What Factors Does the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council Use in Determining Disciplinary Sanctions for License Holders (002) (1)

The Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council (BHEC) licenses and monitors psychologists, social workers, professional counselors, and marriage and family therapists for compliance with applicable rules and laws. If someone files a complaint against one of these behavioral health professionals, BHEC will investigate the complaint and file disciplinary proceedings as needed. Disciplinary proceedings against these professionals can result in severe sanctions. If you are facing disciplinary proceedings that may adversely impact your psychologist, social worker, counselor, or therapist license, contact a psychologist license defense attorney for help. 

Potential Disciplinary Sanctions by BHEC

22 Tex. Admin. Code § 884.20(b) provides for the standard disciplinary sanctions that BHEC may impose, in descending order of severity:

  • Revocation, which may or may not be accompanied by an administrative penalty of up to $5,000 per violation;
  • Suspension for a definite period of time;
  • Suspension plus probation of any or all of the suspension period;
  • Probation of the license for a definite period of time;
  • Reprimand; and
  • Administrative penalty.

BHEC also may place additional restrictions or conditions on a dental license as needed to rehabilitate and/or educate the license holder and/or protect the public, including the following:

  • Consultation with the licensee on matters of ethics rules, laws, and standards of practice by a licensed professional approved by the Council;
  • Restrictions on the licensee’s ability to provide certain types of services or to provide services to certain classes of patients;
  • Restrictions on the licensee’s supervision of others in a particular area of practice;
  • Completion of a specified number of continuing education hours on specified topics approved in advance by the Council in addition to any minimum number required of all licensees as a condition of licensure;
  • Taking and passing with the minimum required score of any examination required by the Council of a licensee; and
  • Undergoing a psychological or medical evaluation by a qualified professional approved in advance by the Council and undergoing any treatment recommended following the evaluation.

Finally, BHEC publishes a disciplinary matrix that sets forth standard sanctions for common violations of the rules that govern the profession regulated by BHEC. For instance, violations of advertising restrictions under § 882.31 generally result in a reprimand. Violations of display of license (§ 882.30), duty to update name and address (§ 882.32), notice to public of complaint process (§ 884.31), and reportable legal action and discipline (§ 884.32 generally result in an administrative penalty. Finally, violations of disclosure of propriety examination materials or information prohibited (§ 882.33), filing of false or misleading information with Council (§ 882.34), and cooperation with Council investigation (§882.35) generally result in a license suspension. 

Of course, if an individual has previously or repeatedly committed these violations, they could face more severe sanctions than those provided for in the disciplinary matrix. The standard sanctions in the matrix generally do not consider significant aggravating or mitigating factors. As a result, not all violations listed in the matrix result in the standard sanctions listed in the matrix.

Aggravating Factors

In determining the appropriate sanction in a disciplinary case, BHEC may consider aggravating factors to justify a more severe penalty. These factors include the following:

  • Physical or emotional harm and the type and severity thereof;
  • Economic harm to any individual or entity and the severity thereof;
  • Increased potential for harm to the public;
  • Attempted concealment of misconduct;
  • Premeditated conduct;
  • Intentional misconduct;
  • Prior written warnings or written admonishments from any supervisor or governmental agency, or official regarding statutes or regulations about the licensee’s practice;
  • Prior misconduct of a similar or related nature;
  • Disciplinary history;
  • Likelihood of future misconduct of a similar nature;
  • Violation of a Council order;
  • Failure to implement remedial measures to correct or alleviate harm arising from the misconduct;
  • Lack of rehabilitative effort or potential; and
  • Improper or inappropriate motive.

Mitigating Factors

BHEC also may consider mitigating factors to justify a less severe penalty in a disciplinary case. These factors include the following:

  • Acceptance of responsibility;
  • Self-reporting of unprofessional conduct;
  • Implementation of remedial measures to correct or mitigate harm arising from the unprofessional conduct;
  • Good-faith motive;
  • Rehabilitative efforts or potential; and
  • Prior community service.

One mitigating factor involves the self-reporting of unprofessional conduct. Therefore, professionals BHEC licenses and regulates should be aware of their duties and responsibilities under § 884.32 to report legal action and discipline. This section requires license holders to report the following legal actions to BHEC:

  • Any conviction, sentence, dispositive agreement, or order placing the licensee on community supervision or pretrial diversion in writing within thirty days, including the case number, court, and county where the matter is filed, together with a description of the matter being reported. A licensee shall provide copies of court documents upon request from agency staff.
  • Any lawsuit brought by or against a licensee concerning or related to the delivery of services regulated by this agency or billing practices by the licensee, including a copy of the initial pleading filed by or served upon the licensee, within thirty days of either filing by or service upon the licensee.
  •  Any administrative or disciplinary action initiated against a licensee by another health regulatory agency in this state or any other jurisdiction, or any agency or office within the federal government within thirty days of the licensee receiving notice of the action. A report must include a copy of any complaint, a notice of violation, or other documentation received by the licensee from the initiating entity which describes the factual basis for the action. A licensee must also provide a copy of any order, letter, or determination setting forth the final disposition of the matter within thirty days.

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We Can Help Protect Your Psychologist’s License

At Bertolino LLP, a  psychologist license defense lawyer can guide you through your disciplinary proceedings and defend you against misconduct allegations. We are here to help you fight back to protect your behavioral health professional license and preserve your career. Call us today at (512) 515-9518 to reach the offices of Bertolino LLP, or contact us online.

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