Minnesota Board of Psychology Complaint Resolution Process and Interactive Ethics Module

This was the presentation of the Minnesota Board of Psychology (Board) at the Minnesota Psychological Association (MPA) 2014 Convention on Friday, April 11, 2014 by the following Board members and staff: Dr. Scott A. Fischer, (Vice Chair) Ph.D., LP, Dr. Jeffrey L. Leichter, Ph.D., LP (Chair), Angelina M. Barnes, Esq. (Executive Director), Scott W. Payne (Compliance Director), and Joshua Bramley (Compliance Specialist).

Complaint Resolution Process

The Board’s Complaint Resolution process begins with the receipt of a written complaint. The complaint is reviewed to ensure it is jurisdictional; whether the Board has the power to preside over the complaint.  The Board has jurisdiction over matters only to the extent granted to it by state statute (see Minn. Stat. sec. 148.905).  A question regarding jurisdiction asks whether there is power over the person, the subject matter, or the geographic location.  For the Board, this equates to power over applicants and licensees of the Board, the practice of psychology, and/or the State of Minnesota.

Complaints are acknowledged by written notice to the complainant within 14 days after the receipt of a complaint (see Minn. Stat. sec. 214.103, subd. 1a[a]).   The Board is required to “notify a licensee within 60 calendar days after receiving a complaint against a licensee” unless such notice would “compromise the board’s investigation and that such notice cannot reasonably be accomplished within this time” (see Minn. Stat. sec. 214. subd. 1a[b] and [d]).

Following the determination of jurisdiction, a case is opened.  A review is done of the Psychology Practice Act to identify allegations that may be violations of either statute or administrative rule.  The complaint file is then transferred for investigation.  The Board has two tracks for investigation: one is internal and the other is through the Office of the Attorney General (AGO).  The AGO is statutorily charged with the responsibility of investigating all complaints that allege sexual conduct or sexual conduct with a client (see Minn. Stat. sec. 214.103, subd. 6[2][b]).

Once the investigation is complete, an investigative summary of a case is prepared for review by a Complaint Resolution Committee (CRC).  The Board has two CRCs to manage cases.  CRCs are comprised of two psychologist Board members and one public Board member. The investigative materials are provided to a CRC for a process identified as “triage.” The goal of triage is to identify the next step in the process, which could include dismissal, additional investigation, or a conference with the subject of the complaint.

The CRCs conduct two types of conferences with licensees known as either an educational or a disciplinary conference.  The goal of an educational conference is to meet with the licensee to discuss the allegations.  The CRC intends this conference to be collegial and remedial in nature.  The goal of a disciplinary conference is to meet with the licensee to discuss allegations identified in writing in advance of the meeting in a document known as a Notice of Conference (NOC).  The CRC intends this conference to also be collegial; however, at this stage, the CRC has significant concerns regarding the allegations and anticipates discipline as a possibility at the conclusion of the conference.

The information provided by a licensee in both an educational or disciplinary conference can be very helpful to a CRC attempting to determine what occurred and allows the CRC unique insight into the complaint that is difficult to obtain through written materials.  The most useful information for a CRC includes: documentation regarding the allegation, an explanation of the thought process of the licensee including the theory behind the approach, individuals consulted, methods applied, and remediation sought.

Following the conclusion of a disciplinary conference, the CRC may offer a remedy to resolve the complaint.  The remedy may include a dismissal, an Agreement for Corrective Action (ACA), or a Stipulation and Consent Order (SCO).  It is important to note that an ACA is a public non-disciplinary document.  It is provided to the public upon request, can be included on the Board’s website, but is not reported to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Practitioner’s Data Bank (NPDB; see www.npdb.hrsa.gov).  In contrast, a Stipulation and Consent Order is a public and disciplinary document reported to the NPDB, distributed to the public upon request, and on the Board’s website (see Minn. Stat. sec. 214.072[a][3].  Stipulation and Consent Orders generally include a remedy that is intended to be the least restrictive remedy necessary to protect the public.

The final stage of complaint cases that result in disciplinary or corrective action is compliance.  This is the process ensuring the licensee completes the remedy to the satisfaction of the Board with the goal of restoration to practice.

Ethics Module

Following the review of the Board’s Complaint Resolution process, Board members and staff took conference participants through an interactive module.  Within this portion of the session, participants assumed the role of CRC members and Board staff.  They received investigative materials including a complaint, evidence including cards, event tickets, and case notes, and eventually an investigative summary.  Participants were challenged to identify allegations and corresponding statute and administrative rule violations, to support their case with evidence, and to ultimately determine the next step within their case scenario.


  1. The receipt of a written complaint triggers the Board’s Complaint Resolution process.
  2. The Board has jurisdiction or “power over” licensees and applicants, the practice of psychology occurring within the State of Minnesota.
  3. Licensees may not receive notice of a complaint against their practice immediately if it will compromise the Board’s investigation.
  4. Board staff clarify allegations and conduct internal investigations.
  5. The Office of the Attorney General conducts all investigations alleging sexual contact or conduct.
  6. CRCs review cases for next steps and may meet with licensees or applicants through two types of conferences.
  7. Documentation, explanation, case files, thought processes/analysis, evidence of consultation, description of methods applied and any remediation sought is extremely helpful when meeting with a CRC.
  8. Disciplinary action is always public and reported to the National Practitioner’s Data Bank (NPDB).
  9. Agreements for Corrective Action are public but do not constitute discipline.
  10. Pitfalls for complaints include: poor record keeping, failure to seek transparent consultation, blurring of professional boundaries absent documentation of licensee’s efforts to restore professional boundaries, and provider impairment.

Angelina M. Barnes, Esq. is the Executive Director of the Minnesota Board of Psychology and an attorney licensed in good standing in the State of Minnesota.  Prior to her role with the Board of Psychology, Ms. Barnes served as an Assistant Attorney General in the Health Licensing Division of the Office of the Attorney General.  Ms. Barnes received her Juris Doctorate from William Mitchell College of Law in 2008 and a Bachelor of Arts degree from James Madison College, Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan in 2002. 

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