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Your Rights as a Consumer

The following information is provided to be an informal, helpful guide to consumers. It is not a legal mandate in any state or province.

You Have a Right to:

  • Expect the psychologist has met the minimum qualifications of education and supervised experience required by law for licensure or registration.
  • Verify licensure of the psychologist with the licensing board in your jurisdiction and receive informaiton about any discipline imposed against the provider.
  • Expect that information you provide to the psychologist will be kept in strictest confidence, within the state and federal legal limitations.
  • To be free from being the object of unlawful discrimination for all psycholgoical services you receive.
  • To be free from exploitation for the benefit or advantage of the psychologist.
  • File a complaint with the psychology board about unprofessional or unethical behavior by a psychologist.
  • Receive a second opinion at any time about services you are receiving or about your psychologist's methods.
  • To receive a non-technical description or explanation of all psychological services you receive.
  • Receive referral names, addresses and telephone numbers in the event that your psychological service needs to be transferred to someone else or you wish another professional.
  • Request a copy or summary of your records be sent to any psychologist, agency or professional you choose.

If you believe that you have been exploited, harmed, or treated unprofessionally by a psychologist, there are a number of different remedies available to you. Take time to carefully explore all of your rights and options. It may help to decide what your goals are.

  • Taking action against the psychologist: Perhaps your goal is to prevent the psychologist from hurting other patients. You may want to receive monetary compensation for the damage you have suffered and to help pay for future therapy sessions. You may want to do all of these. If these are your goals, there are several options available to you. It is important to note that some options have limits on the time that may pass before the report is made (called a statute of limitations). As you consider your options, be awere of those limits.
  • Your Recovery: You may also want to explore your thoughts and feelings about what happened between you and the psychologist. If you decide to do this, you can talk with another therapist or enter a support group.
  • Move on: Or you may wish simply to move on past this experience as quickly as possible and get on with your life. Remember ---- you have the right to decide and do what is best for you.

Action Options

If you decide to complain about a psychologist's unethical and illegal behavior, there are four different ways to do so. Each option has both strong and weak points. You may choose any one or all of these options.

  • Administrative Action - file a complaint with the psychologist's licensing bard.
  • Professional Association Action - file a complaint with the national professional association's ethics committee. If the licensed psychologist is a member of the APA, contact the APA Ethics Office to obtain information about pursuing ethics charges.
  • Civil Lawsuit - A civil lawsuit is filed to seek money for damages or injuries to a patient. Contact an attorney to file a civil lawsuit.
  • Criminal Action - file a complaint with local law enforcement if you believe the offense constitutes a crime in your jurisdiction.
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