19 Mar 2020
The Victorian and Civil Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) has reprimanded and suspended a psychologist after it was found she had engaged in professional misconduct.
Melissa White was found to have allowed a professional relationship with a client to develop into a platonic social friendship, without ensuring that her client /friend was sufficiently protected from the foreseeable collateral impacts of that transition. Associated with this were inadequacies in client care in relation to record-keeping, risk assessments and continuity of client care.
The practitioner had also been the subject of prior disciplinary action for boundary transgressions in 2012 to 2013, resulting in supervision conditions being imposed on her registration in December 2014.
The tribunal made findings of professional misconduct in relation to each of the six allegations against the practitioner, namely that she:
The practitioner was found guilty of professional misconduct. The tribunal ordered that the practitioner be reprimanded and her registration be suspended for a period of 12 months. Following the suspension, the practitioner will also have education and supervision conditions imposed on her registration.
The tribunal noted that one of the lessons arising from this case is the danger for health professionals in using informal means to communicate with their clients. In this case, text messaging. This can lead practitioners more easily down the road towards breaching their ethical obligations, and to the blurring of boundaries between professional and personal conduct.
The full findings are available on the Austlii website.