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Can I Sue a Mental Health Professional for Malpractice?

Published on Nov 8, 2018 at 5:58 pm in Medical Malpractice.

Deciding to seek the help of a mental health professional can be difficult; however, it generally works out for the best. The psychiatrist-patient relationship is one of the most personal relationships in the healthcare field. With the proper guidance and self-realization, patients are able to learn to cope with whatever they’re dealing with, so they can live their most fulfilling lives.

In some cases, however, errors in treatment can occur that have significant consequences. That’s where our Atlanta medical malpractice lawyers come in. When a mental health professional breaches their duty to a patient and the patient suffers, that victim has the right to file a malpractice suit in an attempt to recover compensation for the damages associated with the malpractice. These lawsuits can be incredibly complex, which is why you’ll need a dedicated legal team behind you.

Types of Psychiatric Malpractice

If you seek help from a mental health professional, they have a duty to provide you with proper treatment that is designed to be confidential and help your condition improve. They are supposed to bring no harm to you physically, mentally, or emotionally. Under no circumstances should you feel as though you’ve been treated without respect or care.

Below are examples of common psychiatric malpractice issues. This list is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather to give you an idea of what malpractice in the mental health world looks like.

  • Using Techniques Without Proper Training. The mental health field is constantly evolving. While this is generally a good thing, therapists who choose to practice new treatments without the proper training may be putting their patients at risk.
  • Ignoring the Medical Model. There are certain things mental health professionals are required to do. This includes abiding by the standard of care, making sure their patients understand informed consent, taking adequate notes, and more. If a therapist does not follow this model, they are knowingly opting out of their obligation as a mental health professional and should be held accountable for their actions.
  • Deliberately Misdiagnosing. As a general rule, the diagnosis for treatment and the diagnosis for an insurance company should be the same. If there are any discrepancies between the two, malpractice is likely.
  • Inappropriate Relationship. The psychiatrist-patient relationship is a crucial one. While it is important for a psychiatrist to be sympathetic, there needs to be a professional line drawn. A therapist should never enter into an intimate relationship with one of their patients. Relationships like that are deemed unethical and are illegal in some states. Mental health professionals should also avoid entering into business relationships with former and current patients.
  • Excessive Self Disclosure. Some self-disclosure is important in a psychiatrist-patient relationship because it helps build trust between the two parties; however, such a disclosure is only ethical if it is being told for the purposes of the patient or therapist, and it is the type of information that should be disclosed to the patient with that type of mental condition.
  • Failing to Obtain Adequate History. Family and medical history often play a role in making an accurate diagnosis for a patient. If the therapist neglects to collect adequate information and misses something that would have otherwise been obvious, they were not acting within the required standard of care.
  • Out of Office Contact. As a general rule, patients should only see their therapist in the therapist’s office. Meetings should not be scheduled out of the office, as it could hinder treatment. In the rare event contact is made outside of the office, the meeting should be well documented.
  • Inadequate Notes. While a therapist is allowed to keep their notes however they so choose, it’s imperative that they take adequate notes that will help them review their patients and make accurate diagnoses. A therapist who skirts this responsibility is not providing their patients with the care they deserve.

Proving Malpractice Liability  

In order to prove you’ve suffered from malpractice at the hands of a mental health professional, you must prove four things:

  • There was a psychiatrist-patient relationship that established the duty of care.
  • The psychiatrist breached the duty of care.
  • You were harmed physically or emotionally.
  • There is a provable link between the breach and the harm.

Unfortunately, many psychiatric malpractice cases go unreported because victims may feel as though they don’t have a case, or they may not realize what their mental health professional has put them through. If you suspect you have been a victim of this type of malpractice, you are not alone.

Our medical malpractice lawyers in Atlanta are prepared to represent you during this difficult time. We will investigate your claim and help you prove the neglect, so you can receive the compensation you deserve and focus on your wellbeing. Reach out to our office today for more information.