Psychologist disqualified for serious boundary violations

21 Jan 2021

A tribunal has disqualified a psychologist for five years for serious boundary violations.

On 10 May 2019 the Psychology Board of Australia (the Board) referred psychologist Mark Holmes to the former South Australian Health Practitioners Tribunal for professional misconduct. The matter was transferred to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) in August 2019.

It was agreed that between (or about) September to November 2015, Dr Holmes entered into a personal relationship with a person whom from (about) October 2010 until 30 October 2015 was a patient of his (patient XY). In February 2016, the relationship with patient XY became sexual. In about February 2017, the relationship became known to the Australian Health Practitioner Agency (Ahpra) investigators.

Between 18 February 2016 and 26 June 2017, Dr Holmes wrongly conspired with patient XY to:

  • conceal the sexual relationship
  • conceal and destroy evidence of the sexual relationship, and
  • not in any way disclose the fact of the sexual relationship to the Ahpra investigators.

Further, on two occasions in February and April 2017, Dr Holmes provided false information to the Ahpra investigators about the relationship. He also admitted to disclosing confidential personal information acquired by him in treating patient XY to his spouse in February 2017, contrary to the Australian Psychological Society’s Code of Ethics 2007.

Dr Holmes was not registered at the time of the hearing on 28 July 2020. The Board contented that in addition to a reprimand and an order disqualifying Dr Holmes from applying for registration for a period of seven years, he should also be prohibited from providing any health service for the same period.

The tribunal found that Dr Holmes’s conduct amounted to professional misconduct and in particular that it was inconsistent with a practitioner being a fit and proper person to hold registration as a psychologist. The tribunal was not satisfied that Dr Holmes has demonstrated full remorse for his misconduct nor was it satisfied that Dr Holmes has taken, or is taking, any adequate steps to reflect on his misconduct and prevent a recurrence of similar conduct in the future.

On 28 July 2020, the tribunal:

  • reprimanded Dr Holmes
  • disqualified him from registration as a psychologist for five years
  • prohibited him from providing any health service for a period of seven years, including counselling, and
  • ordered him to pay the Board’s costs.

The full tribunal decision will soon be available on Austlii.

 
 
Page reviewed 21/01/2021