Cancelled after inappropriate relationship


tribunal hearing legal case

A psychologist has had his registration cancelled after he entered into a relationship with a patient and gave him gifts including cigarettes, alcohol and a tattoo

A number of allegations including the provision of dexamphetamine without a script were not proven.

The Civil and Administrative Tribunal NSW has heard that the psychologist, who worked in a NSW country town, allegedly told a patient words to the effect of “You are a very handsome man,” and “If you ever want a relationship I can give you whatever you want”.

Complaints against the psychologist include that he breached professional boundaries while the man, identified at the hearing only as Patient A, while he was still treating the man.

These breaches included drinking alcohol during treatment sessions with Patient A, and leaving cigarettes, handwritten notes and a poem titled “Can you hear me” in Patient A’s letterbox, the complaint alleged.

After the first treatment session with Patient A, he allegedly invited the man to his home for a social visit and offered him alcohol, despite having previously heard that the patient was a heavy drinker.

Between 20 April 2012 and 27 June 2012, the practitioner was alleged to have seen the patient socially at his home; to drink with him on a number of occasions; and to supply him with dexamphetamine 5mg in loose tablet form without a script on approximately 10 occasions.

The complaint also alleged that the practitioner failed to maintain adequate records for his treatment of Patient A, and that after the treatment sessions stopped, he failed to arrange a referral or discuss the man’s future needs.

After the professional relationship ended, the psychologist inappropriately smoked cannabis at his home in front of Patient A on several occasions, drank with him, asked the former patient to buy alcohol for him, gave him access to his bank account and bought him food.

He also gave the man gifts including cigarettes, plants, mobile phone credit, alcohol, a tattoo, jewellery, shoes, shirts, a flight to Queensland and accommodation and transport for short trips.

He gave the former patient cash payments and arranged for him to work for the psychologist’s parents as a casual gardener.

In 2013, he also asked Patient A for around 25 tablets of Xanax – which had been prescribed to patient A – for his own personal use, the complaint alleged.

In around June 2015, the practitioner breached Patient A’s confidentiality in that he advised Person A to have an HIV test, after Person A had unprotected sexual intercourse with Patient A, in circumstances where Patient A had disclosed to the practitioner that he was HIV positive during his therapeutic relationship.

The Tribunal heard that in a 2017 dealing with the Health Care Complaints Commission, the psychologist attempted to mislead the Commission regarding the accuracy of the clinical records he produced.

It heard that in 2016, during a Council Appointed Practitioner assessment, the psychologist failed to disclose his significant history of illicit drug use and dependency, his significant history and current issues with alcohol use and benzodiazepine use.

The psychologist admitted a significant number of aspects of the complaint but denied he had breached professional boundaries in making certain comments about Patient A being a handsome man and if he ever wanted a relationship he could give him whatever he wanted.

The Tribunal was not “comfortably satisfied” that this particular allegation had been proven, nor the allegation around drinking vodka in front of the patient during the treatment session or before consulting other patients.

Several of the allegations were not considered to have been proven. These included the drinking session after the first appointment and the provision of dexamphetamine during the professional relationship.

However the Tribunal found that the psychologist had not adequately referred Patient A after the professional relationship ended, and that it was “improbable” that the two men had never smoked cannabis together over the course of their friendship.

The psychologist also denied asking for Xanax, saying he had stopped taking it by the time of the alleged request, and the Tribunal found this allegation unlikely.

The Tribunal said that while the allegation around the HIV test suggestion caused it difficulty, it was satisfied that this allegation had been proven, as had the failure to disclose issues with substances at the assessment, but the Tribunal was not satisfied that the respondent had attempted to mislead the Health Care Complaints Commission regarding records.

An expert testified before the Tribunal that the psychologist lacked insight into his lack of understanding of boundaries.

The psychologist’s registration was cancelled, and he was barred from reapplying for registration for at least a year.

He is also prohibited from providing health services including therapy, counselling, psychotherapy, any other mental health service, and any alternative therapies until he is registered as a psychologist once more.

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