Mental health therapists – psychiatrists, psychologists and clinical social workers – have the difficult job of treating patients whose emotions and malfunctioning brains cause behavior that can be irrational, volatile, violent and a threat to their own health or others around them. When harm actually happens, to the patient or someone else, malpractice can be involved if the therapist failed to discharge professional duties in a well-focused and planned way.
Some of the issues which result in malpractice lawsuits against mental health professionals include:
- Sexual activity between a therapist and a patient, which is always unethical for the therapist even if the patient “consents.”
- Movement disorders – tardive dyskinesia is the most common – caused by overuse of antipsychotic drugs.
- Other long-lasting physical problems from misuse of medications.
- Suicide. See our separate page on this.
- Violence by the patient against another person which was foreshadowed by something the therapist knew about. See our separate page on this.
Lawsuits against mental health professionals typically require expert witness testimony, usually by forensic psychiatrists. There are many pitfalls in mental health expert testimony in malpractice suits. Here is an article that analyzes several of the recurring issues.
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