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California Law and Professional Ethics

Author: Heidi Dalzell, Psy.D. , Teresa Crowe, PhD, LICSW , and Claudia Dewane, D.Ed., LCSW
(Click author's name for bio)

Course Created: 2022

Practice Level: Intermediate

No book to buy Duration: 12 hours
4.6 out of 5.0, Based on: 3,022 reviews

Course Summary

This learning material meets the 12-hour California law and professional ethics pre-licensure requirement. Designed for mental health professionals this course explores the Statutes and Regulations Relating to the Practices of Professional Clinical Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy, Educational Psychology, Clinical Social Work. Part I of this course, California Law and Ethics, provides a review of California-specific laws and professional ethics with expanded sections related to competency andburnout. Part II focuses on legal and ethical issues in treating victims of domestic violence. Part III provides a comprehensive look at the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a key topic for providers who take third-party reimbursement. As part of the overall discussion on competency, Part IV of this learning material discusses the provision of telehealth, which has seen unanticipated and exponential growth as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2020. Part V provides an alternative lens through which to look at ethical issues, using the framework of medical errors and root cause analysis.

Course Format

This course contains downloadable online lessons (PDF) and a practice test. When you're ready, purchase the course by clicking the "Add To Cart" button. This will let you take the test, complete the course evaluation and receive your certificate for CE credits.

Learning Objectives

  • Discuss established ethical and legal requirements contained in the Statutes and Regulations Relating to the Practices of Professional Clinical Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy, Educational Psychology, Clinical Social Work and specified in the ethical codes for the professions identified.
  • Recognize common ethical dilemmas.
  • Identify elements of licensing law and licensure processes for mental health professionals.
  • Define confidentiality, limits of confidentiality, and informed consent.
  • Explain relevant California laws governing professional practice, including laws regarding minors’ consent and confidentiality, mandated reporting, Laura’s Law, and laws governing subpoenas.
  • Discuss the Tarasoff and Ewing rulings related to the professional duty to warn (now referred to as the duty to protect).
  • Explain professional competence and the steps a provider should take to maintain competencies related to cross-cultural practice, self-assessment related to burnout, and competence to provide telehealth.
  • Describe the dynamics of and ethical concerns related to dual relationships, including non-sexual and sexual relationships.
  • Distinguish between termination and patient abandonment.
  • Identify the scope of the problem, including intimate partner homicide, lethality assessment, and nonfatal injuries.
  • Explain reasons why victims often fail to report intimate partner violence.
  • Describe “mandatory arrest” and “dual arrest” policies and their implications.
  • Describe issues related to empowerment and advocacy, ethical and legal issues related to domestic violence, and safety planning.
  • Discuss ethical and legal issues related to domestic violence.
  • Discuss established ethical and legal requirements contained in HIPAA.
  • List the components of HIPAA.
  • Explain incidental uses of health information and reasonable safeguards.
  • Describe the informed consent procedure, including the Notice of Privacy Practices.
  • Describe patient access to information.
  • Distinguish between psychotherapy notes and the clinical record.
  • Describe research related to the role and effectiveness of telehealth.
  • Recognize the ethical principles related to the practice of telehealth (e.g., competence, confidentiality).
  • Define terminology basic to telemental health, computers, and technology.
  • Differentiate electronic security measures that practitioners should employ.
  • Identify legal and ethical considerations related to the provision of telehealth, including informed consent and practitioner protections.
  • Explain best practices in telemental health, including multicultural considerations.
  • Describe risk management and ethical conduct (including documentation) in telemental health with children, couples, families, and groups.
  • Recognize relevant information related to telehealth from ethics codes from the NASW, APA, and ACA.
  • Define medical errors and patient safety goals in behavioral health.
  • Explain a root cause analysis process to evaluate medical errors.
  • Identify medical errors common in mental health.
  • Recognize the ethical guidelines related to competence (including multicultural competence, informed consent, HIPAA, confidentiality, mandated reporting, duties to protect, responding to suicide risk, failure to detect medical conditions and accurate differential diagnosis, and termination).

Course Syllabus


Learning Objectives

Scope of Practice for the Professions

  • Content of Statutes and Regulations Relating to the Practices of Professional Clinical Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy, Educational Psychology, Clinical Social Work
  • Ethics vs. Law
  • Licensure of Mental Health Professionals
  • Confidentiality
  • Confidentiality and Minors

Mandated Reporting

  • Defining Child Abuse
  • Dimensions of the Problem of Child and Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse
  • Signs of Elder Abuse
  • Good Faith Reporting
  • Laura’s Law

Advertising Professional Services

Duty to Protect (Tarasoff and Ewing)

Achieving and Maintaining Competence

  • Compassion Fatigue and Burnout
  • Properly Identifying Level of Competence to the Public
  • Seeking Consultation
  • Competence with Cultural/Linguistic Minorities and Non-Discrimination in Providing Services

Multiple or Nonsexual Dual Relationships

  • Online Relationships
  • Consequences to the Therapist of Boundary Violations
  • Physical Contact with Clients

Sexual Relationships with Clients

  • Warning Signs of Sexual Inappropriateness
  • Consequences of Sexual Boundary Violations

Treatment Termination and Client Abandonment

  • Mental Health Parity


Learning Objectives

Scope of the Problem

  • Intimate Partner Homicide
  • Assessing Safety
  • Other Losses

Reporting Intimate Partner Violence

  • Mandatory and Dual Arrest Policies
  • Advocacy
  • Navigating the Systems
  • Ethical Considerations: Confidentiality

Domestic Violence Safety Plan


Learning Objectives

Components of HIPAA

  • Healthcare Portability
  • Protected Health Information
  • HIPAA Privacy Standards

Who is a “Covered Entity”?

Incidental Uses and Disclosures of Health Information

Notice of Privacy Practices

Patient Access to Records

  • Therapy Notes vs. the Clinical Record
  • Forensic Services

HIPAA Security Standards


Learning Objectives

Computer Basics

  • Computer Terminology Basics
  • Computer Security

Telehealth Technology Basics

  • Types of Technology
  • Secured vs. Unsecured Technology
  • Platforms
  • Common Telehealth Ethical Encounters

    • Creating an Informed Consent Form for Telehealth

    Best Practices in Telehealth

    • Offer Orientation to the Technology Before Beginning Treatment
    • Video Etiquette
    • Video Space
    • Video Presentation Skills
    • Risks of Teletherapy
    • Graduate Education and Telehealth
    • Multicultural Considerations

    Risk Management in Documenting Encounters

    Ethical Issues in Telehealth with Children, Couples, and Groups

    • Working with Children Virtually
    • Working with Couples and Families
    • Working with Groups via Telehealth

    Supervision Via Videoconferencing

    Standards Pertinent to Telehealth

    • Practicing Across State Lines
    • Telehealth Training


    Learning Objectives

    Definition of Medical Error

    Root Cause Analysis


    • Cultural Competence
    • Informed Consent
    • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
    • Confidentiality
    • Mandatory Abuse Reporting
    • Duty to Protect
    • Responding to Suicidal Risk
    • Failure to Detect Medical Conditions
    • Termination of Treatment/Financial Aspects


    References, provider #1115, is approved as an ACE provider to offer social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. Regulatory boards are the final authority on courses accepted for continuing education credit. ACE provider approval period: 07/08/21-07/08/24. Social workers completing this course will receive continuing education credit hours.

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