Avoiding Liability Bulletin – February 2012

… It is important for licensees who employ pre-licensed persons in private practice settings to assure that the advertising by the pre-licensed persons, if any is done, is reviewed by those employers. I have too often seen or learned about advertisements that were written by an employee, paid for by an employee, and seemed to advertise the intern’s or associate’s (pre-licensed) own practice. While that may or may not have been what was going on or intended, there is something wrong with such an arrangement – unless the conduct is authorized or permissible under state law. From the viewpoint of the owner of the business, or from the viewpoint of a nonprofit corporation hiring pre-licensed persons, why would pre-licensed employees be allowed to make final decisions about advertising?

If I owned a private practice and employed two registered interns to work in my private practice, I would want to make the decisions on what services, and which person’s services, were going to be advertised – and why. I would also want to carefully review the content of each advertisement, including business cards. I have recently heard about nonprofit corporations that employ interns and allow them to advertise as though they were sole proprietors, on the theory that these nonprofit corporations are training pre-licensed persons to develop their own private practices. Such a purpose for the corporation would seem to make it ineligible for nonprofit status on a state or federal level. I do not know how prevalent this practice is, but I have concerns.

It is important to remember that state law or regulation will likely require, at least to some extent, licensed and pre-licensed persons to make certain disclosures to consumers, both in advertisements and at the outset of the relationship with the client.

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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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