What is Malpractice Insurance for Counselors? Blog | What is Malpractice Insurance for Counselors?
Mental Health 06/02/20

What is Malpractice Insurance for Counselors?

Words have power. Counselors know this intrinsically, considering they use their words (and the words of their clients) to diagnose, treat, heal, and develop safeguards for their clients’ mental health. Improved mental well-being is a journey, one filled with many counseling sessions, discussions, and words of advice.

What happens when some of these words have the opposite effect?

Where does it leave your practice when, after offering some helpful tips to aid in someone’s well-being journey, they experience a breakdown? You may practice with integrity and care, but can this always prevent a malpractice claim?

Malpractice Insurance for Counselors

In short, no—you cannot prevent someone from filing a malpractice claim. There are ways to mitigate the chance, like:

  • Keeping up to date on the best care practices to ensure highest quality care
  • Extending sessions to avoid clients leaving upset
  • Having therapist insurance to protect you from financial harm

While the third and final one might not mitigate the chance that someone files a malpractice claim, you’ll discover that it might be the most important of the three. In today’s litigious society, lawsuits and claims against small businesses are rising. 

And that goes for malpractice suits as well.

What Constitutes as Malpractice

Before diving into the protections and safeguards you can implement for your practice, let’s ensure you know all the facets of what constitutes malpractice. According to defense attorney Brandt Caudill who represents certified counselors, malpractice is an umbrella term that encompasses many different forms of litigious pitfalls. Caudill suggests avoiding:

  • Self-disclosure that is deemed excessive or inappropriate
  • Using psychological techniques without the appropriate training
  • Developing sexual or business relationships with current or former clients
  • Failing to take an adequate number of notes or recording sessions
  • Too quickly administering a syndrome diagnosis to a patient 
  • Contacting and communicating with patients when not in the office
  • Failure to comply with the agreed medical model
  • Not recording a patient’s history
  • Not taking into account all of what a patient says for diagnosis
  • Incorrect diagnoses of the patient 

While this list is long, it’s not comprehensive. Malpractice is almost anything that goes against what you’re hired to do as a counselor—and even then, there are misjudgments of a situation that are within a counselor’s purview (such as an incorrect diagnosis), that can lead to a claim.

For this reason, ensuring that you’re protected is not only helpful, it’s necessary.

Malpractice Liability Insurance for Licensed Professional Counselors

Malpractice liability insurance is a subset of professional therapist liability insurance (also known as “errors and omissions” insurance). It will ensure that you have insurance coverage should a claim or lawsuit be filed against you for any of the reasons listed above.

On top of that, it can help to pay for legal fees that occur as a result.

This is one piece in a total comprehensive insurance package that you should consider as a practicing counselor. The other parts of liability insurance that you need to consider are:

  • General liability insurance – For mishaps, bodily injury, and property damage that occur to your clients or third parties
  • Cyber liability insurance – For protecting you against cyber breaches, phishing scams, and data scandals (and the ensuing fines and fees associated) 
  • Workers’ compensation policy – For if you employ others to help you in your practice, this will cover their medical bills should any accident occur
  • Renters insurance – For your office space that you rent (similarly, a commercial property policy if you own the office space)

NOW Insurance offers professional counselors liability coverage for malpractice, errors and omissions, general liability, and cyber security. If you are considering a practice, reach out to the experts today and get fast, affordable, and easy-to-understand insurance coverage.

Best Practices to Avoid Malpractice

The American Psychological Association offers 5 best practices for any therapist, counselor, or practicing psychologist. Following these will aid in a healthy, fluid (and professional) relationship between client and counselor, and will mitigate the risk of a malpractice claim upending your career.

  1. Setting clear guidelines from the outset. This will help to create barriers in the client-counselor relationship, and it will create healthy expectations.
  2. Keeping up with the current guidelines and literature for professional counselors. This will prevent claims that your methods or practices are outdated and unsafe.
  3. Practicing care for yourself. Take a lesson from airline safety—put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. To offer your clients the best care, you need to be in tip-top shape.
  4. Avoid sexual, business, and outside relationships with both present and past clients. If you set this boundary in place, you can avoid a common area of malpractice claims for certified counselors.
  5. Have the right malpractice insurance. The APA reports that 40% of psychologists who practice a 20-year career or more will receive a complaint to the licensing board. 2% will have a claim or suit brought against them. This risk is mitigated by having malpractice insurance.

Malpractice Insurance for the Professional Counselor

If you want to ensure that you’re protected should any mishap or misjudgment occur, malpractice insurance (under a professional liability policy) is your best bet. With NOW Insurance, you can gain the malpractice coverage you need without sacrificing affordability and comprehensiveness.

For general liability, professional liability, and cyber security policies, reach out NOW. We’ll also tell you the average counselor malpractice insurance cost.

Sources:

  1. American Express. What the Rise in Lawsuits Means to Your Small Business. https://www.americanexpress.com/en-us/business/trends-and-insights/articles/what-the-rise-in-lawsuits-means-to-your-small-business/
  2. KS Pope. Malpractice & Licensing Pitfalls for Therapists: A Defense Attorney’s List. https://kspope.com/ethics/malpractice.php
  3. APA. 5 ways to avoid malpractice. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2016/03/malpractice
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