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Psychologist disqualified, reprimanded and has registration cancelled for professional misconduct

22 Aug 2022

A Victorian psychologist has had his registration cancelled, been reprimanded and disqualified from applying for registration for one year for professional misconduct.

Mr Gerard Knobel was found to have engaged in professional misconduct primarily relating to his treatment of a couple, who he provided individual and joint counselling in 2016. During this time, Mr Knobel entered into a personal and sexual relationship with one of the clients while continuing to provide her and her husband with psychological services.

The Psychology Board of Australia (the Board) was alerted to Mr Knobel’s behaviour in February 2017 when Mr Knobel self-notified. In March 2017 the Board took immediate action by suspending Mr Knobel’s registration. The suspension remained in place until the matter was heard by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal). The tribunal heard the matter in two parts, in December 2020 and November 2021.

It was alleged that Mr Knobel:

  • failed to maintain professional boundaries by engaging in an inappropriate personal, emotional and sexual relationship with his client, who was also the wife of another client
  • engaged in inappropriate billing practices in that he conducted joint counselling and claimed Medicare benefits for individual therapy, and engaged in sexual intercourse during consultations for which he claimed benefits from Medicare and/or charged the client directly, and
  • provided false and misleading information to the Board about the extent of the relationship.

Mr Knobel ultimately admitted the alleged conduct, except engaging in sexual intercourse during consultations for which he claimed benefits from Medicare or charged the client directly. Mr Knobel denied this conduct, however the tribunal found that it had taken place. On 28 January 2021, the tribunal found all allegations proven.

On 9 November 2021, the tribunal delivered its outcome, highlighting a particular concern about Mr Knobel’s level of insight and remorse. In delivering its outcome, the tribunal stated that had Mr Knobel not already been out of practice for well over four years, they would have ordered a substantially greater period of disqualification. The tribunal also noted the importance of deterring practitioners from any form of deceit in their dealing with their professional board, and that it would be a matter for the Board to assess Mr Knobel’s fitness and propriety if he reapplies for registration.

The full findings are available on the Austlii website.

Page reviewed 22/08/2022