Common Legal Issues in Private Practice with Attorney Howard Gold | FP 67

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How can having an attorney on board to consult help you run your practice better? Is it okay to go to the same church as your client? What can you do to protect your income when you are brought onto a court case?

In this podcast episode, Whitney Owens speaks with Attorney Howard Gold about common legal issues in private practice.

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Meet Howard Gold

Howard is both a family attorney and former psychotherapist who lectures on legal and ethical issues in psychotherapy practice. Go to his website to sign up for his newsletter or to schedule a telephone consultation on a legal/ethical issue you are confronting in your practice.

His forms on his website have been very helpful to therapists in their practice. Howard’s workshops are offered to protect against lawsuits and Board Complaints and is very important and help to satisfy your state ethics requirements. Contact Howard through his website if a concern arises in your practice.

Visit his website and connect on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Sign up to receive Howard’s newsletter and access all the forms for therapists here.

In This Podcast

  • Legality issues around suicide
  • “You can’t be an advocate and a therapist at the same time”
  • Can you go to the same church as your client?
  • You can terminate a client if you are not happy

Legality issues around suicide

In order to … hold yourself from legal harm you must first, before you make a decision not to send somebody to the hospital, you must first do a suicide checklist … to see whether the results of that testing should help you in your decision. (Howard Gold)

If you practice in the state of Georgia, you need to do two things before deciding not to send somebody to a psychiatric hospital: a 1013 form and a suicide checklist. If you decide not to send somebody for a screening, you must do the suicide checklist beforehand.

If you do not decide to do those two things, for example deciding not to 1013 someone, and they commit suicide, you may be vulnerable to be sued by the family.

“You can’t be an advocate and a therapist at the same time”

Howard discusses that parents or families should always try to avoid getting the therapist involved in legal situations because for the therapist that is a dual relationship.

There is a huge shift in the therapy once you enact a dual relationship. What I mean by a dual relationship is A, you’re the therapist and B, they’re asking you to be the advocate. You can’t be an advocate and a therapist at the same time, I don’t think that’s a good idea because it creates a huge shift in the nature of the therapy. (Howard Gold)

Can you go to the same church as your client?

Although you must remain fully confidential at all times out of respect to your client and their therapy. Greeting them is alright but refrain from discussing the nature of their therapy with your spouse or family who may also go to the same church.

You can terminate a client if you are not happy

A client may become stagnant in therapy and refer to their therapist more as an anchor in their lives than a guide through their counseling. As a therapist, you are fully within your right and principles to terminate a client if they are not making progress after a long period of time, or if you are simply no longer enjoying the work you are doing with them.

If you decide to terminate a client, you can give out and offer referrals to them and make sure to put it in writing.

Don’t feel bad about wanting to terminate, this is your practice. If it’s not making you happy then get out of the case. (Howard Gold)

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Meet Whitney Owens

Photo of Christian therapist Whitney Owens. Whitney helps other christian counselors grow faith based private practices!Whitney is a licensed professional counselor and owns a growing group practice in Savannah, Georgia. Along with a wealth of experience managing a practice, she also has an extensive history working in a variety of clinical and religious settings, allowing her to specialize in consulting for faith-based practices and those wanting to connect with religious organizations.

Knowing the pains and difficulties surrounding building a private practice, she started this podcast to help clinicians start, grow, and scale a faith-based practice. She has learned how to start and grow a successful practice that adheres to her own faith and values. And as a private practice consultant, she has helped many clinicians do the same.

Thanks For Listening!

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Faith in Practice is part of the Practice of the Practice Podcast Network, a network of podcasts that are changing the world. To hear other podcasts like Empowered and Unapologetic, Bomb Mom, Imperfect Thriving, Marketing a Practice or Beta Male Revolution, go to

Podcast Transcription

[WHITNEY OWENS]: Is managing your practice stressing you out? Try Therapy Notes. It makes notes, billing, scheduling, and tele-health a whole lot easier. Check it out and you will quickly see why it’s the highest rated EHR on Trustpilot with over a thousand verified customer views and an average customer rating of 4.9 out of five stars. You’ll notice the difference from the first day you sign up for a trial. They offer live phone support seven days a week so when you have questions, you can quickly reach out to someone who can help. You are never wasting your time looking for answers. If you’re coming from another EHR, they make the transition really easy. Therapy Notes will import your client’s demographic data free of charge during your trial so you can get going right away. Use the promo code [JOE] to get two free months of trying out Therapy Notes for free, no strings attached, including their very reliable tele-health platform. Make it 2021 best year yet with Therapy Notes.
I can’t tell you guys how happy I am about this interview that you’re going to hear today. The legal side of running private practice or even running a group practice is so intense. I have found so much value from Howard Gold. He’s an attorney here in the state of Georgia, but he also has a social work background. So, he’s got that perfect fit to be able to help us as mental health professionals. And so you’re going to hear a lot of what he has to say about some pitfalls that we should look out for. I’ve been following him for years. He’s actually located in Atlanta. So here in Georgia. So he’s very familiar with Georgia law and that’s been really helpful to me. I’ve heard him speak at different events, but I’m always really amazed how many practice owners do not have a relationship with an attorney.
So, if you’re listening to this and you don’t have a relationship with an attorney, I want you to do that as soon as possible. If you don’t know how to do that, start reaching out to people; that could be someone at your church, it could be maybe other small business owners that you know, or other counselors. Find out who has an attorney that specializes in small business. If you have a group practice, find an attorney who specializes in employee law, because not only do you need that attorney available for when you’re hiring people to review contracts or handbooks and things like that, but a lot work stuff happens all the time. And yeah, it’s great to have a liability company that you can call and get on the phone with somebody, but there are a lot of legal issues that pop up that, because it’s not in the subpoenas zone or something like that, then the liability insurance really can’t come in.
And so, having an attorney that you can call on is super helpful. In fact, I just spoke to my attorney yesterday about a document that I’m putting together for my staff on some of the employee policies and just making sure I understand what the laws are in the state of Georgia when I’m putting policies place. And as a practice owner, it’s constantly changing as far as, “Oh, I see something new I need to add, or this situation came up.” And so, I’m adding new policies to my manual and I need an attorney to be able to review those. So please reach out to an attorney. I consider them part of your dream team in having a practice. And if you need some help with that, let me know. Maybe I can help point you in the right direction or ask a couple of groups that you’re a part of who they work with.
I actually ended up finding my attorney at church. So very fortunate that I spoke to someone and I said, “Oh, well, there’s some attorneys. Any of them specialize in employee law?” And immediately they got connected with someone and he’s been fantastic. And then if there’s something he doesn’t know, he connects me with a specialized attorney that does know, and it has saved me a lot of headache, I’m sure a lot of money in fees that I’d be spending in court to be able to have someone to advocate for me, to get me out of some situations legally. Anyway, all that to be said, I’m really glad I have a great attorney and you should find one too. And we have a great attorney today. That’s going to be on the podcast. So, I am happy to tell you that you’re going to be listening to Howard Gold today.
When I started the podcast a little over a year ago, I thought to myself, I want to have Howard on here one day and I did. And so, that was really exciting for me because I think he provides very valuable information. In fact, he has an email list that you can get on. You’ll hear about that in the episode and I’m on that list. I get tons of great stuff. In fact, I’ve used some of that paperwork to change my paperwork in my practice and it’s been super helpful. So anyway, we’re going to jump into the episode, Some Common Legal Issues in Private Practice
Today on the Faith in Practice podcast, I have Howard Gold. He’s both a family attorney and a former psychotherapist who lectures on legal and ethical issues in psychotherapy practice. You can go to his website and sign up for his newsletter or schedule a phone consultation if you have ethical or legal issues that you’re confronted with in your practice. He has forms on his website helpful for therapists as they navigate private practice. Howard does workshops and offers to protect against lawsuits and board complaints and is very important and helps to satisfy your state ethical requirements. Howard, thanks for coming on the show today.
[HOWARD GOLD]: Glad to be here. Thank you for having me.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah, of course. Well, I would love, well, first of all, let everyone know that I met you at the Licensed Professional Counselor conference in the state of Georgia in 2019 and attended your ethics workshop, which was super valuable. And ever since then, when I started my podcast, I thought I’ve got to get this guy on my podcast so we can talk about ethical, legal issues in private practice. So thank you for coming on.
[HOWARD]: I’m glad to be here. I’m glad to be here.
[WHITNEY]: So at first, like for you to kind of share your story with people, kind of how you were a psychotherapist and how you realized psychotherapists need to know a lot more stuff about legal issues than they actually know, and kind of how you got into your line of work.
[HOWARD]: Well, I was a criminal defense lawyer and I would get people coming into my office. And back in the seventies and late seventies therapy was considered to be a stigma and people were afraid sometimes to go to therapists because they didn’t want to appear to anyone else as being crazy or friends on going to therapy. So, therefore, “People might think bad of me,” that was when therapy sort of was very confidential in terms of telling people you were at therapy. So, what happened is people would use me as a therapist. They would just pour their hearts out and talk about some of their issues that had nothing to do with their case. So, I became more interested about it and then decided that I would go to the University of Georgia and get my MSW, which was the quickest way to start becoming a therapist.
And that’s what I did and then I went to Families First, which is a non-profit organization that offers a sliding scale therapy. And I got my, experience there doing therapy with individuals and kids and families and couples. And that’s how I got started. I did it for about five years and then I went back to practicing law and I thought, “Well, how am I going to put law in therapy together?” And so, I became a family lawyer, and I’ve just retired from being a family lawyer. And what I’m doing now, as I’ve done for many years is to offer telephone consultation on legal and ethical issues that occur in your practice. And I’m not talking about, you know, whether there’s some contract issue or health insurance issue or anything like that. It’s, I answer questions about therapists having issues or concerns in their practice with a client. And so, I’ve been doing that and now I’ve opened up a consulting firm or where you can reach me and schedule an appointment to talk to me on the telephone.
[WHITNEY]: That’s great. Yeah. So, I seem to remember hearing your story before, and you talked about your work at families first, how you started noticing that there were some concerns coming up, ethical concerns, and you started thinking, “Therapists really need to learn some of this stuff.” Am I remembering that correctly?
[HOWARD]: You are remembering it because therapists were getting in trouble, not knowing, you know, that they, what they’re doing might be an ethical breach, or it might be a legal breach. So, I started for Families First doing small workshop to inform them so that they wouldn’t get in trouble. And, let me give you an example of that. In the state of Georgia, we have what is called joint legal custody and joint legal custody means that the couple before they make a major decision on, legal decision or ethical decision on their kid’s education, medical, extracurricular, or religion that they talk to each other and genuinely, but that one of them in the agreement that they have in their divorce case is the final tiebreaker. And so what was happening was that therapists were not asking about legal things other than, “Oh, there’s a divorce,” but they weren’t asking who was the final tiebreaker in determining whether a child should go into therapy and who should be the therapist.
And so, people, fathers let’s say, would be bringing the child to a therapist and the mother would not know about it. And the mother was final tiebreaker and the mother would then find out and the mother would call the therapist and say, “What the heck are you doing? I didn’t give permission for this.” And the next thing you know, you’d have a board complaint. It was things like that that were happening. The therapist had no knowledge about. And then I decided to start doing more workshops about this you know, suicide. And one of the cases, people are getting sued, therapist’s getting sued, and so I did that under the auspices of psychiatric hospitals, having me come in and groups such as the LPCA where you saw me and I’ve been doing that for years and taking telephone calls for years. So, my goal in all this is to help therapists avoid legal and ethical risks. That’s what I’ve been doing. And I hope some of my consulting with them has avoided some risks.
[WHITNEY]: Oh, definitely. I mean, the times I’ve heard you speak, I’ve made lots of changes in my practice that have been helpful. And even the joint custody thing, I believe it was after hearing you that I started requiring that we get the divorce paperwork, because we know that clients will lie all day long, especially when they want to do something for their kid. They’ll say, “Oh, I have final decision.” Or, “I’m the sole custody person,” when they’re really not. Like, I’m like, “No, I have to see it in writing before will believe you. And you need to give me that form.” And so, as a disclaimer here, before we get into some of these ethical concerns, obviously Mr. Gold is an attorney in the state of Georgia and so he’s going to speak more to Georgia law because that’s where he’s an expert.
So, you would want to consult an attorney in your state for any issues that come up specific to your state, but this will at least, for those out of state, give you something to be thinking about, to review with your attorney, and then those in the state of Georgia, we’ll be able to get a lot of information from this podcast. So, let’s go ahead and start addressing, I know we kind of talked on the phone about some of the legal concerns, and I’ll kind of walk you through some of those, but I’m sure you’ll have some others to bring up at some point. So, you already mentioned suicide. Why don’t we talk first about some of the problems that you see with therapists regarding dealing with suicide?
[HOWARD]: Well, the problems dealing with suicide with therapists is that, many of the major licenses and I’m talking about psychiatry, psychology, or psychologists licensed professional counselors, licensed clinical social workers, licensed marriage and family counselors. I don’t think in our state licensed marriage and family counselors can, what we call 1013. In other words, the client looks like they are in desperate situation and they need possibly to be institutionalized in a psychiatric hospital. All those licensures can sign a form for the sheriff to come and get this person and bring them to a psychiatric hospital for intake. And there’s been big issues about therapists getting, so they can decide whether or not to send, do a 1013, what we call in the State of Georgia 1013, which means that you sign a form that transports the Sheriff’s department or the police department would transport, once they got a copy of the form, that person to the psychiatric hospital for screening by a psychiatrist as to whether that person should in fact go into a psychiatric hospital.
And this comes up in cases where sometimes suicide, suicide ideation, suicide gestures, whatever come into the therapy practice and the therapist is thinking, “Wow, is this a situation where I want this person to be institutionalized or at least screened for they need in hospital care?” And what’s happened at least in the state of Georgia, is that in order to not decide to do that and hold yourself from legal harm you must first, before you make a decision not to send somebody to the hospital and you must first do a suicide checklist. And there’s a number of them, the Columbian ones, the one that a lot of people use and to see whether that is you know, the results of that testing should help you in your decision and also to do what they call an adequate psychological evaluation.
So, you have to do two things in the state of Georgia if you decide not to 1013 or send somebody to the hospital. Now, what you’re really doing is signing a form to transport somebody to the hospital, and who knows what goes on after you filed your 1013, and whether the Sheriff’s department has it actually sends the person, but they typically do when they get a 1013. So if you’re going to put somebody in the hospital, that’s one thing or transport them for checking to see if they should be in the hospital. But if you decide not to do it, you really have to do this checklist, suicide checklist and an adequate psychological eval to decide not to do it. And it’s got to be in your notes because our state court of appeals says, if you don’t do those two things and decide not to 1013, somebody, and they kill themselves, then you might be in trouble and get a lawsuit against those kinds of things.
And I find that when it comes to suicide, and anytime that you mention suicide, or it’s mentioned in the psychotherapy counseling, your alarm bells should go off in your head, that this could be dangerous to you, depending upon what you’re writing in the record depending upon whether you decide to transport somebody. And because there are a lot of lawsuits of therapists where somebody committed suicide. So, just know that when suicide comes up in a client session, yes, you must know that obviously, but you have to be very, very careful about, am I going to have this person transported to the hospital for evaluation and to do, and in order to help you with that, doing the suicide checklist and doing an adequate psychological eval, and they used the word Adequate Psychological Eval in the state of Georgia, and I’m not exactly sure what adequate means when it comes to a psychological eval, but those two things have to be done in different states and may be different. So, those are the kinds of issues that come up in therapy. And one must be very, very careful when the word suicide is mentioned.
[WHITNEY]: Oh, yes. And I think you’ve spoken to this before, but if you were to have a client that actually committed suicide, and then someone were to come and request their chart, how does that get handled?
[HOWARD]: Well in the state of Georgia, they decided that the privilege, and of course we all know what privileges, that means that you can’t tell anybody anything that’s said in therapy without a written release from the client, that the privilege, and you’d have to sign a HIPAA-compliant release to get that permission, to talk to your lawyer or talk to another therapist or whoever, about the therapy and about what was said, the communications that were said. But in the state of Georgia, it was determined that the privilege goes on after death. So in fact, anybody who asks you for the file, there was a case in Georgia, where parents of a suicide child, child who committed suicide, asked the therapist for their file, the child’s file and the therapist said no. And they took the therapist to court.
It was the executor of the child’s state who said, “I am acting instead of the decedent and therefore I want a copy of the file.” Well, the reason why sometimes they want a copy of the files, they want to see whether the therapist did something wrong or the therapist committed a malpractice. Unfortunately for us in the state of Georgia, since the privilege, and you may want to check this, if you’re outside of Georgia, that if the privilege extends through the death of the client, then therefore you never have to produce the file.
[WHITNEY]: Even if it’s a minor?
[HOWARD]: If it’s a minor, yes, you have to release the file to the parents because they’re the ones who can release on behalf of the minor. So you do have to, when it comes to a minor.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah, great. Well, good information, bad situation……
[HOWARD]: I’m also saying, Whitney, that at least in the state of Georgia if somebody asks for their file and you don’t give them their file, that could be a board complaint against you.
[WHITNEY]: Oh really?
[HOWARD]: Because your people are entitled to their file. And when I say the word file, I mean, everything, not like HIPAA, where you can keep some separate notes, but at least in the state of Georgia, when somebody wants their file, you give them all the notes and all the records and everything that’s in the file. Of course, everything’s on the computer now, but you’ll have to print it out and give a copy.
[WHITNEY]: Okay. Now here’s an interesting situation. This has come up actually a few times for us in the practice, where we’ve had teenagers who were old enough to understand privileged communication, and then their parents would want their charts, but they don’t want their parents to have their charts because they’re 16, 17-years-old and they understand, they said naughty things about their parents, or maybe they’re coming in because the conflict is about their parents even though the parents don’t know that, and the parents are requesting charts. Does the privileged communication still exist for a teenager who’s old enough to make that decision?
[HOWARD]: No, parents can get the files up to 18 when they become officially an adult.
[WHITNEY]: And they could use that in like a divorce case that determine which parent gets custody of a child?
[HOWARD]: Yes. Obviously if there’s notes in the air of negative things about one parent or the other coming from the child, that certainly would be taken into account as to who should be the primary caretaker.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah, and I think you had suggested this, or someone did, like, we have very clearly in our disclosure statement that if we go to court, that it could really damage the therapeutic relationship that we have with you or with your child, therefore, termination of services.
[HOWARD]: Well there’s a lot of therapists that get subpoenaed after, of course, the parents or someone signs a written release and you’re forced to go if you’re subpoenaed. And you know, it could involve them being very disappointed because they think you might want to advocate for them in terms of who gets custody. But the notes, you know, in other words, if I’m, cross-examining a therapist, I have already read the notes because if they put the therapist on the stand, that waives the privilege without even a HIPAA release. When the therapist is on the stand, all bets are off. And I can ask everything. I can look at the file and all that. So by looking at the file, I’ll know everything that you’ve written and I’ll ask questions there and I’ll be digging down after, because you don’t have everything in the file, I’ll be digging down to find out what else you know about this particular situation that you wrote about in your notes.
And that could be negative. And of course, these people are seeing you up there testifying, and it could be you’re testifying that the child said something about, let’s say the mother who wanted you to be on the stand. And of course the mother now sees that you’re not an advocate. You’re an adversary because you didn’t say the things that they expected you to say, and you didn’t stand up for them and all that kind of thing. And the therapy, you know, goes through a different, becomes a different type of relationship once you get up there and testify.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah. Yeah. It’s a sad thing when you see that happen with children in divorce cases and those kids having to see all that happen when their therapist is probably their only ally at that point.
[HOWARD]: Yeah. I always say, if you really don’t need the therapist, don’t get the therapist involved in the legal situation, because for the therapist, that’s a dual relationship and there’s a huge shift in the therapy once you act in a dual relationship. And what I mean by a dual relationship is A, you’re the therapist and B, they’re asking you to be the advocate and you can’t be an advocate and a therapist at the same time. I don’t think that’s a good idea because it creates a huge shift in the nature of the therapy. And I would, for those of you who get clients to sign informed consent, which is the standard of care is to get them to sign an informed consent. I would go on my website, and look at the form section. And there are two consent forms that I would want you to put into your informed consent. One of them is working in the legal system. That’s number one. And number two is working with minors. And both of those should be, if you work with minors. Both of those should be in your informed consent no matter what state you’re in. So go to my website, go to the forms and take a look at it. There are other forms that I’ve developed for therapists that are part of that form section.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah. It’s so helpful. And I’ve even used a lot of your forms, even in my own practice. So that’s great. I do want to bring up, you kind of brought up dual relationships and this is a question we get a whole lot, but then the like faith and practice community is dual relationships. So can a therapist see a client at their own church?
[HOWARD]: I would say yes but you need to talk to the client about it. First you know, if you’re seeing each other in a church, yeah, you can say, “Hello, how are you?” And that kind of thing. But I would not want to be in social situations, going to people’s homes for dinner or going out or anything like that with a client. And of course, you know, it’s strictly confidential and you couldn’t tell your husband or wife that, “Oh, I’m seeing her in therapy,” even though you’re not saying what she said, I think that would be ethically wrong to do that.
[WHITNEY]: Totally agree.
[HOWARD]: There is not any problems. I mean, there’s a lot of rural areas where everybody goes to church, the same place, and yet once somebody needs a therapist and they go to the therapist, as long as you’re clear about the lines of communication and, what to expect, I think you could go and say hi to them, but don’t have a long conversation with them.
[WHITNEY]: Yes. That’s the same advice that I give to people as well. It’s always humorous because my husband’s a pastor at our church. He’s a youth pastor and one time, one of my clients that I was seeing, of course he didn’t know I was seeing this client came up to him after church and asked where I was and he thought it was very odd. He was like, “Why is this lady asking where Whitney is?” Because he didn’t really know the lady. She was like, “Oh yeah, I’m Whitney’s client.” And he just didn’t even know how to react.
[HOWARD]: He probably just nodded his head.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah, he did. He did. Yeah. It was very funny. And of course he came home and said something to me about it. And I’m like, “Honey, I can’t talk about those kinds of things.”
[HOWARD]: You know, when you asked me, about what I would say about faith and the therapy practice, that’s one of the important lessons that come out of it is that yes, you can be someone who’s there for them as a therapist and you both are sharing the same faith and yet there are certain obvious limitations that come out of that.
[WHITNEY]: Yes. And I do think when people are talking about their church and clients at a church, there’s something important about if a client wants to see a therapist within their denomination or within their same kind of like belief or like, I see that super common, with Catholics. Like Catholics want to see a Catholic-based therapist and I think they should have a right to be able to pick the type of therapist they want to work with, which might mean, you know, there’s only two Catholic churches in town, so you’re at the same church.
[HOWARD]: Well, that’s the way it is, but if they feel like they want faith-based counseling where there, and I’m just using this as an example where their Christian faith is very, very important to them and how they live their everyday lives and how they interact with their spouses and children and on a faith-based situation, then they want someone who is a wholesome self, I would say a Christian counselor because they understand that that needs to be incorporated in the counseling.
[WHITNEY]: Definitely. Well, are there any other legal concerns that you wanted to make sure to mention today that we haven’t covered?
[HOWARD]: Well, dual relations. I know that sounds a little mundane, but it’s really important. A couple of things. One is that you’re running a business regardless of what kind of counseling you’re doing and how important the counseling is. Your business is the first important thing. Okay, your first priority. Is running it professionally, number one, running in as ethically as you possibly can and within legal boundaries and also to make sure you get paid. I know that sounds sort of crass a little bit, but that’s, what’s really important. And you’ll see in my informed consent, working in the legal system, if you’re in the legal system, you know, they get you involved in the legal system, you get subpoenaed, then, you know, how do you get paid for that?
In the state of Georgia, you can’t get paid for that unless they ask you to review the file. But if they subpoena you just to come in and answer questions, you get the $25 that every other witness gets. So, in my informed consent, it has 1500 for half a day and 375 an hour after that, because I want my therapist to get paid. They had to cancel all these clients coming in on a particular day when they had to be in court and they’re not getting anything but $25. So I have some when they sign the informed consent, they’re signing up for, if they subpoena you, they have to pay you at least $1,500. So, I know that isn’t therapy related, but it’s business-related, and that’s really important.
[WHITNEY]: It’s so important.
[HOWARD]: The other thing I would tell people is that sometimes, especially with long-term clients they just get tired of them sometimes and they want to, you know, be done with them. And these people are coming to therapy more for you to be their anchor than, whether therapy is actually, you know, improving their lives as opposed to maintaining themselves. So, you know, some therapists, say, “I’m just tired of this client and I don’t have a real reason to terminate.” And I tell them, “Yes, you do. You’re tired of the client. And that’s the reason. And because you may not, you know, the client may need some fresh eyes on their situation.” And that’s a good idea.
So, you know, I believe in terminating, if you’re not happy with dealing with a client, as long as you do one important thing, and that is offer referrals. And you need to do this in writing or for referrals of where the client should go. It could be something like Families First, where I work on a sliding scale basis, or it could be other people that you know, who are good therapists. So, don’t feel bad about wanting to terminate. This is your practice. If it’s not making you happy, get out of a case.
[WHITNEY]: Yes. To go back to the legal fees and everything that was really eye opening when you said that at the conference, and I went in and immediately changed all of our paperwork. So, but I will say this, my problem was I didn’t get the payment in advance. So, I got subpoenaed and I told the dad, “Remember, you’re going to get charged for this. If you subpoena me, I want you to be fully aware of all this.” And then the case dropped, I’m talking hours before this, before I was supposed to appear, so I could not reschedule. I couldn’t get everyone. So then I asked for the payment and he refused to pay me. And so, then I consulted my attorney about it and he said, well, like we could take this to court because he didn’t pay you. But by the time you pay all those fees, you’re going to lose all your money.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah.
[HOWARD]: Right.
[WHITNEY]: And so I’m just like, “Let me tell them that I made that terrible mistake,” like get the payment upfront before you find out what happens, because then you’ve lost your chance.
[HOWARD]: Well, my informed consent working with the legal system, that language that I have in my form is really important for a couple of reasons. One they’re signing up for that. And other workers signing up, that says, “If you do therapy with me and I subpoena you that I’m going to pay you this amount of money.” And I’ve had people show it to the judge, bring in their form consents when they got subpoenaed and they had that in their informed consent and say, “Your honor, just for you to leave the stand, you say, I would like to get some legal fees. And here’s the informed consent they sign. And I would like the court to order this to be paid and make sure you tell them to be paid in the next 10 days,” because otherwise, if you don’t put a time limit on it, then who knows when you will ever get it. And that’ll be in the order of the court. You know if judge points at you and says, “You got to pay this lady. You signed up to do, you contracted with this lady that if you subpoenaed her, you would pay this money. And I have it in my form that you pay paid five days in advance.”
[WHITNEY]: Yes, it is in there. I didn’t adhere to it like I should have.
[HOWARD]: And there’s another thing in that informed consent, working with the legal system. It’s the last sentence. It says, “That if you subpoena me, this may cause me to terminate the therapy.” So, that gives you a reason to get out. And if they really think the therapy is more important than you testifying particularly, you know, I always tell lawyers before you subpoena a client, subpoena a therapist on your client’s behalf, it might be a good idea for you to get a written release, to go look at the file and see if there’s anything that you really don’t want to be produced at that trial before you make that decision, because the therapist is going to offer the client support and help and advice throughout this entire process. And they’re going to lean on the therapist and sometimes that’s more important than the therapist themselves testifying.
[WHITNEY]: Definitely. Well, this has been super helpful. You’ve brought up a lot of concerns and I want to encourage people to please check out He has an email list on there for therapists and I’m on there.
[HOWARD]: Yeah. I have a newsletter list because I send out in between my workshops. If something comes up, I see a court case of some therapists who got sued, I want to make sure therapists know what that was about. And I’ll send out a newsletter or I’ll send out a newsletter with the new form or whatever, but, you know, call me in. And even people who are at a state can call me about a legal and ethical issue and schedule a time. And as long as they’re not asking me specific questions about their state law, because I don’t know all 50 state laws, I can help them with just general information on the legal stuff. And I’m sure that every state has the privilege as well, because it just is important to have that privilege so nobody goes walking around blabbing what you said there.
[WHITNEY]: Yes, definitely.
[WHITNEY]: Well, Howard, I want to ask you the question I ask everyone that comes on the show. What do you believe every Christian counselor needs to know?
[HOWARD]: I think every Christian counselor needs to know that, and some, I guess I’m saying this, not only for Christian counselors, but for everyone who goes into counseling. They need to ask the question of, “Am I being ethical here with my client?” In other words, “The advice I’m giving is this advice in line with their Christian beliefs?” And that’s important because they’re coming to you not only for therapy, but they’re coming to you because you hold yourself out as a Christian counselor and there may be some ethical issues that need to be discussed based on their Christian beliefs. And you need to be very ethical about that. You need to be very careful about making sure they feel okay with the advice that you give.
[WHITNEY]: That is great, great advice, and totally agree with you on that. And thank you so much for taking the time today to get on the show. And I think you’ve provided some really helpful information for people and I definitely think people will be reaching out to you. I know that I will.
[HOWARD]: Well, thanks again, Whitney. I really appreciate it and good luck to you and your pursuits as well.
[WHITNEY]: Once again, thank you so much to Therapy Notes for sponsoring this show. It makes notes, billing, scheduling, and tele-health a whole lot easier. And if you’re coming from another EHR, they make the transition really easy Therapy Notes will import your client’s demographic data free of charge during your trial so that you can get going right away. Use promo code [JOE] to get two free months to try out Therapy Notes for free.
Thank you for listening to the Faith in Practice podcast. If you love this podcast, please rate and review on iTunes or your favorite podcast player. If you liked this episode and want to know more, check out the Practice of the Practice website. Also, there you can learn more about me, options for working together, such as individual and group consulting, or just shoot me an email, Would love to hear from you. .
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