Old problem, but not where we would expect

A man named John Rosemond is licensed in North Carolina as a psychologist.  For over 30 years, Mr. Rosemond has written a syndicated newspaper column that is carried by a couple hundred local papers throughout the country.  He has also written a number of books about his main topic: parenting. (For the record, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen or read his column, and I don’t know Mr. Rosemond.)

Within the last few months, a psychologist licensed in Kentucky saw Mr. Rosemond’s column in the Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader and filed a complaint with the Kentucky psychology licensure board, alleging that Mr. Rosemond is practicing psychology in Kentucky without a license. As you probably have guessed, the board took action on the complaint and sent a letter to Mr. Rosemond ordering him to stop publishing in Kentucky until he gets a Kentucky license. The matter has since received widespread attention. Here’s just one among many dozen.

If you have ever attended any PRMS risk management seminar or read any of our RM material, you know that we routinely remind psychiatrists that even in our electronic world, they must remain sensitive to the reality of the state’s authority to oversee professionals of all kinds within the state’s own borders.  Granted, states rarely take licensure action on their own; rather, they typically respond to complaints from local citizens or other local professionals. Still, we caution our clients to be sensitive to these matters before engaging in therapy over the Internet, or writing a prescription for a friend of a patient who is travelling with the patient on vacation, or telephone therapy, or agreeing to appear as an expert witness in states where they aren’t licensed, lest they run afoul of local licensure laws.

As almost every article about Mr. Rosemond’s case has noted, what about Ask Amy? Dr. Phil? Joyce Brothers (RIP)? Dr. Drew Pinsky? Dr. Oz? What about the other medical and psychological consultants to CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, NBC, ESPN, Fox News, etc., etc., etc.  There are hundreds of licensed professionals (lawyers, doctors, insurance agents, psychologists, chiropractors, surveyors, real estate agents, accountants, hairdressers, landscape architects, and so forth) who routinely provide advice via newspapers, radio, television, and – yes, the internet — to people residing in states where the individual professional isn’t licensed.

Mr. Rosemond has retained counsel to challenge Kentucky’s action on First Amendment grounds.  A number of commentators have suggested that simply appending a few words to the end of each column alerting readers to the fact that Mr. Rosemond is licensed only in North Carolina may be sufficient for the Kentucky board to close its complaint file. But the case is worth watching.

The key point is this: licensure laws and modern media (and now, even ancient media like newspapers and magazines) still haven’t learned how to live with each other.  You need to understand the expectations of your regulators, such as your licensing board(s).

Categories: PRMS Blog