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WA psychologist disqualified for three years for failing to maintain professional boundaries

08 Nov 2023

A tribunal has reprimanded and disqualified a psychologist from re-registration for three years for professional misconduct.

On 26 April 2022, the Psychology Board of Australia (the Board) referred psychologist Sharon Faye to the State Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) for professional misconduct. The Board alleged Ms Faye failed to:

  • maintain professional boundaries or appropriately manage multiple relationships
  • communicate appropriately and professionally during client interactions
  • act within an appropriate scope of practice
  • provide appropriate and adequate psychological services and
  • obtain informed consent.

On 24 November 2022, the tribunal found Ms Faye had behaved in a way that constituted professional misconduct, ordered she be reprimanded and disqualified from applying from re-registration for a period of three years. Ms Faye was also prohibited from providing mental health, psychological or counselling services for this three-year period, and ordered to pay a contribution to the Board's cost of the proceedings, fixed in the sum of $17,000.

The tribunal found that between May 2011 to August 2014, Ms Faye allowed a close, personal relationship to develop with several members of a family run business. She became heavily involved in the business, supplying multiple services including: the provision of business strategy sessions, executive leadership development sessions, marriage counselling and senior supervisor sessions, among other services.

The tribunal found Ms Faye failed to maintain professional boundaries or manage multiple relationships. Her close personal relationship with the family members (Mrs A, Mr A and Ms B) conflicted with her professional responsibilities to the participants in the organisational sessions. It found her close relationship with these people impaired [her] competence, effectiveness, objectivity and ability to render the services, and gave rise to a risk of harm to the participants in those sessions

Ms Faye was found to have failed to communicate appropriately and professionally when delivering her services, with her behaviour described as; disrespectful, intimidating and demeaned certain individuals as persons. Ms Faye had provided services, gave advice, made statements about and became directly involved in matters that were not relevant to organisational psychology work. Ms Faye also provided therapy in relation to personal issues which were unrelated to any interaction relevant to organisational psychology and when she should have referred Mrs A, Mr A and Ms B to another practitioner not involved in providing organisational psychology services to the business.

The tribunal also found Ms Faye failed to obtain informed consent or provide necessary information during training sessions, including the failure to inform participants during sessions that any discussion of personal issues was voluntary and to advise of the option for consent not to be given or that it could be withdrawn.

The tribunal noted Ms Faye surrendered her registration in September 2021 and has no desire to seek re-registration.

Read the full decision available on the SAT website.

 
 
Page reviewed 8/11/2023