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Inappropriate relationship with client (08HDC14245)
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(08HDC14245, 27 February 2009)
Inappropriate relationship ~ Right 4(2)
A woman made a formal complaint
about the relationship between her former husband and his
psychologist. The psychologist denied that she had had an intimate
relationship with her client. In contrast, a number of witnesses
provided evidence that suggests they commenced an intimate
relationship either prior to, or soon after, the ending of the
professional psychologist/client relationship.
It was held that, on the balance of
probabilities, an intimate and sexual relationship developed
between the psychologist and the man. Due to the counselling
relationship, there was an inherent power imbalance between them,
as the man's emotional vulnerability was exposed during therapy. It
is incumbent on the psychologist to set and maintain boundaries,
both during the relationship and after, and in this case the
psychologist failed to satisfy her responsibilities, and breached
The psychologist failed to provide
honest and full responses, contrary to her professional
requirements, breaching Right 4(2).
The psychologist was referred to the Director of Proceedings.
The Director considered the matter and decided to lay a charge of
professional misconduct against the psychologist before the Health
Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal, which heard the matter in
In a decision dated 11 December 2009 the Tribunal found the
psychologist guilty of professional misconduct and subsequently
imposed the following penalties:
(a) Cancellation of her registration as a
(b) The condition that before she may apply for
registration again she must undertake to the satisfaction of the
Psychologists' Board education on the importance of maintaining
appropriate professional boundaries, the dynamics of violent
relationships, the Code of Ethics and the need for supervision and
candour in supervision;
(d) A fine of $5,000; and
(e) Costs totaling $18,000.
The Director decided not to instigate a proceeding in the Human
Rights Review Tribunal.