Most Common Ethical Violations in Counseling


The Most Common Ethical Violations in Counseling: The Top 3.

Here’s something to keep in your back pocket. The three most common ethical violations in counseling are boundaries, billing fraud and poor license maintenance. 

Let’s tackle them now. In no particular order.

You may have read that there are other more common ethics violations than boundaries, billing fraud and not maintaining your LPC license. For example, misrepresenting one’s credentials and breaches of confidentiality.  However, these top 3 counselor ethics violations frequently result in actual licensing board disciplinary actions

Read on. 

Billing Fraud For Behavioral Health Services.

Fraudulent billing for counseling services. Especially Medicaid fraud. You get the double whammy for this bad licensed professional behavior.

Medicaid fraud is unethical plus it is a federal felony charge. The penalties are usually harsh. Payment of fines, restitution and recoupment often upwards of $500,000–and imprisonment.

Licensing boards often don’t even need to investigate the allegation of ethics violations. Based upon the counselor’s Medicaid fraud conviction, your license will usually be suspended or revoked using an administrative action under general state law.

What is usually discovered is a scheme involving a counseling practice’s billing for services that were never delivered or upcoding. Often hundreds of dates of service that were fraudulently billed.

If you think it can’t happen to you, think again. Many are tempted – by money- to abuse lucrative contracts they have with their state Medicaid program.

Don’t be greedy. Don’t be foolish.

Boundary Violations.

Boundary violations come in many, many forms. I can provide at least 20 different examples–all of them boundary crossings that can result in board complaints and lawsuits.

That’s why it is so easy to be blindsided by counselor boundary violations. A common scenario is advocating for a counseling client and the relationship becomes bitterly adversarial. That’s right: what you believe is noble, may not be. I can help you sort through ethical dilemmas such as these.

Poor Counselor License Maintenance

Or what I like to call, ‘poor license hygiene‘.

It’s not enough to be ethical. You have essential responsibilities for your license and accountability to the state that are tied to having the privilege to practice a healthcare profession.

  1. Completing your continuing education.
  2. Renewing your license in a timely manner.
  3. Putting your license into inactive status.

Licensing boards often perform random audits upon license renewal to be sure you have completed your counselor continuing education hours. If you attempt to renew, there can be two consequences:

  1. Disciplined for not having completed the continuing ed hours.
  2. Fraudulently attesting that you did complete the hours.

Many mistakenly believe their state has a grace period for late renewal.

Many state LPC boards do not have a grace period. In other words, if your renewal deadline is September 30 of even years and you do not renew by 9/30 you cannot practice.

This is one example of a seemingly small infraction that can result in disciplinary action for unlicensed practice.

If you decide you don’t want to practice--temporarily or permanently usually can’t simply allow your counseling license to lapse.

You must notify the board through a formal process if placing your license into inactive status. The board is required to keep tabs on your activity.

Why? Again, if the board discovers you have been practicing during that period of time it has the option of disciplining you and your license.

For example, Eric decides he no longer wants to practice.  He wants to go to the beach and become a lifeguard. He has an opportunity to see a few clients strictly part-time and has failed to notify the board of his intention to not practice. He has not placed his licensed into inactive status and the license has lapsed.

This is also a scenario of unlicensed practice.

It’s important to remember that unlicensed practice is not an ethical matter. It is illegal. It is a violation of state law.

You deserve a former licensing board president on your side.

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