The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed the decision to revoke a mental health counselor’s license after she developed a personal attachment to a patient and ignored the patient’s request to leave her alone.
Elaine Williams was a licensed mental health counselor when she treated Patient A, who suffers from dissociative identity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. The evidence shows that Williams involved herself in Patient A’s personal life and continued to contact her despite Patient A’s requests to be left alone. In her emails to Patient A, Williams expressed her love for Patient A and the pain caused by Patient A’s rejection of her. Williams’ behavior caused Patient A to call the police twice, move away from her home, change her phone number, and change her email account. The situation with Williams was traumatic for Patient A and caused her to feel fear, according to the court record.
The Office of the Attorney General filed an administrative complaint against Williams, and in a hearing before the Behavioral Health and Human Services Licensing Board an AG investigator and Patient A testified. The board found that Williams had committed two violations under I.C. 25-1-9-4 and two violations under I.C.25-1-9-6.7, and revoked her license pursuant to Indiana Code section 25-1-9-9(a) (2001).
The trial court initially affirmed the board’s decision, but then reversed on Williams’ motion to correct error. Madison Circuit Judge Dennis Carroll was troubled with the board’s severe sanction of revocation, not with any determination that Williams’ conduct warranted a sanction. The judge found the board’s decision to be arbitrary and capricious and ordered with instructions to impose a lesser sanction or hold a new hearing.
In Behavioral Health and Human Services Licensing Board, Kimble L. Richardson, George Brenner, Andrew Harner, Geneva Osawe, Rex Stockton, Carla Gaff-Clark, and The State of Indiana v. Elaine Williams, 48A05-1304-PL-185, the Court of Appeals affirmed the board’s decision, finding it afforded Williams fair proceedings and acted within its authority in revoking her license. The judges also held that the trial court improperly substituted its judgment for that of the board when it determined that revocation was too severe a sanction.
“We simply cannot conclude that the proceedings before the Board were unfair or that Williams was prejudiced,” Senior Judge John Sharpnack wrote.