27 Jun 2016
A psychologist has been reprimanded by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) for failing to maintain professional boundaries.
The Psychology Board of Australia (the Board) referred Ms Vivian Jarrett to the the tribunal in August 2012 alleging she had failed to establish and maintain a consistent and appropriate therapeutic frame1, maintain professional boundaries and adequate records.
The allegations made by the Board related to Ms Jarrett’s treatment of a patient between 10 June 2008 and 8 January 2009.
The psychologist admitted to the allegation of poor record keeping , which constituted unsatisfactory professional conduct, however, did not admit to the other allegations.
The tribunal stated that Ms Jarrett did not maintain appropriate boundaries and that her conduct was of a lesser standard than that expected of her by her professional peers and the public. The tribunal added that this also demonstrated a lack of judgement in the practice of her profession.
In making its findings the tribunal stated that Ms Jarrett had failed to maintain professional boundaries by making personal disclosures in the context of a pattern of emails revealing that her patient was becoming attached to her. Personal disclosures included matters concerning her own past experiences in therapy, day-to-day matters such as domestic chores and other highly personal matters.
The Board had sought to impose conditions on Ms Jarrett’s registration requiring her to undertake education courses in relation to professional boundaries and the treatment of patients who exhibit symptoms of trauma and/or complex trauma and enter into a supervisiory relationship for the treatment of certain patients. However, the tribunal was not satisfied that this would be necessary or desirable to protect the public.
1refers to the environment and relationship which enables the client to be open about their life with the therapist, and in a secure and confidential manner to make a change. It also includes the ground rules of the therapeutic relationship – setting of limits and boundaries in the therapy room particularly in regards to the client-therapist interaction.