06 Aug 2021
A former Victorian psychologist has been reprimanded, had his registration cancelled, has been disqualified from applying for registration and prohibited from providing health services until February 2026 for engaging in professional misconduct.
Six notifications were received by the Psychology Board of Australia (the Board) in 2015-2016 about Mr Phillip Myers’ conduct with four clients while he was registered as a psychologist during 2009-2010 and 2012-2016. It was alleged that Mr Myers transgressed professional boundaries, engaged in inappropriate billing practices (billing for consultations that did not occur), failed to provide good patient care and failed to maintain adequate and accurate clinical records in relation to the four clients.
Mr Myers was suspended by way of immediate action on 19 February 2016 by the Board and remained suspended as at the final hearing. At the same time the Board required Mr Myers to undergo a health assessment due to concerns about the impact of his health on his ability to practise psychology safely.
The matter proceeded to a final hearing in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (tribunal) on 4 December 2020. The tribunal considered that Mr Myers was an experienced psychologist, having been registered since 2007, and had engaged in numerous breaches of his professional obligations over several years in relation to the four clients who were vulnerable and known by Mr Myers to be vulnerable.
The tribunal viewed the boundary transgressions as the most serious instances of professional conduct which caused substantial harm to his clients. The boundary transgressions ranged from establishing a personal and sexual relationship with one client, making personal disclosures to all four clients, sending inappropriate text messages, conducting consultations in public places and exploiting one client by contacting his ex-partner. Mr Myers admitted the conduct, including that he engaged in sexual relations with one client on three occasions.
The tribunal did not accept Mr Myers’ submission that his conduct should be viewed in light of his marriage breakdown at the relevant time but did consider the time Mr Myers had already spent out of practice.
In its decision dated 30 July 2021, the tribunal determined that Mr Myers had engaged in professional misconduct and ordered that he be reprimanded, his registration cancelled, and that he be disqualified from applying for registration until 19 February 2026. Noting Mr Myers’ desire to return to counselling work, the tribunal also ordered that Mr Myers be prohibited from providing, whether as employee, contractor, manager or volunteer, and whether directly or indirectly, any health service involving the provision of mental health, psychological or counselling services until 19 February 2026. This means Mr Myers will have been out of practice for a total of 10 years since being suspended by the Board.
The tribunal’s decision was published on the Austlii website on 2 August 2021.