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What is Psychiatric Malpractice?

Written by Berkowitz

medical scalesMany people are aware of medical malpractice cases that involve physical injury. However, few are familiar with the potential consequences of psychiatric malpractice. Patients receiving mental health treatment should understand the importance of ethical boundaries as well as the duty of care owed by mental health professionals.

While psychiatric malpractice can be more difficult to prove than other forms of medical malpractice, it still incorporates the same basic elements: (1) a doctor-patient relationship, (2) a breach of the applicable standard of care, (3) harm, and (4) a link between the breach and the harm suffered. If you have experienced psychological harm or any injury due to psychiatric malpractice, you may have a claim for financial compensation.

Examples of Psychiatric Malpractice

Some common examples of ethical breaches and violations of mental health professionals’ duties of care that can give rise to psychiatric malpractice claims include:

  • Failure to acquire adequate history – To perform an accurate diagnosis, therapists must spend time exploring the client’s background and history. Generally, mental health professionals should obtain and review the following information prior to diagnosing a patient:
    • Current symptoms
    • Prior therapy
    • History of mental disorders in the client’s family
    • Pertinent physical symptoms
    • Education background
    • Medications
    • Results of previous medical examinations
  • Utilizing therapeutic techniques with improper training – Providing professional psychiatric or psychological care requires years of education and training. As new techniques develop and existing techniques evolve, mental health professionals may need to undertake continuing education as well. If a therapist does not complete an appropriate level of training before utilizing a technique on a client, this may give rise to a claim for psychiatric malpractice.
  • Unprofessional contact outside of the office – A general rule in psychology is that therapists and patients meet only in the safe space of the therapist’s office where boundaries are understood. The therapist-patient relationship can be easily misunderstood by clients with certain psychological conditions. Meeting in unorthodox places can be confusing and ultimately damaging for the client. Likewise, unprofessional behavior in the office, such as isolating or verbally assaulting a patient, can give rise to malpractice claims as well.
  • Other common grounds for malpractice claims against therapists, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals include:
    • Deliberately using an incorrect diagnosis for insurance purposes
    • Inadequate documentation
    • Failure to obtain peer consultations

Berkowitz and Hanna LLC – Psychiatric Malpractice Attorneys in Fairfield, Hartford, and New Haven Counties

Mental health professionals have a responsibility to their clients. When psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and therapists fail to uphold their responsibilities, patients can suffer severe emotional harm as a result.

If you or a loved one feels that a mental health professional has acted unethically or provided substandard care, it is in your best interest to consult an experienced malpractice attorney. At Berkowitz and Hanna LLC, our legal team will work diligently and compassionately to protect your rights. Contact us today to discuss your circumstances at no charge.