/update. Board didn’t find a problem with this allegation, but found that her Mandatory Disclosure was not proper because she did not include her license number and the Board referred the matter to Executive Session to discuss discipline.
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 can custom tailor training to your particular agency or small group with questions submitted in advance by participants, if desired.
On April 17th, Deb presented a 3-hour seminar to Sungate Kids, Colorado Child Advocacy and Abuse Services entitled:
Self-Protective, Ethical Practices for Clinicians to Handle High-Risk Clients and Legal Involvement
Some of the participants had this to say about Deb’s training:
- “Very helpful and informative. Thank you!”
- “Great info – very knowledgeable and great examples. Great reminders as well as some new nuggets.”
- “Could have listened to you all day! Great info. Lots to think about.”
- “Very good! Lively! Engaging! Knowledgeable! Very important information. Perfect timing.”
- “Deb presented excellent information that I feel will help me with my practice. Excellent info! Great workshop.”
- “I attend multiple, legal, ethical practice trainings and Deb is excellent in presentation. Thank you!”
- “Great advice about staying balanced/grounded in testifying.”
- “I appreciate Deborah being both a clinician and an attorney. Frightening possibilities regarding DORA, but [she helped me] know what possible protections I can possibly provide for clients and myself.”
Deb’s Clinical 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 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.
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 and another clinician 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.
(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.