Psychologist admits affair

01:43, Jan 31 2009

A Waikato psychologist wept before the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal yesterday as she admitted professional misconduct over an affair with a violent former prisoner she had been treating.

The woman, who has name suppression but was dubbed "Ms N", began a relationship with the patient after becoming attracted to him following counselling sessions. The tribunal heard the man, five years Ms N's junior, was a "high risk, serious violent offender" who had been in prison.

He cannot be identified.

The man told the middle-aged psychologist he thought she was beautiful which prompted her to report their feelings to superiors and end the counselling sessions.

But despite being offered supervision Ms N did not show up for it and failed to write a management plan indicating how she would address the situation.

Shortly afterwards she was fired from one of her positions.

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Though she had ended her professional dealings with the patient, they quickly became friends and in March 2007 their relationship turned sexual and they began living together.

Theodora Baker, the director of proceedings, said the patient had been placed in a position of being unable to be honest with his new psychologist and probation officer because of the situation, "at a time when he should have been focusing on his own rehabilitation on release from prison".

The tribunal heard the relationship soon became dysfunctional but evidence about it and why she stayed with the man for more than a year, read in a teary statement by Ms N, was suppressed because of its distressing content.

But in an agreed summary of facts about the case, Ms N said she had been lonely and vulnerable and recovering from a period of depression when she became involved with the patient.

Eventually a friend of Ms N called the police after the man allegedly threatened Ms N's life. However, Ms Baker said Ms N's conduct amounted to malpractice and was likely to discredit the psychology profession.

Ms N's lawyer Duncan McGill said his client deeply regretted what had happened.

The tribunal's decision will be released later this week. It has the power to strike off practitioners.

 

Waikato Times