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Psychologist reprimanded for failing to maintain professional boundaries

10 Jan 2017

A psychologist has been reprimanded for unsatisfactory professional performance and failing to maintain professional boundaries.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) has affirmed the decision of a Performance and Professional Standards Panel (the panel), that Mr Stephen Brown a registered psychologist behaved in a way that constitutes unsatisfactory professional performance and unprofessional conduct.

After reviewing the events and expert evidence placed before the tribunal they concluded it appropriate to affirm the decision made by the panel.

The tribunal was satisfied that Mr Brown breached professional boundaries by providing counselling for his friend over an extended period of time and involving himself in the friend’s family dispute while providing psychological services to the friend.

The tribunal noted that the Australian Psychological Society (APS) Code of Ethics and the APS Ethical Guidelines for Managing Professional Boundaries and Multiple Relationships - when read together - clearly indicate that psychologists should not treat family and friends except in emergencies. The tribunal did not accept that an emergency situation existed in these circumstances.

The tribunal also found that when the family dispute arose Mr Brown should not have become involved in any role. He had a long standing therapeutic relationship with the notifier’s brother and was also a lifelong friend of the notifier and the family generally, therefore could not possibly have been involved in an independent capacity.

The tribunal affirmed the panel’s determinations to reprimand Mr Brown and impose conditions on his registration requiring fortnightly supervision for a period of 12 months and monthly supervision for a further period of 12 months.

Page reviewed 10/01/2017