Beyond Ethics

A Quick Glance: Vermont's Professional Conduct Rules

Gain clarity on the statutes governing unprofessional conduct for mental health providers in Vermont. This guide will help you understand the regulations and avoid potential pitfalls that may not be addressed in the APA or ASPPB ethics codes.

The information on this page is not intended, nor should it be construed as, legal advice or a definitive , complete explanation of legal concepts in Vermont.  It is a brief, selective summary of the provisions of the relevant statutes and regulations; links to the relevant sources are provided below.  Please contact your attorney if you need specific guidance or an interpretation of this informaiton.


“Deceptive advertising” is prohibited by 3 VSA §129a for all individuals licensed under the Office of Professional Regulations and its component licensing boards.

In addition, the administrative rules of the Board of Psychological Examiners and 26 VSA §3016(2) require that psychologists use their complete titles (“psychologist-doctorate” or “psychologist-master”) on all signs, business cards, letterhead, promotional materials, and other professional uses.  A licensee whose name appears in an advertisement listing individuals in a practice must include his or her full professional title in the listing, clearly indicating licensure as a psychologist-doctorate or psychologist-master. This rule applies wherever the professional listing occurs.

Permitting one’s name or license to be used by a person, group, or corporation when not actually in charge of or responsible for the professional services provided is also defined as “unprofessional conduct.”

Delegating Work & Supervision

Another example of unprofessional conduct in 3 VSA § 129a is the delegation of professional responsibilities to a person who is not qualified by training, experience, education, or licensing credentials to perform those responsibilities.  Providing professional supervision or serving as a preceptor to a person who has not been licensed or registered as required by the laws of that person’s profession (such as the roster of non-licensed, non-certified psychotherapists) is also defined as “unprofessional conduct.”

Individuals who are supervising trainees for licensure purposes should be aware of the provisions of Part 4 of the Administrative Rules of the Board of Psychological Examiners.   In addition to its other provisions, Part 4 states that supervisors may not personally gain financially from the practice of the supervisee, although compensation for the supervising services is allowed.  One example of “personally gaining financially from the practice of the supervisee” occurs when the supervising psychologist personally employs the supervisee.

Conversion Therapy

Conversion therapy with minors is banned in Vermont.  Psychologists and other licensed individuals who engage in conversion therapy with minors are engaged in unprofessional conduct and are subject to disciplinary action under their respective boards.

 Plan for Disposition of Records

Psychologists must have a plan in place for the “responsible disposition of patient health records” in the event the psychologists should become incapacitated or unexpectedly discontinue practice.  This is different from a so-called “professional will” in that the professional typically takes effect on the death of the clinician.  Failing to have this plan is another item explicitly defined as unprofessional conduct in 3 VSA § 129a.

Retaining and Releasing Records

Psychologists are required to retain client records for a period of at least seven years, unless other laws or rules require that you retain client records for a longer period of time; the unprofessional conduct statutes specify a failure to retain the records as “unprofessional conduct.:  Psychologists would want to consider keeping client records for minors for a period of at least seven years AFTER the client has reached the age of 18.

Psychologists are also required by 26 VSA § 3016 to make available, upon written request of a client “using psychological services to succeeding health care professionals or institutions,” copies of that client’s records in the psychologist’s possession or control.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) also imposes obligations on psychologists and other health care providers regarding the release of records; psychologists should ensure they are familiar with those provisions.

Name & Address Changes

If you change your name, email address, or mailingn address, you must notify the Office of Professional Regulation within 30 days; failure to do so is also defined as “unprofessional conduct.”   This requirement can also be found in Section 6.1 of the Administrative Rules of the Board of Psychological Examiners.

Frequently Asked Questions about Unprofessional Conduct


How do I report unprofessional conduct?

The Office of Professional Regulation has established an online complaint system; you can file your complaint with OPR there.  You may be contacted by OPR during its investigation of the complaint.


How can I avoid engaging in unprofessional conduct?

Stay informed about the latest regulations, adhere strictly to ethical guidelines, participate in ongoing professional development, and seek supervision or consultation when faced with ethical dilemmas.  VPA members can get free consultations with the VPA Ethics Committee to help them navigate the various codes, rules, and statutes.


What should I do if I am accused of unprofessional conduct?

If accused, it is important to seek legal counsel immediately, cooperate with the investigation, and gather any documentation or evidence that supports your case.  If you’re a VPA member, the Vermont Psychological Association can also provide some support and resources.


What are the consequences of unprofessional conduct?

Consequences can range from a warning to revocation of your license; the Board of Psychological Examiners may also order restitution where appropriate.  In severe cases, legal action may also be taken.


What happens after a complaint of unprofessional conduct is filed?

OPR follows a specific process once a complaint of unprofessional conduct is made.  You can see that here.


What role does the Vermont Psychological Association play in regulating conduct?

While the Vermont Psychological Association does not regulate conduct directly, it provides education, resources, and advocacy to help psychologists adhere to professional standards and avoid unprofessional conduct.