Psychology Board of Australia - Psychologist reprimanded for unprofessional conduct
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Psychologist reprimanded for unprofessional conduct

20 Jun 2022

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) has reprimanded a psychologist after it was found she had engaged in unprofessional conduct.

Ms Robyn Frances, a registered psychologist, was referred to the tribunal by the Psychology Board of Australia (the Board) on 6 December 2018 for five allegations which related to her dealings with two couples.

In working with one couple, which resulted in four of the allegations, Ms Frances was alleged to have, among other matters, engaged in a dual relationship with her client. This occurred when Ms Frances spoke with her client about engaging him to complete building work she wanted carried out at her home.

The tribunal found Ms Frances had merely created a risk of a dual relationship, rather than actually engaging in a dual relationship. While this is a less serious issue, the tribunal noted that this behaviour breaches the APS Code of Ethics.

The four allegations that the Tribunal found proven in relation to the first couple were that Ms Frances:

  • actively engaged in a discussion of a future non-professional relationship while a professional relationship was in place
  • failed to exercise appropriate clinical judgement with respect to the best interests of her clients
  • failed to make and keep accurate, current and complete records of services she provided, and
  • failed to seek professional supervision or peer consultation when necessary and appropriate.

The fifth allegation that the tribunal found proven related to a separate couple. The allegation was that Ms Frances acted outside the scope of her practice when she prepared and signed a letter to her client’s former partner about parenting plans and child access arrangements.

The tribunal found Ms Frances’ conduct to be unprofessional in relation to each of the five allegations.

On 12 April 2022 the tribunal ordered that Ms Frances be reprimanded.

The tribunal commented that a reprimand is a professional rebuke and signals that the conduct is condemned. The tribunal further observed that a reprimand tells the public, clients and other practitioners that the standards expected of a practitioner have not been met and that the practitioner has been censured.

The tribunal also commented that being aware of and maintaining appropriate professional boundaries is essential in providing psychological services and that while Ms Frances’ conduct did not involve exploitation or sexual conduct, it was nevertheless unacceptable.

Read the tribunal’s full decision on the AustLII website.

Page reviewed 20/06/2022