Psychologist Misconduct

Psychologist Misconduct

According to a recent study by Kremer, Symmons & Furlonger (2018) between the period of 2008-2013, 42 Psychologists were found guilty of misconduct and malpractice in civil and administrative courts across Australia. Of the offenders 25 were male and 17 female. Transgressions included;

  • Boundary Violation
  • Profesisonal – Incompetence
  • Professional – Poor Communication
  • Poor Business practices
  • False use of Dr/Professor or specialist title
  • Professional – Poor reports
  • Misleading registration claim
  • Impairment (mental illness, addiction)

Kremer, Symmons & Furlonger (2018) found the most common category of transgression resulting in a court‐based guilty verdict for psychologists relates to inappropriate sexual liaisons, followed by professional incompetency, and then poor communication in the provision of services. Reasons for transgressions coalesced into three themes: the externalisation of responsibility for personal actions and behaviours, a lack of objectivity concerning why such behaviours occurred, and an inability to understand how personal circumstance affected the provision of ethical services to clients.

Glass in 2003 developed the guidelines around gray areas of boundary crossings and violations. Glass demonstrated his concept in a Venn diagram below;

Boundary Cross.jpg


Undertaking psychotherapy is a personal journey and trust is of the utmost importance to form a therapeutic bond. In this process boundaries can sometimes be crossed, however, it is important to understand that these crossings whilst seemingly harmless can be the start of a slippery slope and regular supervision, client check-ins and objective reasoning is important safeguards against the possibilities of transgressions.  


Glass, L. L. (2003). The gray areas of boundary crossings and violations. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 57(4), 429-44. Retrieved from

Kremer, Paul & Symmons, Mark & Furlonger, Brett. (2018). Exploring the Why of Psychologist Misconduct and Malpractice: A Thematic Analysis of Court Decision Documents: Exploring the why of misconduct. Australian Psychologist. 10.1111/ap.12343.