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Vitale-Karcher Bill To Crack Down On Fraudulent Psychiatrists Approved

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Ellen Karcher which would make it a crime for people to practice psychology without a license was unanimously approved by the Senate today.

“For people seeing a psychologist, there is an inherent trust there that they’re confiding in someone qualified to help,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “Based on that trust, the patient should establish an open relationship with their doctor, secure in the knowledge that the information they share is confidential. However, when someone abuses that trust, taking advantage of a title they did not truly earn, that can jeopardize a patient’s treatment, and lead them to wonder whether the sensitive information shared in confidence with someone they thought was a doctor is really all that safe.”

The bill, S-829, would extend the current law criminalizing the unlicensed practice of medicine, podiatry and dentistry to also include the unlicensed practice of psychology. Under the bill, someone who is found guilty of practicing psychology without a license could be liable for a fine of up to $15,000 or three to five years imprisonment. The bill also applies the penalties to anyone who has had their license suspended or revoked, and engages in psychology or represents himself or herself as a licensed psychologist to the public.

“Fraudulent psychologists undermine the good that real psychologists perform in peoples’ lives,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer. “At the same time, these frauds can do a lot of damage, using junk techniques to supposedly help and instead furthering their patients down the road to mental illness and instability. Through this bill, we can ensure that anyone caught duping their patients with phony psychology credentials will face stiff penalties.”

The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.

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