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Virginia Board of Psychology Practice Standards



18VAC125-20-150. Standards of practice.

A. The protection of the public health, safety, and welfare and the best interest of the public shall be the primary guide in determining the appropriate professional conduct of all persons whose activities are regulated by the board. Psychologists respect the rights, dignity, and worth of all people and are mindful of individual differences. Regardless of the delivery method, whether face-to-face or by use of technology, these standards shall apply to the practice of psychology.

B. Persons regulated by the board shall:

1. Provide and supervise only those services and use only those techniques for which they are qualified by education, training, and appropriate experience;

2. Delegate to persons under their supervision only those responsibilities such persons can be expected to perform competently by education, training, and experience;

3. Maintain current competency in the areas of practices through continuing education, consultation, or other procedures consistent with current standards of scientific and professional knowledge;

4. Accurately represent their areas of competence, education, training, experience, professional affiliations, credentials, and published findings to ensure that such statements are neither fraudulent nor misleading;

5. Neither accept nor give commissions, rebates, or other forms of remuneration for referral of clients for professional services. Make appropriate consultations and referrals consistent with the law and based on the interest of patients or clients;

6. Refrain from undertaking any activity in which their personal problems are likely to lead to inadequate or harmful services;

7. Avoid harming, exploiting, misusing influence, or misleading patients or clients, research participants, students, and others for whom they provide professional services and minimize harm when it is foreseeable and unavoidable;

8. Not engage in, direct, or facilitate torture, which is defined as any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person, or in any other cruel, inhuman, or degrading behavior that causes harm;

9. Withdraw from, avoid, adjust, or clarify conflicting roles with due regard for the best interest of the affected party and maximal compliance with these standards;

10. Make arrangements for another professional to deal with emergency needs of clients during periods of foreseeable absences from professional availability and provide for continuity of care when services must be terminated;

11. Conduct financial responsibilities to clients in an ethical and honest manner by:

a. Informing clients of fees for professional services and billing arrangements as soon as is feasible;

b. Informing clients prior to the use of collection agencies or legal measures to collect fees and provide opportunity for prompt payment;

c. Obtaining written consent for fees that deviate from the practitioner’s usual and customary fees for services;

d. Participating in bartering only if it is not clinically contraindicated and is not exploitative; and

e. Not obtaining, attempting to obtain, or cooperating with others in obtaining payment for services by misrepresenting services provided, dates of service, or status of treatment.

12. Be able to justify all services rendered to clients as necessary for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes;

13. Construct, maintain, administer, interpret, and report testing and diagnostic services in a manner and for purposes that are current and appropriate;

14. Design, conduct, and report research in accordance with recognized standards of scientific competence and research ethics. Practitioners shall adhere to requirements of § 32.1-162.18 [1] of the Code of Virginia for obtaining informed consent from patients prior to involving them as participants in human research, with the exception of retrospective chart reviews;

15. Report to the board known or suspected violations of the laws and regulations governing the practice of psychology;

16. Accurately inform a client or a client’s legally authorized representative of the client’s diagnoses, prognosis, and intended treatment or plan of care. A psychologist shall present information about the risks and benefits of the recommended treatments in understandable terms and encourage participation in the decisions regarding the patient’s care. When obtaining informed consent treatment for which generally recognized techniques and procedures have not been established, a psychologist shall inform clients of the developing nature of the treatment, the potential risks involved, alternative treatments that may be available, and the voluntary nature of their participation;

17. Clearly document at the outset of service delivery what party the psychologist considers to be the client and what, if any, responsibilities the psychologist has to all related parties;

18. Determine whether a client is receiving services from another mental health service provider, and if so, document efforts to coordinate care;

19. Document the reasons for and steps taken if it becomes necessary to terminate a therapeutic relationship (e.g., when it becomes clear that the client is not benefiting from the relationship or when the psychologist feels endangered). Document assistance provided in making arrangements for the continuation of treatment for clients, if necessary, following termination of a therapeutic relationship; and

20. Not engage in conversion therapy with any person younger than 18 years of age.

C. In regard to confidentiality, persons regulated by the board shall:

1. Keep confidential their professional relationships with patients or clients and disclose client information to others only with written consent except as required or permitted by law. Psychologists shall inform clients of legal limits to confidentiality;

2. Protect the confidentiality in the usage of client information and clinical materials by obtaining informed consent from the client or the client’s legally authorized representative before (i) videotaping, (ii) audio recording, (iii) permitting third party observation, or (iv) using clinical information in teaching, writing, or public presentations; and

3. Not willfully or negligently breach the confidentiality between a practitioner and a client. A disclosure that is required or permitted by applicable law or beyond the control of the practitioner shall not be considered negligent or willful.

D. In regard to client records, persons regulated by the board shall:

1. Maintain timely, accurate, legible, and complete written or electronic records for each client. For a psychologist practicing in an institutional setting, the recordkeeping shall follow the policies of the institution or public facility. For a psychologist practicing in a noninstitutional setting, the record shall include:

a. The name of the client and other identifying information;
b. The presenting problem, purpose, or diagnosis;
c. Documentation of the fee arrangement;
d. The date and clinical summary of each service provided;
e. Any test results, including raw data, or other evaluative results obtained;
f. Notation and results of formal consults with other providers; and
g. Any releases by the client;

2. Maintain client records securely, inform all employees of the requirements of confidentiality and dispose of written, electronic, and other records in such a manner as to ensure their confidentiality; and

3. Maintain client records for a minimum of five years or as otherwise required by law from the last date of service, with the following exceptions:

a. At minimum, records of a minor child shall be maintained for five years after attaining 18 years of age;
b. Records that are required by contractual obligation or federal law to be maintained for a longer period of time; or
c. Records that have been transferred pursuant to § 54.1-2405 [2] of the Code of Virginia pertaining to closure, sale, or change of location of one’s practice.

E. In regard to dual relationships, persons regulated by the board shall:

1. Not engage in a dual relationship with a person under supervision that could impair professional judgment or increase the risk of exploitation or harm. Psychologists shall take appropriate professional precautions when a dual relationship cannot be avoided, such as informed consent, consultation, supervision, and documentation to ensure that judgment is not impaired and no exploitation occurs;

2. Not engage in sexual intimacies or a romantic relationship with a student, supervisee, resident, intern, therapy patient, client, or those included in collateral therapeutic services (such as a parent, spouse, or significant other of the client) while providing professional services. For at least five years after cessation or termination of professional services, not engage in sexual intimacies or a romantic relationship with a therapy patient, client, or those included in collateral therapeutic services. Consent to, initiation of, or participation in sexual behavior or romantic involvement with a psychologist does not change the exploitative nature of the conduct nor lift the prohibition. Because sexual or romantic relationships are potentially exploitative, psychologists shall bear the burden of demonstrating that there has been no exploitation, based on factors such as duration of therapy, amount of time since therapy, termination circumstances, client’s personal history and mental status, and adverse impact on the client;

3. Not engage in a personal relationship with a former client in which there is a risk of exploitation or potential harm or if the former client continues to relate to the psychologist in his professional capacity; and

4. Recognize conflicts of interest and inform all parties of the nature and directions of loyalties and responsibilities involved.

F. Upon learning of evidence that indicates a reasonable probability that another mental health provider is or may be guilty of a violation of standards of conduct as defined in statute or regulation, persons licensed by the board shall advise their clients of their right to report such misconduct to the Department of Health Professions in accordance with § 54.1-2400.4 [3] of the Code of Virginia.


18VAC125-20-160. Grounds for disciplinary action or denial of licensure.

The board may take disciplinary action or deny a license or registration for any of the following causes:

1. Conviction of a felony, or a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude (i.e., relating to lying, cheating, or stealing);

2. Procuring or attempting to procure or maintaining a license or registration by fraud or

3. Conducting practice in such a manner so as to make it a danger to the health and welfare of clients or to the public;

4. Engaging in intentional or negligent conduct that causes or is likely to cause injury to a client;

5. Performing functions outside areas of competency;

6. Demonstrating an inability to practice psychology with reasonable skill and safety to clients by reason of illness or substance misuse, or as a result of any mental, emotional, or physical condition;

7. Failing to comply with the continuing education requirements set forth in this chapter;

8. Violating or aiding and abetting another to violate any statute applicable to the practice of the profession, including § 32.1-127.1:03 [4] of the Code of Virginia relating to health records;

9. Knowingly allowing persons under supervision to jeopardize client safety or provide care to clients outside of such person’s scope of practice or area of responsibility;

10. Performing an act or making statements that are likely to deceive, defraud, or harm the public;

11. Having a disciplinary action taken against a health or mental health license, certification,
registration, or application in Virginia or other jurisdiction or surrendering such a license, certification, or registration in lieu of disciplinary action;

12. Failing to cooperate with an employee of the Department of Health Professions in the conduct of an investigation;

13. Failing to report evidence of child abuse or neglect as required in § 63.2-1509 [5] of the Code of Virginia, or abuse of aged and incapacitated adults as required in § 63.2-1606 [6] of the Code of Virginia; or

14. Violating any provisions of this chapter, including practice standards set forth in 18VAC125-20-150 [7].