Issues Pertaining to Clinical Practice and Malpractice

All of your clinical activities as part of your training in the Program are performed under the licenses of your faculty supervisors, or on-site supervisors at Clinical placements. In short, this arrangement makes the faculty responsible for, and more importantly, liable for, your actions. Connecticut statutes also prohibit fee-for-service counseling activities without at least a master’s-level license. Students in doctoral training programs are exempted from this prohibition, so long as their clinical activities are documentable as part of their professional training and are adequately supervised by a licensed professional. This situation has important consequences in two interrelated areas – (a) the need to carry malpractice insurance, and (b) dangers of engaging in external professional work without faculty consent.

Malpractice Protection

“Malpractice” is an important concept in tort litigation, in which a plaintiff claims that the activities of a professional caused damage or harm. Further, the alleged damage is not intentional, but, rather, due to negligence on the part of the professional. Determination of negligence typically involves attempts to demonstrate that the activity is below the level of care that is generally acceptable within the professional community. Being supervised is one protection against malpractice. In agreeing to supervise you, we assume that you will follow carefully feedback and directives provided by the faculty and clinical supervisors and that your work will be consistent with current standards of professional practice.

Having said this, it is essential that you carry malpractice insurance. All clinical faculty members who engage in clinical practice or supervision carry malpractice insurance. Students enrolled in the Clinical Psychology Program are required to be covered under a Professional Liability policy that is provided by the University. This insurance typically provides funds to support legal defenses against malpractice charges lodged against you as an individual and also an agreement to pay up to a maximum amount to settle claims. The University provides malpractice insurance for you, for activities that are a part of your training program, for the duration of your tenure here. Documentation of that coverage for external agencies is available from the Clinical Program Administrative Manager.

At the University of Connecticut, employees enjoy some additional protection from legal malpractice liability, so long as they are acting within their official teaching and supervisory responsibilities and their acts are not judged by the Office of the Attorney General to be wanton, reckless, or malicious [Connecticut General Statutes, Section 10- 235(a)(7)]. Your clinical activities enjoy similar protection, so long as they are conducted as part of your professional training (i.e., within specific practicum courses). This special immunity stems from state doctrine that employees (and students under supervision) are acting as agents of the state, so the state, rather than you as an individual, gets sued. This immunity does not apply and your malpractice policy will not provide protection if you engage in professional assessment or psychotherapeutic activities that are not a part of the graduate training program.