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Trends in Licensing Sanctions Against Counselors, Psychologists, Social Workers, and Marriage and Family Therapists in 2014

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists help people manage and overcome mental and emotional disorders and problems with their families, and The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists is projected to grow 29 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth is reportedly due to the increasing insurance coverage for these types of services. Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. One group of social workers, clinical social workers, also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral and emotional issues. Psychologists study cognitive, emotional and social processes and human behavior by observing, interpreting and recording how people relate to one another and their environments.

For the purpose of this survey the list was limited to the following licensed health professions:

  • Counseling
  • Social Work
  • Psychology
  • Marriage and Family Therapy

As a condition of licensure, counselors, psychologists, social workers and marriage and family therapists are subjected to regulation by the Michigan Health Professions Licensing Division in the Bureau of Health Care Services of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (in conjunction with Michigan’s state health licensing boards.) The regulation of these health professions is generally codified within the Michigan Public Health Code. The public health code also codifies the list and types of sanctions that may be levied on an allied health professional’s license for any substantiated, uncontested or admitted violations of the public health code. These sanctions generally include suspension, revocation, restriction/limitation, fine, reprimand and probation. An allied health professional is also subject to the Health Professionals Recovery Program (HPRP) for alleged violations of the public health code that involve controlled substances, alcohol or mental health disorders. An additional punishment for violation of the public health code is the public censure in the form of the disciplinary action report.

The disciplinary action reports publish the names of disciplined individuals pursuant to PA 368 of 1978 of the Public Health Code. The disciplinary action reports list the disciplinary actions taken against all licensed health professionals for the reporting period. The report includes the names of the health professionals, their professional license number, the type of disciplinary action taken, the effective date of the action, and the general nature of the complaint. The following summary compiles the information within the disciplinary action reports as applied to the allied health professions listed above.

For the period January 1, 2014 until December 31, 2014, there were two hundred fifteen (215) published disciplinary actions taken against counselors, psychologists, social workers and marriage and family therapists broken down as follows:

  • Counseling (14)
  • Social Work (182)
  • Psychology (17)
  • Marriage and Family Therapy (2)

In 2014, social workers accounted for 85% of published disciplinary actions taken against counselors, psychologists, social workers and marriage and family therapists. There is no published explanation for this disparity, however, the disparity may come from the superior number of social workers versus the other select health professions. More likely, however, it is that social workers are under more scrutiny for their role in the delivery of care. Whether the scrutiny comes from their patients, other members of the health care community or their respective board, there is no argument that more disciplinary actions were taken against social workers than counselors, psychologists and marriage and family therapists.

Disciplinary actions compile the sanctions levied on licenses. There can be multiple sanctions levied for one disciplinary action. The distribution of sanctions for the 215 disciplinary actions were as follows:

  • Revocation (1)
  • Suspension (44)
  • Probation (139)
  • Voluntary Surrender (20)
  • Denied Licensure/Relicensure (4)
  • Restriction/Limitation (14)
  • Fines (149)
  • Reprimands (15)
  • Restitution (1)

Our survey found 387 sanctions placed on the licenses of counselors, psychologists, social workers and marriage and family therapists in 2014. Of those 387 sanctions, 334 were levied upon social workers. The majority of sanctions applied to social workers were in relation to failure to maintain continuing education requirements (236).

This survey should serve, in part, as a warning for social workers in the State of Michigan who may be facing increased scrutiny from patients, other members of the health care community, or their respective board. Should you receive notice of an investigation of your professional license, have been issued a suspension or Administrative Complaint, or you have been disciplined and you wish to appeal, you should contact Chapman Law Group immediately. Our experienced health law attorneys will fight to protect your professional license and your professional reputation.