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Psychologist reprimanded and prohibited for boundary violations

27 Apr 2022

A tribunal has reprimanded a psychologist and prohibited her from providing any mental health, psychological or counselling services for three years after finding the practitioner’s boundary violations with a patient and failure to provide adequate psychological services amounted to professional misconduct.

The Psychology Board of Australia (the Board) became aware of Ms Brideson’s behaviour in 2018 after receiving a notification about her. On 2 October 2018, Ms Brideson surrendered her registration after receiving notice from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency of an investigation into her conduct.

On 30 June 2020, the Board referred Ms Brideson’s conduct to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal).

Ms Brideson was first registered as a psychologist in Victoria in April 1987. Between 1992 to 2006, Ms Brideson socialised with a woman who she then treated as a client from 2006 to 2010. The personal relationship continued during and after Ms Brideson provided psychological services to the client.

It was alleged in the tribunal that Ms Brideson:

  • failed to maintain professional boundaries with the client by having a personal, non-therapeutic relationship with the client
  • failed to provide adequate psychological services to the client
  • failed to make and keep adequate clinical records, and
  • provided inappropriate advice to the client’s daughter about the client.

The tribunal noted that the boundary violations were obvious and occurred over an extended period of time and that the client was highly vulnerable with complex mental health issues, which exacerbated the power imbalance between Ms Brideson and the client.

The tribunal also noted that while Ms Brideson admitted all of the Board’s allegations and agreed that her behaviour amounted to professional misconduct early in the proceeding, Ms Brideson showed little insight into, or remorse for her behaviour.

The tribunal strongly denounced Ms Brideson’s conduct in its decision and found that she ‘engaged in conduct over a lengthy period which we can only describe as inappropriate, confounding, disturbing and unacceptable’.

On 10 August 2021, the tribunal reprimanded Ms Brideson, found her conduct to amount to professional misconduct and prohibited her from providing any health service involving provision of mental health, psychological or counselling services for a period of three years.

The full tribunal decision is available on the Austlii website.

Page reviewed 27/04/2022