Why do I need liability insurance? It’s the most asked question when our staff exhibits at regional psychological association conventions. These events are attended by hundreds, sometimes thousands of psychology students, and all too often, student liability insurance is a mystery to them.
The bottom line is if you provide psychological services, you’re at risk for a lawsuit or other disciplinary action, even if you’re in training. Don’t think it will happen to you? Think again. One recent case featured on a television news station in the Midwest centered around a man who filed a lawsuit after being seen by a psychology student intern who gave him a diagnosis he disagreed with. While the suit was eventually dismissed, it did cost time and money to see through.
So, what can students do to protect themselves? Here are a few tips:
1. Get your own policy.
Having your own student liability insurance policy ensures you will be the priority in case something happens. Being covered under someone else’s malpractice policy doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the protection or attention you need. The Trust offers student policies starting at just $35 a month.
2. Get the facts.
Find out the laws and regulations in your state regarding your work as a student. Every state is different, and your supervisor or graduate program may not provide such information, so take it upon yourself to learn what the law allows or requires in your area. Also, know your ethics. It plays a huge role in risk management and will provide guidance if you run into issues or questions.
3. Learn to keep good records.
This is something you’ll need to do throughout your career, so start good habits now; you’ll thank yourself later. Good recordkeeping is essential in providing treatment and can help your defense in the face of a complaint or lawsuit, among other benefits. Document what you did, why, and strategies in treating a patient.
4. Know your limits.
In your enthusiasm to provide clinical services, be careful not to take on too much at one time. If you’re stressed out or dealing with personal issues, it might be a good idea to take a step back and not provide psychological services until you’re in a better state. Be sure to always seek support and guidance from your supervisor. He/She needs to know what’s going on to better assist you personally, academically and professionally. The experience and knowledge of supervisors are an asset.
Need more advice? Remember, as a Trust policyholder, you have access to our most popular benefit: The Advocate 800 Service. Call anytime and make an appointment with one of our Advocates, a team of licensed psychologists with extensive legal and ethical expertise. Don’t go it alone. If you have a question or concern, the best thing you can do is ask for help.
The Trust is also proud to offer our new “Starting a Private Practice: An Early Career Psychologist’s Guide”. It’s a free resource created by The Trust Student and Early Career Advisory Committee that provides an overview of important considerations and practice tools to help you set up a successful private practice.