Avoiding Liability Bulletin – April 2005

… Where does the therapy occur when a therapist in State “A” is treating a client or patient online who resides in State “B?” This is a critical question because it involves the issue of whether or not the therapist is practicing lawfully. Generally, it is the position of medical and other health care licensing boards that the treatment takes place in the state where the patient resides. Thus, unless the applicable law provides otherwise, the therapist may be practicing in State “B” without a license. This, of course, should be avoided.

…Anyone who does online therapy or considers doing it would be wise to know their professional association’s position regarding practicing online and what the association is doing to help shape the future of such practice. What policies or ethical code provisions address this issue? Additionally, as in California, there may be a “telemedicine” statute (or perhaps regulations) that imposes requirements or limitations upon certain practitioners who practice online. Be careful!

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Richard Leslie

Richard S. Leslie is an attorney and acknowledged expert on the interrelationship between law and the practice of marriage and family therapy and psychotherapy. Most recently, he was a consultant to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) and has written articles regarding legal and ethical issues for their Family Therapy Magazine. Prior to his work with AAMFT, Richard was Legal Counsel to the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) for approximately twenty-two years. While there, he also served as their director of Government Relations and tirelessly advocated for due process and fairness for licensees and applicants.

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