Dr. Jean Orr
The failure to render professional services
To exercise the degree of skill that is ordinarily
expected of other professionals in a similar
It’s a legal concept involving negligence that
results in injury or loss to client
Expected that clinicians will possess and
exercise knowledge, skill, and judgment
common to other members of profession
= Standard of Care
Limited to 6 kinds of situations:
1. Procedure used was not within acceptance
2. Employed a technique that he/she not trained
3. Did not use a procedure that would have
been more helpful
4. Failed to warn others about and protect them
from a violent client
5. Informed consent to tx was not obtained or
6. Did not explain possible consequences of tx
Success at malpractice claim must include:
1. Duty: Professional relationship b/w therapist
2. Breach of Duty: Therapist acted in negligent
or improper manner or deviated from
standard of care by not providing services
considered to be standard practice in the
3. Injury: Client must have suffered harm or
injury which must be demonstrated
4. Causation: Must be legally demonstrated
causal relationship b/w clinician’s negligence
or breach of duty and damage or injury
claimed by client.
Burden of proof that harm actually occurred is
Client must demonstrate that all 4 elements
applied in client’s situation
Three General Problem Areas that Pose Highest
Risk of Malpractice Suits:
1. Violations of clients’ personal rights (sex, privacy,
2. Failure to protect others from clients (failure to
warn, failure to commit, wrongful release cases)
3. Incompetent tx of client (often alleged in suicide
Nine Types of Professional Negligence that
puts Therapists at Legal Risk:
1. Failure to obtain or document informed
2. Client Abandonment
3. Marked departures from established
4. Practicing beyond the scope of competency
6. Repressed or false memory
7. Unhealthy transference relationships
8. Sexual abuse of client
9. Failure to control a dangerous client
Malpractice Liability in the
1. How would you define malpractice?
2. What does civil liability mean?
3. What constitutes professional negligence?
4. What is the meaning of the concept of
"standard of care"?
5. What four conditions must be present in
malpractice litigation? Define these four
elements of malpractice: duty, breach of duty,
injury, and causation.
6. What are the two main grounds for
malpractice suits? What kind of violations
have received the greatest attention in the
7. Be able to describe each of the
following as a cause of malpractice
failure to obtain informed consent
departing from established therapeutic practices
practicing beyond the scope of competency
unhealthy transference relationships
sexual abuse of a client
failure to control a dangerous client
managed care and malpractice
8. What has been the impact of malpractice
litigation on practitioners?
9. What are some precautions that you would
like take in dealing with high-risk clients?
10. What are some ways to protect yourself
from malpractice suits? Identify specific
safeguards and risk management strategies to
lessen the chance of being successfully sued.
11. What course of action might you follow in
a malpractice suit?
12. How do legal liability and ethical practice
overlap at times?