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Sexual Misconduct in the Therapist-Client Relationship, Part II | Possible Penalties 

If you are a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT), or Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) who has been accused of sexual misconduct, you should take immediate action. Seek counsel from an experienced healthcare attorney regarding the possible penalties you might face.

In Part I of this blog series, we discussed what constitutes sexual misconduct with a client or patient, how the Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage & Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling defines “client,” and when the therapist-client relationship is terminated. You can read Part I of this blog called, Sexual Misconduct Defined to learn more. In Part II of this blog topic, we’ll discuss the disciplinary guidelines for sexual misconduct.

Sexual Misconduct | What are the Disciplinary Guidelines?

The Board uses disciplinary guidelines to help determine what actions should be taken in a particular case. These can be found in Florida Administrative Code 64B4-5.001. The discipline will vary depending on if is your first offense or whether you have violated before. For sexual misconduct with a patient, the disciplinary guidelines are:

 MINIMUMMAXIMUM
FIRST OFFENSE$1,000 fine and one (1) year suspension then probation$1,000 fine and revocation
SECOND OFFENSE$1,000 fine and two (2) years suspension then probation$1,000 fine and permanent revocation
THIRD AND SUBSEQUENT OFFENSES$5,000 fine, two (2) years suspension then probation$10,000 fine and permanent revocation

As you can see, the disciplinary guidelines for sexual misconduct can be very severe. However, it is important to remember that the disciplinary guidelines are just that, guidelines; they are not set in stone. The Board of Psychology can deviate from the guidelines if it considers aggravating and mitigating factors when deciding on a penalty.

Sexual Misconduct | Aggravating and Mitigating Factors

The Board considers various factors to determine what discipline you will receive, and these are called aggravating and mitigating factors. These factors are found in the Board’s rules, and they include:

  • The danger posed to the public;
  • The length of time since the violation(s) occurred;
  • Prior discipline imposed upon the therapist;
  • The length of time the therapist has practiced;
  • The actual damage, physical or otherwise, to the client;
  • The deterrent effect of the penalty imposed;
  • The effect of the penalty upon the therapist’s livelihood;
  • Any efforts for rehabilitation;
  • The actual knowledge of the therapist pertaining to the violation;
  • Attempts by the therapist to correct or stop violations or failure of the licensee to correct or stop violations;
  • If applicable, elated violations against the therapist in another state.

If there are mitigating factors in a case, it is possible to get sexual misconduct discipline reduced. However, aggravating factors will have the opposite effect. An experienced licensing attorney will be able to apply these factors to your case and present them to the Board.

If you are a licensed therapist (LCSW, LMFT, LMHC) who has received an Administrative Complaint, you are probably concerned about how this may affect your license. Our firm represents physicians, nurses, psychologists, therapists, and other licensed professionals statewide. Our goal is to successfully defend you so that you can keep your professional license.

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