The Oversight of Marriage and Family Therapists in Texas
In 2020, the Texas legislature established the Board of Behavioral Health and Education Certification (BHEC) to act as a regulatory agency for licensed professionals, including:
- Marriage and family therapists
- Professional counselors
- Social workers
BHEC acts as the governing and monitoring body for Texas-based marriage and family therapists and various behavioral health professionals. Consequently, they handle complaints from consumers and other stakeholders about these professions.
The BHEC Complaint Process
The BHEC complaint process is in place to ensure that all licensed therapists practice ethically and professionally. When a complaint is filed against you, the BHEC will investigate the allegations. If the agency finds sufficient evidence to support the claim, they may take disciplinary action against you. You could face anything from a reprimand to license suspension or revocation in this situation.
The investigation process involves several stages:
Upon receiving a complaint about you, the Texas BHEC will assess the matter to determine the following:
- Whether you have broken any state or federal laws
- If you are a licensee under their jurisdiction
- Whether the agency’s authority applies to the activities or services in question
BHEC may choose not to investigate a complaint if certain relevant information is missing, such as the name of the person who filed the complaint. They may also disregard the complaint if more than five years have passed since the therapist’s services were stopped.
In addition, BHEC will not look into reports of alleged sexual misconduct if they have been reported more than seven years after the date services ended or five years after the patient turned 18, whichever is later.
Once a complaint against a marriage and family therapist passes the assessment phase, the BHEC will complete an extensive investigation. This process may include interviews with witnesses, a review of records, and other evidence-gathering techniques.
BHEC’s enforcement division prioritizes complaint investigations in the following order:
- Cases that involve an immediate threat to the public or an individual
- Incidents of sexual misconduct
- Cases concerning individuals applying for a license
- Cases involving violations of state and federal law other than those previously listed
If BHEC finds that your complaint is relevant, they will notify you. You will have 30 days to answer the charges made in the complaint.
Probable Cause Determination
Upon completion of the investigation, if BHEC does not find sufficient evidence to support the complaint, they will refer it to legal counsel. If legal counsel concurs that there is no probable cause for the complaint, then it will be dismissed by the BHEC’s executive director.
Should BHEC find sufficient evidence to support the complaint, they will schedule an informal conference with their staff or a disciplinary review panel. You will have the option to accept any findings and sanctions presented.
If a complaint resolution cannot be achieved through the informal conference process, then BHEC will make an incidental settlement of the grievance. This settlement might consist of returning the complaint to do further investigation, discarding it, or suggesting discipline.
Suppose BHEC proposes discipline, and the parties fail to reach a consensus with a prearranged order. In that case, proceedings begin for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH).
Once the investigation is complete, the licensing board will determine whether disciplinary action is necessary. This discipline could include a reprimand, suspension, or revocation of your license.
An Attorney Could Help Defend Your License and Career
You studied hard and may have practiced for years as a marriage and family therapist, so you may be confident that you can explain the circumstances to the BHEC. However, while you are probably an expert in your field, you may lack a background in the laws and regulations governing your license. Facing the BHEC without a professional license attorney’s guidance could risk your license. The BHEC handles these cases daily, prioritizing the interests of the people of Texas ahead of yours.
You should never respond to a communication from the BHEC or other licensing boards without the advice of an experienced attorney. Your lawyer can review and respond to notifications, prepare you for your formal hearing, and speak in interviews and hearings on your behalf.
Our professional license defense lawyers have extensive experience defending therapists against misconduct allegations. We understand the importance of protecting your license and career and will work with you to develop an effective defense strategy.
We Are Here to Help
When you hire our firm, we will advise you on the best options for your legal defense. Our attorneys understand the complexities of these complaints and have the case results to prove it.
We will review the evidence presented against you and advise you on the best course of action for your situation. We aim to get the complaint dismissed or the penalties reduced so you can continue working.