by others understand exactly what their employers’ coverage
includes, and determine whether there are gaps in that coverage
that they might need to fill with their own malpractice
For example, you want to know what your liability limits are,
what happens if the legal costs exceed your employer’s limits,
and if these limits are shared with other defendants.
You should also consider that your employer’s
insurance may need to act in the best interest of
the employer, instead of yours. These factors could
increase your own personal financial liability if
something happens, Wright says. Other questions
to ask include whether you are covered for off-duty
work, such as volunteering in a professional capacity,
and whether your employer’s malpractice policy
provides license coverage, in the event that a client
or colleague files a complaint with the state licensing
board against you.
“That’s not a lawsuit per se but your license has
been questioned and you will likely still need to
consult with a lawyer,” she says.
When in private practice, it’s also important to
think about the kind of coverage you need given
the work you do and your finances, and then shop
around, Wright says. Cheaper is not always better, she
says, and she encourages psychologists to factor in policyholder
benefits, such as the availability of consultation services, she
adds, noting that The Trust’s Advocate 800 Consultation
Service provides free confidential ethical and risk management
consultation from licensed psychologists.
Psychologists who work with high-risk populations such as
patients with personality disorders, severe mental illness or who
are suicidal may want to increase their coverage, Martin says.
“There are many things that can go wrong very quickly with
these patients, leaving psychologists who work with them more
vulnerable to board complaints and malpractice claims,” she
Given how often changes occur at the state and
federal levels when it comes to laws and licensing
board issues, it’s critical for psychologists to stay
informed, Wright says.
Belonging to professional groups — such as APA’s Practice
Organization and your state psychological association — that
keep members up to date on changes that affect practice is a
great way for practitioners to stay informed, she says.
Doing so can also lower your malpractice risk. A 2012 study
found that the likelihood of being disciplined by a state board
of psychology was lower for psychologists who belonged to
their state psychological association (see resources box). What’s
more, many state associations also offer a mentorship program
where early career psychologists can get one-on-one guidance
on malpractice and other business of practice issues from a
Larson also recommends contacting your state’s licensing
board with questions about state-specific policies, such as
those about recordkeeping, confidentiality, general licensure
requirements, renewals and continuing education. While APA
provides guidance on many of these issues, each state has its
own requirements governing how psychologists should practice
lawfully and ethically.
“The licensing board seems a little scary at first, but they
are the experts on the state law. So if you have a question
about what the law asks you to do, they can be a really good
resource,” she says. n
The APAPO, a companion organization to APA, advocates on
behalf of practicing psychologists.
• Knapp, S., & VandeCreek, L. (2012). Disciplinary
actions by a state board of psychology: Do gender and
association membership matter. In G. Neimeyer & J.
Taylor (Eds.). Continuing professional development and
lifelong learning: Issues, impacts and outcomes (pp. 155–
158). Hauppauge, NY: NOVA Science Publishers.
• Knapp, S., Younggren, J. N., VandeCreek, L., Harris,
E., & Martin, J. N. (2013). Assessing and managing risk in
psychological practice: An individualized approach (2nd
ed.). Rockville, MD: The Trust.
• Pope, K., & Vasquez, M. (2016). Ethics in
psychotherapy and counseling: A practical guide (5th ed.).
Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
It’s also important to think
about the kind of coverage
you need given the work you
do and your finances, and
then shop around.