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Sexual encounter by psychologist with client while counselling client's partner (00HDC08029/00HDC10721)
Download Sexual encounter by psychologist with client while counselling client's partner (00HDC08029/00HDC10721) (PDF 12Kb)
(00HDC08029/00HDC10721, 21 June 2002)
Psychologist ~ Counselling ~
Standard of care ~ Compliance with ethical standards ~ Professional
boundaries ~ Sexual relationship ~ Dual relationship ~ Right
A complaint was made by a psychologist about the services provided
to a woman by another registered psychologist. The woman's former
partner also complained about the services they received.
The complaint was as follows:
1) The registered psychologist counselled the woman's
partner. The psychologist betrayed the trust of the woman's partner
by having a sexual encounter with the woman while continuing to
2) The sexual encounter occurred at a particularly vulnerable
time in the lives of both the woman and her partner as she had
recently had a termination of their pregnancy.
3) The woman's partner felt betrayed because the psychologist
did not disclose to him his sexual encounter with the woman but
continued to counsel him.
4) During counselling sessions the woman's partner disclosed
his feelings about his relationship with the woman, not knowing
about the sexual liaison between his partner and the psychologist.
The psychologist did not declare a conflict of interest or refer
him to another counsellor.
The psychologist was held to have breached Right 4(2) of the Code
1) having sexual relations with a client - it was irrelevant
that there was only one sexual encounter, it was unplanned, and the
woman no longer had a relationship with her partner;
2) failing to protect the woman's welfare at a time of
3) betraying the trust of the woman's partner - the
psychologist had a professional obligation to disclose the sexual
encounter and the conflict of interest to the woman's partner,
rather than protect the woman's confidentiality;
4) failing to promptly inform the woman's partner of the
5) failing to terminate his professional relationship with
the woman's partner - once the behaviour had occurred, the
psychologist should have immediately disqualified himself from
further counselling to either the woman or her partner.
The Commissioner referred the matter to the Director of
Proceedings. The New Zealand Psychologists Board found the
psychologist guilty of professional misconduct and ordered that his
name be removed from the register for an indefinite period. The
Board also ordered publication of the psychologist's name and
details of the case, and payment of 40% of the costs and expenses
incidental to the inquiry.
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