Clinical social worker Linda Gerdes placed on practice supervision; exceeded role of therapist by testifying in custody matter
July 19, 2011
On April 22, 2011, the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners placed licensed clinical social worker Linda Gerdes on 24 months of clinical supervision and 24 months of supervised work due to practicing outside the scope of her experience and training, relative to her treatment of a juvenile involved in a divorce and custody dispute.
The child’s mother brought the daughter to Gerdes to help the daughter cope with the pending divorce. At the time, the daughter’s primary residence was with the father, who was against his daughter receiving psychotherapy. Despite this, Gerdes accepted the patient without the father’s knowledge or consent and did not contact the father to inform him (he found out from the mother).
The Board’s document states that Gerdes’ discussions with the father about the daughter’s alleged ADD and the father living arrangement with the mother’s sister likely further reinforced the father’s belief that Gerdes was not objective and sided with the mother.
In March 2008, Gerdes agreed to testify as an expert witness for the mother during a custody hearing even though she had no experience or training regarding working with high-conflict divorce/custody issues and was not a custody evaluator. In a March 23, 2008 letter to the mother’s attorney, Gerdes made several statements that evidenced a clear loss of objectivity.
On April 15, 2008, Gerdes wrote a letter for the mother’s use in her effort to obtain physical custody of the daughter that contained statements not supported by the clinical record and included the mother’s version of events without identifying the mother as the author of those events. Gerdes failed to limit her role as the daughter’s therapist and instead involved herself in multiple roles (mother’s therapist, expert witness and custody evaluator) which created potential conflicts of interest.
Further, her clinical records did not include required elements; she failed to document communications she had regarding the mother and daughter’s therapy and failed to obtain a signed release of information authorization before releasing confidential client information. She also billed inappropriately for sessions.
Source: Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners Adverse Action Tracking Form, 2011.
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