Psychology practitioner denied allegations that she had an inappropriate sexual relationship

  • 17 Feb 2016

In this recent disciplinary proceedings the psychology practitioner denied allegations that she had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a client who she saw for 3 sessions in 1992. The practitioner’s patient had sought counselling in 1992 following his marriage break up. Subsequently, in 2011 when the patient was receiving counselling from another psychologist he said that he had engaged in a sexual relationship with his former psychologist. After obtaining the patient’s consent the current practitioner reported the matter to the Board under her mandatory reporting obligations.

The practitioner denied the allegations and gave evidence that she terminated the treating relationship after her patient engaged in inappropriate conduct with her which included turning up to her home (where she practiced from) out of hours and often in an intoxicated state and on one occasion taking her 2 year old son from her home after advising the child’s nanny that he had been asked to collect the child. Following this later event the practitioner terminated the treating relationship and offered a referral to another practitioner. Due to the passage of time the practitioner no longer had her clinical notes but could clearly recall the 3 sessions.

Both the practitioner and patient called witnesses in an attempt to corroborate their version of events with the result that the Tribunal was not persuaded that the alleged conduct had occurred. The Tribunal found that the patient’s evidence was unreliable in important respects. Where there was a conflict in the evidence the Tribunal preferred the evidence of the practitioner above that of the patient given that her evidence was corroborated in significant respects by witnesses she called. The Tribunal formed the view that whatever the patient’s recall or belief of the nature of the relationship that he had with the practitioner nearly 20 years earlier, was not reflective of the actual reality.

This matter came down to a factual contest between the practitioner and patient. Reference was made to the requirement that the Board had the onus of proving its case on the balance of probabilities. That is, if the evidence is evenly balanced then the Board will fail in its case. The Tribunal concluded that the weight of evidence fell in favour of the practitioner and it found that overall it was far from satisfied that the practitioner engaged in the alleged conduct.

This is yet another matter in which the disciplinary proceedings have arisen as a result of another practitioner complying with the obligations of mandatory reporting. As practitioners become more aware of their obligations to make mandatory reports to their registering body in certain circumstances we expect to see further disciplinary proceedings instituted which previously may not have come to the attention of the relevant authorities.

Post by Karen Kumar and Cameron Leaver 

Most Popular Articles


When can the unqualified be qualified? Non-lawyers engaging in legal practice - when is it OK and when is the law broken

Only lawyers can provide legal advice, but anyone can provide legal information. When thinking of the difference, you might ask your friend or colleague to provide information about a serious illness; however you would seek out a qualified medical professional in relation to its treatment.

Service of Notices by Registered Post

Where service of a notice is authorised or required by post, unless the contrary intention appears, service will be deemed to be effected at the time when the notice would be delivered in the ordinary course of post: see the various Acts Interpretation acts of the States and Commonwealth.

Thanks, but no thanks – I don’t want to inherit

It seems odd that anybody would reject an inheritance, but for some beneficiaries, there are valid reasons they do not wish to receive their inheritance.

Subscribe to Our Blog

Keeping you connected, Hicksons regularly publishes articles to keep you up to date on the latest developments. To receive these updates via email, please subscribe below and indicate which areas of law you would like to receive information on.