Bad practice in psychotherapy: what it is, examples and sanctions involved

The profession of psychologist and psychiatrist in a clinical setting must be exercised in accordance with lex artis, which means that they must perform professional tasks in psychotherapy in a manner considered correct to carry out the treatment of their patients.

In the event of non-compliance with the lex artis, we would speak of poor practice in psychotherapy, which could harm the patient and his good passing, as well as could affect the colleagues or even the center or the institution where he works, and the degree of seriousness of the fault of the committed offenses.

Professional misconduct could be sanctioned by the penal code, the institution where he practices and also by the professional association of the autonomous community where he practices his profession.

    What is professional misconduct in psychotherapy?

    Professional misconduct in matters of mental health occurs when a professional performs one or more acts that do not respect ethical standards, the rules of the center or establishment where he works, non-compliance with the law in a psychotherapeutic context or poor application of scientific and technical knowledge related to the exercise of their profession.

    The seriousness of the non-performance of any of the functions related to the profession of psychotherapist are classified according to the seriousness.

      Examples of professional misconduct in psychotherapy

      Here are the different mistakes that could be made by psychotherapists in a classification that ranges from mild to severe and can be considered very serious.

      1. Mild misconduct in psychotherapy

      These are minor deficiencies in psychotherapy which violate good practice in the exercise of the profession of psychotherapist.

      Unjustified non-compliance with the work schedule or absence from work without justification, as long as it is not a serious or very serious fault.

      Lack of respect for social treatment with colleagues or negligence in the exercise of certain functions of the profession, provided that it does not affect administrative affairs or customers, provided that they are not considered by the competent body as a serious or very serious fault.

      When there is one non-compliance with express rules or laws relating to health and safety in therapy or the failure of the therapist to fulfill the duties and obligations relating to his duty with regard to his profession, provided that they do not become a serious or very serious fault.

      Another minor flaw would be the fact that consent, cover or even cooperate in an act in the commission of a serious fault by a colleague, as long as it is not considered as a serious or very serious fault by the body responsible for determining it, being normally the official school of the autonomous community where it exercises its health profession.

        2. Serious deficiencies in psychotherapy

        The causes that can be sanctioned as serious misconduct in the practice of psychotherapy will now be discussed.

        Serious misconduct includes gross disregard for patients and colleagues, abuse of authority in their workplace, damage or deterioration of workplace equipment or facilities caused by undue negligence. rules governing their profession, in the event of non-qualification of very serious fault.

        Other serious offenses would be failure to complete the scheduled workday without any justification, accumulating more than 20 hours per month below those expected to work, just as it would be a serious offense. the psychotherapist’s refusal to use the means available at his workplace with the gift of preventing certain occupational risks, having received these means and the appropriate information in this regard.

        They are also part of the acts sanctioned as gross negligence to accept any compensation to any patient for the services provided or to be absent from work for a period exceeding 3 consecutive days or five alternative days in 2 months, provided that this does not reach to be considered a very serious fault for whatever reason.

        3. Very serious fault in psychotherapy

        This section will briefly explain some of the shortcomings of the consideration to be very serious by mental health professionals.

        When the psychotherapist fails in his professional duty in the therapeutic context of mental health, he may violate any law of the Constitution or the respective Statute of Autonomy, or in cases where he reaches discriminate against a patient or colleague for any reason (eg race, gender, religion, social status, economic status, among others).

        Abandon professional service without a valid reason, leaving patients without receiving the professional help they deserve, when absent from care for a period of more than 5 days without any justifiable reason, to have a significantly lower performance in the performance of the duties required by their profession or fail to fulfill their obligation to provide essential services which have been stipulated in the event of a strike.

        Disclose private data concerning the institution or center where I work, or concerning the information revealed by their patients during the sessions psychotherapy or at any time during his stay in the health center, which breaks his privacy, thus breaking the psychotherapist’s obligation to maintain professional secrecy.

        It would be a serious fault for the psychotherapist to violate the functions of his job and / or the rules governing his profession, just as if he were clearly and notoriously violating the orders of a superior, thus violating any law that regulates the profession. . or that of the center or establishment where you work, as well as the fact of carrying out any illegal act with regard to his functions which seriously harms patients, colleagues and / or the establishment or the health center in which he works.

        Other grounds for sanctioning serious misconduct would be when a health professional avails himself of the status of statutory staff to obtain some kind of advantage for himself or for third parties or the requirement of any compensation for his services to any patient of the health services.

        Assault on another person with whom you have a relationship in the course of your profession as a health professional (for example, a patient or a colleague) would also be punished as serious misconduct, as would sexual harassment.

          Prescription of faults leading to bad practice in psychotherapy

          In accordance with Law 55/2003, offenses that do not comply with the laws prescribe the passage of a certain time depending on the degree of seriousness of the bad psychotherapy practice that has been carried out, these terms being the following:

          • Minor offenses: 6 months have passed since the commission of the offense.
          • Serious offenses: after 2 years.
          • Very serious offenses: 4 years later.

          Sanctions for professional misconduct in psychotherapy

          The various sanctions that can be applied in the event of professional misconduct by mental health professionals will be specified below.

          1. Stay away from the service

          During the next 6 years after receiving the sanction, he will not be able to practice in the field of public healthnor will he be able to work in an administration or a public body.

          Consequently, he would lose his status as statutory agent, who could receive this sanction in the event of the commission of very serious offenses involving bad practice in psychotherapy.

          2. Having to change place and place of work

          In this case, the therapist would have to move to another locality and would be prohibited from participating in any mobility procedure in order to be able to return to the locality from which he was “expelled” during the period of 4 years after having received the sanction. . Likewise, he would not be entitled to any compensation.

          This sanction could only be pronounced in the event of the commission of very serious offenses. serious.

          3. Being suspended from professional duties

          It would be prohibited to exercise the profession of health worker within a period of between 2 and 6 years for having committed very serious offenses. In the event of the commission of serious offenses, the suspension would be for a period of less than 2 years.

          If he is suspended from his duties for a period of less than 6 months, he will not lose his job in the center where he works, and may be reinstated after having served the sanction.

          4. Having to move to another workstation

          The sanction which implies a forced transfer to another job would be applied for a period not exceeding 2 years, being applied in the case of having committed serious offenses.

          5. Warning

          The mental health professional he would receive a written warning in case he committed minor infractions that they come to influence a bad practice in psychotherapy.

            Criminal and ethical responsibility

            By committing a bad practice in psychotherapy, their acts could be sanctioned at the criminal, civil and / or ethical level, as we will see later.

            Criminal liability

            There are acts of professional misconduct which could involve an omission or reckless action which is prescribed by law, in this case could be divided into two types:

            • Reckless or culpable action: causing harm to others inadvertently, negligently or recklessly.
            • Painful action or omission: intentionally causing harm to another person in the workplace.

            Ethical responsibility

            As we know, health professionals in the field of mental health must respect a number of ethical standards in the practice of their profession.

            In the event of non-compliance with these ethical rules governed by the professional code of ethics, could be reported by other professionals to the Official College of Psychologists, in the case of psychologists, or to the Official College of Physicians in the case of psychiatrists, in this case it would be these bodies that would be responsible for judging whether or not there is a bad practice in psychotherapy on the part of the professional reported and, if necessary, they would proceed with the corresponding classification and disciplinary sanction.

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