Filing Complaints against Mental Health Professionals

Nothing on this page should be construed as medical or legal advice, but rather, general consumer information. We have never filed a complaint, but rather, collected information others have shared.  As an aside, here is how to file a complaint against a judge in California. What follows is for mental health only.

First, we will address the basic mechanics for complaints, then further below, address nuances of complaints related to "parental alienation." These comments and notes will basically be for the United States only, though other countries may have a similar situation.

Realize that every mental health professional has to be licensed by their State Licensing Board.  In order to collect money from clients, they have to have a license, which is granted to them basically based on them having relevant degrees and on the job training. There are laws about standards they must meet. And if the licensing board gets a complaint about someone, the board will evaluate it based on their state's laws, and then the board can either dismiss it, slap the therapists hand, or yank their license. Practitioners really really hate to have disciplinary action against them, because then they have a record and it messes with their malpractice insurance rates and ability to get new clients.

In terms of sheer mechanics, you first have to know if the mental health professional is a social worker, psychologist, marriage and family therapist, etc, because they often each have their own set of laws. The expectations and ethics required go up as the amount of education goes up.  Let's say you have concerns about a psychologist in Kansas.  Then google search for the 4 words:
      Kansas psychologist license complaint
and then when the right page comes up, click on "file a complaint" in the consumer's box.  The details for every state will differ.

When the licensing board receives a complaint, they ask the professional for the case record (e.g. the notes of the therapist). So you may need to provide less information than you might think, because it should all be i n the therapist's record. Further, if the professional does not have records, they get their hand slapped for that, and you might be able to make a malpractice settlement with their insurance company.

And of course, the licensing board moves in ultra slow motion, so it is unlikely to actually help your children. You are doing it to help other children.

If you want to get very complicated, you can google for the laws that govern that psychologists in Kansas or another state, but those searches are a little more complicated. You don't really need to know the laws to file a complaint, because they just ask you to tell your story and they know the laws, but deep insight into the laws may affect what you complain about.

For psychologists, based on what I may have heard near the water cooler, all the laws were once exactly the APA code of ethics, but then different states began customizing them and making their own laws, but underneath, it is usually possible to recognize the original basis of the law in the APA code of ethics.

Now we will turn to parental alienation specifically, and discuss how that fits into the APA code of ethics, which is a leading indicator of what you state laws are. And the goal here is more to get the mental health professional to understand ahead of time that parental alienation is a very advanced topic with a hundred years of pure science behind it (a manifestation of standard pathologies), so there are steps where you ask the mental health professional to evaluate for pathologies that they might not otherwise realize they should evaluate for. If you can get them to do that in a cooperative manner, it may help your children, which is a far better route than filing a complaint because they harmed your children.

Background: read Demanding Professional Competence by Dr. Childress and check out  Dr. Childress' complaint letter template  which is highly tuned to filing complaints about incompetence in parental alienation.  Here is a Word version of Dr. Childress' template.  See also Dr. Childress' comments summarizing pasymposium2017, where he amplifies everything related to filing complaints. See also Dr. Childress speaking about licensing board complaints, as part of his conversations in competence, including malpractice lawsuits.

One strategy/scenario when choosing a counselor or first becoming involved with one is to:
1. First decide if your case involves severe "parental alienation", according to this diagnostic checklist.  The longer version, with more explanation and context, is Dr. Childress' treatment focused assessment protocol.    
2. If it does not meet the criteria, then none of what follows applies.
3. If it does meet the criteria (and only if it does), then  ask the for mental health professional to evaluate for pathogenic parenting by handing them a copy of "Professional Consultation" and/or the diagnostic checklist .
4. Encourage them to call Dr. Childress for consultation.
5. Then send the therapist an email that politely summarizes your oral requests.
6. If they don't evaluate, then file a state board complaint that simply says they did not evaluate, or  that they missed the standard and well established pathologies (e.g. use Dr. Childress complaint letter template).
7. Your complaint can be short and sweet, and you can attach the diagnostic checklist to the back, while also adding material from demanding professional competence.
8. You don't have to exhaust yourself telling the whole story. The board will then request the clinician's notes, that should have the whole story.
9. Notes are something mental health professionals are obligated to keep.
10.  The notes will (should)  say if they assessed for it and what they determined.
11. If the notes do not show they that assessed for it or do not explain why it is not present, the therapist may be in trouble and could get sanctioned by the complaint board.
12. If they are sanctioned, that opens them up for a civil suit. and if so, their insurance company may offer to settle.

Above all, keep your expectations low. Your filing of a complaint may help the next incoming complaint to seem less bizarre. The board might say "hey, we got several of these, maybe we should read some of this stuff or ask the APA for guidance."

See also an article from the National Alliance of Targeted Parents

See also a document on how to file a complaint in Utah. The procedure in other states would be analagous.

See also the Relevant Laws for Ohio, at the bottom of the web page for Ohio Revised Code

Examples of wins or claimed wins:
Reunification Therapist failing to talk to both parents

As one alienated parent observed: "Yes, and there are different licensing boards. There is the Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage & Family Therapist Board, the State Board of Psychology, and the Medical Board for Psychiatrists Each state licensing board has their own laws and joint mental health laws. I have learned more than I have ever wanted to lately. If you can get the licensing board to find the psychologist violating the law, it will then enable a parent to file a civil suit."   "It is critical for the court order to use the right language directing the psychologist like use a "Case Management" approach which will ensure the psychologist can not claim they were only working therapeutically and not aloud to assess their clients."

Many of the state laws mirror the APA ethics code, completely, some partially.

The statute of limitations on filing complaints may be seven years, consistent with the record keeping requirements for mental health professionals.

Other worthwhile topics on this web site:
Examples of successful cases: