Are You at Risk? Four Potential Liabilities When You’re an Uninsured Drug Counselor

August 11, 2021 •

Although substance abuse counseling has been a specialty for the last couple of decades, the fact of the matter is that this discipline is inexact. Because drug counseling continues to grow as a practice, it’s essential that drug counselors have professional insurance. Liability insurance will protect a counselor from potential claims made against them, which can ultimately preserve the counselor’s career and financial health in the long run.

Are You at Risk? Four Potential Liabilities When You’re an Uninsured Drug Counselor

Although making a claim against a mental health professional is not an everyday occurrence, it’s still common enough that most counselors have malpractice or liability insurance to look out for their interests. The American Psychological Association (APA) estimates that about 2% of all mental health professionals will face a claim during their career, with as many as 40% facing licensing board challenges. Claims may be more common for drug counselors in certain situations.

1. Duty to Warn

It is the responsibility of a drug therapist to warn others of a potentially violent client. Many people with substance abuse have comorbid behavioral conditions that make them prone to violence. If a drug counselor is aware of violent thoughts or plans for violent actions, then they are obligated to report these concerns to the proper authorities for the safety of the community.

When a therapist does not warn the authorities of potential client violence, they have failed their duty to warn. This may be cause for an eventual claim against them if the client successfully commits a violent act. If it can be proven the therapist had prior knowledge of violent urges, then they may need professional insurance to help them preserve their practicing license.

2. Failure to Protect Client

A drug therapist also has a duty to protect the client from themselves. This is particularly important with drug counseling, as substance abuse can frequently result in overdoses caused by stressors. It’s vital that a therapist be aware of any stressors that may cause substance abuse relapses, as this may give the therapist enough time to refer the client to emergency care or inform the client’s guardians.

If a therapist does not protect the client from themselves when the client threatens self-harm or expresses desires to relapse, the therapist may be liable for a claim. In this situation, a claim is more likely when the client self-harms or harms another person.

3. Substance Abuse Treatment

For some people with certain substance abuse disorders, a mental health professional may prescribe a mild opiate to help the client wean off an addictive substance. However, depending on the state, the use of these opiates for the treatment of drug abuse disorders is not recommended because of the likelihood that a client will abuse this therapeutic drug. In this case, if a client relapses because of further exposure to opiates, even opiates prescribed for treatment, then a therapist may be liable for a malpractice claim.

4. Emotional Hardship

This is one of the trickier liabilities. Anyone who has been through therapy will know that some sessions are emotionally difficult. However, for patients with substance abuse disorders, emotional hardship from therapy and addiction treatment can be a source of relapse to chemical dependency. This is most common for clients who struggle with sobriety and those who are in long-term treatment plans.

If a client makes an emotional hardship claim against a therapist, the therapist will need to defend their therapeutic practices either in court or to the state licensing board. Because drug therapy is more unpredictable than other types of therapy, an emotional hardship claim may be difficult to recover from.

How Insurance Can Help

Professional insurance is a must-have if you are a practicing mental health professional. Because some malpractice claims may happen over the course of your career, the best thing you can do is take out professional liability insurance to be prepared for the future. There are many ways this type of insurance can be helpful for you, such as:

  • Legal representation
  • Lawsuit intervention
  • Payment for lawsuits
  • License Protection

By far the most troublesome part of a malpractice claim is the expense associated with defending the claim, whether you are at fault or not. If you want to recover your ability to practice your profession, you will need legal representation in either a court or the licensing board. Paying for legal representation and lawsuit intervention can be pricey out of pocket, but liability insurance will cover these costs for you. Most insurance will even provide payment for settlement fees so you can enjoy better financial security even after a claim.

Substance abuse disorders are still a complicated specialty for therapists, so it makes sense that claims against drug abuse counselors may be more common than other types of mental health professionals.

NOW Insurance has to expertise in healthcare liability to guide you through any claim or threat of lawsuit. Our insurance is simple, fast and affordable, and tailored to your exact needs, so you aren’t paying for coverage you don’t need.

Fill out our simple online application to get a quote in under 3 minutes. Contact us with questions about insurance for drug counselors and other types of mental health professionals.