When The Board Comes Knocking - How to Protect Your License

By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.

This Clinical Update provides information that could be vital to your practice:

What you can do today to protect yourself!
How to respond to a board investigation!
How to protect your license and livelihood!
Nine rules of what NOT to do!
Five recommendations of what to do!


  • The probability of being investigated by a state licensing board is generally relatively small.
  • Many board complaints are never investigated. You may not know that a complaint was ever levied against you.
  • Obviously, licensing boards have a lot of power-authority over licensed psychologists, MFTs, psychiatrists, social workers, counselors, nurses, etc.
  • Remember, the duty of the boards is to protect the public and regulate the profession.
  • While the board may be friendly and helpful, they are not your friends.

WHAT TO DO TODAY — Before You are Ever Investigated

Make sure that your malpractice insurance includes coverage for board investigations, as well as the standard malpractice coverage.


DON’TS: 12 Rules of What NOT to Do When You Hear From the Board
  1. Do NOT ever take a board investigation lightly.
  2. Do NOT ignore a board investigation.
  3. Do NOT assume that your innocence will soon be acknowledged.
  4. Do NOT respond to a letter from the board unless you have consulted with an attorney.
  5. Do NOT contact the client who files the board complaint.
  6. Do NOT turn any material or clinical records over to the board without getting legal advice first.
  7. Do NOT ever meet with a board investigator without legal representation.
  8. Do NOT alter the records or create new documents in the record.
  9. Do NOT ever discuss anything with a board investigator without legal representation EVEN IF they unexpectedly show up at your office.
  10. Do NOT assume that lack of harm to client or patient will end the board inquiry.
  11. Do NOT talk indiscriminately to anyone who would listen.
  12. Do NOT even think about trying to sue the person who complained against you.



DO’S: What to DO When You Are Notified That You Are Under Investigation
  1. DO contact your malpractice insurance carrier.
  2. DO contact a knowledgeable and experienced attorney immediately.
  3. DO help your attorney identify top experts. (For help in this, see my expert consulting page.
  4. DO be active in your defense. (See examples in dozens of free online articles.)
  5. DO prepare for the long run focus on self-care.



  • Consult with expert(s) on difficult cases before the board comes knocking on your door. (See Dr. Zur’s consulting services.)
  • Keep good records.
  • Be extra careful with custody issues and borderline clients.
  • Learn how to conduct ethical risk management.


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