- How to File a Complaint
- How to Obtain a Complaint Form
- Instructions for completing the complaint form
- How Agency Processes Complaints
- Toll-free Complaint Referral System
- Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Investigation of Complaints
How to File a Complaint
Anyone who believes a professional licensed by the Board has violated either the Psychologists’ Licensing Act (Chapter 501 of the Texas Occupations Code) or the rules of the Board may file a complaint with the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists. Complaints must be submitted to the Board's office on a Board approved complaint form.
If you receive psychological services from a licensee of this Board, it is important to realize that by signing the complaint form, you are waiving the confidentiality of discussions between you and your psychologist. Waiver of this privilege is necessary for the Board to review your complaint.
Complaints must be filed within five years after termination of services to be considered timely. However, complaints alleging sexual misconduct or mishandling of records may be filed within seven years after termination of services or within three years of the patient/client turning 18, whichever is later.
How to Obtain a Complaint Form
The Board-approved complaint form may be downloaded from this website by clicking on the link entitled "Forms" found in the menu to the left. There you will find the Board's complaint form available for download. Alternatively, you may call or write the Board and request the complaint form be mailed to you. The Board's address and telephone number can be found on the Board's home page.
Instructions for completing the complaint form
- State in simple, narrative language why you think the professional violated the Psychologists' Licensing Act or Board rules. You may use as many pages as necessary when drafting your narrative, and while you do not need to quote the specific rule you believe was violated, it is helpful if you do so.
- With the completed form, please submit copies of all information which you believe to be important to your complaint.
- All documents and other items submitted to the Board become the property of the Board and cannot be returned.
- Failure to supply requested documents may result in the dismissal of the complaint.
If you have any questions about completing the complaint form, feel free to contact the Enforcement Division at the Board office. (512) 305-7709
How Agency Processes Complaints
Complaints received at the Board office are forwarded to the Enforcement Division.
Each complaint is reviewed for legal sufficiency to determine: (1) if the allegations on their face state a violation of the law, (2) if the respondent (the person against whom the the complaint is filed) is a licensee of this Board, and (3) if the activities or services involved are exempt from the Board's jurisdiction.
If the first two criteria are met and the actvities or services involved are not exempt from the Board's jurisdiction, the Board will proceed forward with an investigation. However, in those situations where a complaint fails to state a violation of the law, names a respondent who is not licensed by the Board, or describes activities or services that are exempt from the Board's jurisdiction, the complaint will be dismissed and the complainant notified as to why the Board could not investigate the complaint. In those sitatuations where a complaint concerns a licensee of another agency, the complaint is referred to that agency for investigation.
If an investigation is warranted, the complaint is assigned to an investigator. The complainant is then informed in writing that the Board is investigating the complaint. Additionally, the respondent is provided with a copy of the original complaint and requested to respond to the complaint within 30 days.
After receiving the response from the respondent, the investigator pursues the investigation in a manner appropriate to the complaint. At pertinent stages of the investigation, the Board’s General Counsel may further review the complaint.
Resolution of a Complaint:
When the investigation of a complaint has been completed, the complaint takes one of two paths to resolution.
(1) Probable Cause can NOT be determined:
There must be sufficient evidence to establish probable cause of the misconduct. Therefore, if no probable cause can be determined as a result of the investigation, or if there is not sufficient evidence to withstand a court hearing, the complaint is referred to the Dismissal Committee which consists of the Executive Director, the General Counsel, the Enforcement Division Manager, and the Investigator for the complaint. This Committee reviews the investigative file and makes a recommendation to the Board to dismiss the complaint. The complaint will either be dismissed or returned to Enforcement by the Board at its next scheduled Board meeting. Both the complainant and the respondent are informed of the resolution of the complaint in writing.
(2) Probable Cause can be determined:
If probable cause can be determined following an investigation, the complaint is referred to the Disciplinary Review Panel. However, for complaints involving minor and largely uncontested violations, a settlment offer (i.e. agreed order by mail) is often sent to the respondent in lieu of referring the matter to a Disciplinary Review Panel. If the respondent rejects the Board's settlement offer, the matter is then referred to the Disciplinary Review Panel.
A Disciplinary Review Panel is composed of a panel of three Board members, at least one of whom must be a public member. The respondent is provided with a Notice of Violation which itemizes the violations of the law alleged in the complaint and supported by evidence obtained during the investigation, and the respondent is invited to attend an informal settlement conference with the Disciplinary Review Panel on a specific date. The complainant is also invited to attend this meeting. Both the complainant and respondent may speak to the Panel, but will only be permitted to do so separately, and both may be represented by legal counsel if desired.
After the conclusion of the informal settlement conference, the Panel may recommend dismissal, remand for more investigation, or recommend a disciplinary sanction for the respondent. A recommendation for disciplinary action is forwarded to the respondent in the form of an agreed order which operates as a settlement offer of the complaint between the Board and the professional.
If the respondent accepts the agreed order, it is presented to the Board at its next scheduled meeting for ratification. The parties are notified as to the Board's disposition of the complaint. If the respondent does not accept the agreed order, the agency refers the complaint to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) and the complaint becomes a contested case.
A contested case before SOAH is similar to a bench trial. The hearing is open to the public. A complainant may be called as a witness to give testimony at the hearing, in a deposition, or both. Evidence at the hearing may include a complainant's testimony, the licensee's testimony, admission of a patient records, and the testimony of expert witnesses. Following the hearing, the administrative law judge will make a Proposal for Decision containing the judge' s opinion as to whether the facts establish that a Board rule has been violated. The Board will have the option to accept the Proposal for Decision, or in limited circumstances, to reject or modify it. If the Proposal finds that a Board rule was violated, the Board may sanction the licensee. If not, a dismissal will occur.
Length of Investigations:
The Board makes every effort to deal with each complaint as quickly as possible. The time it takes to conduct an investigation can vary however, depending upon the facts and circumstances of the specific complaint as well as the limitations of staff and resources. While some complaints are resolved in less time, it is not unusual for an investigation to take longer than a year to complete. Priority is given to complaints which indicate the possibility of imminent harm to patients or involve sexual misconduct.
Toll-free Complaint Referral System
Anyone who wishes to file a complaint against a healthcare professional in this state may call the Health Professions Council toll-free complaint referral system: 1-800-821-3205. This automated, statewide number receives complaints about any health care professional and routes them to the appropriate licensing board.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Investigation of Complaints
All individuals licensed to practice psychology in Texas have an obligation to comply with the rules of the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists. The Board enforces its rules by investigating complaints filed against its licensees and, if necessary, imposing disciplinary sanctions upon licensees who are found to have violated these rules.
Q. Who does the Board license?
A. The Board licenses psychologists (individuals with doctoral degrees in psychology who have completed all required examinations and may practice psychology independently), provisionally licensed psychologists (individuals with doctoral degrees in psychology who have passed their written examinations and are waiting to take the Board's oral examination), psychological associates (individuals with a masters degree in psychology), and Licensed Specialists in School Psychology (LSSPs). Provisionally licensed psychologists and licensed psychological associates may practice only under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. The LSSP is a credential that is used only to provide school psychological services in Texas public schools.
Q. What rules of professional conduct are licensees of the Board required to follow?
A. The Board sets rules of professional practice for its licensees. These rules are codified in Chapter 465 of the Rules of the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists. The state law that creates the Board and authorizes it to create and enforce rules governing the practice of psychology is the Psychologists' Licensing Act (the Act), which is codified in Occupations Code, Chapter 501. Licensees are also required to comply with other laws that affect the practice of psychology. For example, Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapter 611, which governs the release of psychological records; Texas Family Code, Chapter 261, which requires reporting of child abuse; and HIPAA, the federal law governing privacy of health information. A violation of these laws would also be a violation of the Board's rules. A copy of the Psychologists' Licensing Act and Board rules is available for download from this website by clicking on the link entitled "Act and Rules of the Board" found in the menu to the left.
Q. What can I do if I believe a licensee has violated a Board rule?
A. You may file a written complaint by submitting an official complaint form. Board staff will then review the allegations and determine whether the complaint states allegations which, if true, constitute a violation of the Psychologists' Licensing Act or Board rules. Not all disputes or disagreements between patients and psychologists involve rule violations. The Board does not attempt to resolve billing, employment, or other disputes which do not relate to the delivery of psychological services as defined by Section 501.003 of the Psychologists' Licensing Act.
Q. What can happen to a licensee who has been found to have violated a Board rule?
A. The Board can take action against a licensee who has been found to have violated a Board rule. The Board seeks to do this by rehabilitating and educating its licensees who fail to comply with the Board's rules. The sanctions imposed for a rule violation are based on many factors including the severity of the offense, the effect of the offense, the specific intent, if any, behind the violation, and the likelihood of repetition of the misconduct. Possible sanctions include fines, reprimands, suspension, probation and, when necessary to protect the public, revocation of the violator's license.
Q. What can the Board do for me?
A. The Board's enforcement efforts are intended to protect the consumers of psychological services from licensees who commit professional misconduct. Disciplinary actions are brought by the Board on behalf of the public, not the individual who files the complaint. The Board may sanction a licensee for failing to provide a patient's records, but cannot order a licensee to provide records to a patient. The Board does not have the authority to order a judge or a court to reverse a decision, even if the decision was the direct result of a licensee's misconduct.
Q. What effect will a complaint filed with the Board have on a civil suit I have against a licensee?
A. The Board's mission is to protect the general public, not to assist individuals with legal problems concerning a licensee. The legal standards for civil cases often differ from the standards imposed by the rules of the Board. In addition, by law, many documents generated by the staff in the course of an investigation are not subject to release, even if they are subpoenaed.
Q. What about confidentiality?
A. It is important to remember that by filing a complaint, you are giving up your right to confidentiality about your relationship with the licensee. Waiver of this confidentiality is necessary to conduct an investigation. In addition, although the Board attempts to resolve complaints without a contested hearing whenever possible, any complaint that cannot be settled by an agreed order between the licensee and the Board must go to a contested hearing before a state administrative law judge. If a hearing is required, you may be ordered to turn over records and information about yourself to the licensee's lawyer to enable him or her to prepare a defense for the hearing.
Q. Must I state specific rule violations on the complaint form?
A. No. It is most important that you just try to explain in plain language what the licensee did that caused you to file the complaint and the dates you saw the licensee. Be as specific as you can, especially about dates and facts. The Board's rules in effect at the time of the allegations may be different from the Board's current rules. The staff will determine which rules, if any, were violated by a licensee's conduct.
Q. What other information will the Board need to conduct an investigation?
A. You should submit all available information that supports your complaint. Include the names, addresses, and phone numbers of other individuals with knowledge about the facts along with their own written statements. You should also submit any relevant reports or correspondence relating to the facts, court documents, including orders and transcripts of hearings, audio or video tapes, canceled checks, photographs, and other items. If at any time during an investigation additional information becomes available to you, you should submit it to the Board as soon as possible. Failure to provide the Board with requested information may result in the dismissal of a complaint. Also, it is important to notify the Board as soon as possible if your address or phone number changes.
Q. Can I get these documents back later?
A. In general, any document submitted to the Board becomes the property of the State of Texas and cannot be returned. Please note that if a contested hearing results from a complaint, the court will almost always require that originals of tapes or documents be produced as evidence.
Q. Can I file a complaint anonymously?
A. Yes, but anonymous complaints are heavily discouraged. It is virtually impossible for the Board to investigate an anonymous complaint. In order to investigate a complaint the Board often needs access to patient records, and these cannot be obtained when the complaint is filed anonymously.
Q. What happens after I file a complaint?
A. The allegations will be reviewed by the Enforcement Division and the Board's attorney to determine whether the Board has jurisdiction over the complaint and whether the conduct described, if true, would constitute a violation of the Board's rules. If not, the individual filing the complaint will be informed in writing that an investigation will not be conducted by the Board and that the complaint will be dismissed. If the complaint falls under the jurisdiction of another state agency or a state or federal law enforcement entity, the complaint will be forwarded to that agency. The individual filing the complaint will be notified in writing that the information has been forwarded.
If the complaint does allege a violation of a Board rule, the general practice, with very few exceptions, is to provide the licensee a copy of the complaint and to require a written response. Once the response is received, the complaint will be assigned to an investigator and a preliminary investigation and resolution schedule will be mailed to the parties involved.
Q. What happens during an investigation?
A. Given the limited resources of the Enforcement Division and the nature of the practice psychology, most investigations consist of gathering and reviewing written documents. Some investigations may require phone interviews with the complainants or witnesses. On-site investigations and personal interviews are normally not feasible or useful except in certain specific circumstances. An investigator determines if there is sufficient evidence to establish probable cause to support the allegations that a rule violation has occurred. Hearsay evidence, repeating information that someone has told you, is of limited use to the Enforcement Division. Therefore, persons who have no personal knowledge about the facts concerning the complaint may not be interviewed. Some violations also require the independent expert opinion of a licensed psychologist to establish a violation. Therefore, part of the investigation may involve identifying an individual who can provide an expert opinion and obtaining a professional review of the evidence by that individual.
Q. May I participate in negotiations between the Board's attorney and a respondent licensee?
A. No. Negotiations are considered part of the disciplinary process between the Board and the respondent, and they are confidential by law.
Q. What if I have other questions about the complaint process?
A. General questions about the complaint process or the status of a complaint should be directed to the Enforcement Division at 512-305-7709. However, please keep in mind that the complaint process is confidential and that some information cannot be made available. In addition, specific questions about whether conduct by a licensee is a rule violation cannot be answered by staff. The Board, after a full investigation, is the final decision-maker with respect to whether a rule violation has occurred. Also, Board members may not be contacted about potential, pending, or closed complaints. The Board acts as a whole in making final determinations about complaints.