A counsellor exploited a vulnerable female client for financial gain by offering her and her three children a room to rent in exchange for ending her mental health support.
The case was investigated by Health and Disability Commission (HDC) after the woman complained. Today, a report has been released finding the counsellor in breach of the Consumer Rights' Code of Ethics for crossing professional boundaries.
In the counsellor's medical notes, he falsely documented that the woman was moving away and no further counselling was required, and that her file would be closed, the report said.
Then, one week after the woman and her three children moved into his home, the counsellor booted them out as he had found a cheaper place to live.
Names of the woman and the counsellor were not included in the report, with HDC citing privacy reasons.
HDC recommended the counsellor undertake further ethics training and that Drug and Alcohol Practitioners' Association Aotearoa-New Zealand's (DAPAANZ) conduct a review on whether he is still competent to practise.
The decision comes two and a half years after the woman first told the counsellor, during a private session, that she was stressed she couldn't find a place to live.
"Taking pity" on the woman, the counsellor told HDC, he offered the woman a room to rent at his home on the premise that she could have no further counselling sessions with him if she accepted.
The counsellor told the HDC he explained to the woman that he would have to discharge her as a client "because of the ethics surrounding [his] role" and because "this could get [him] into trouble with work".
The woman told HDC that he never said that she would need to see another counsellor.
In the report, she said the counsellor said he would need to "burn the records because he could get into a lot of trouble for helping [her]", and told her he was "struggling too" and "could not afford the rent at his house himself and he really needed someone".
The counsellor confirmed to HDC that part of the reason he offered a room to his client was because he could not afford the rent and "needed the money".
However, he denied saying he was going to burn the records, "because everything was on the database". He told HDC: "I simply said I would have to discharge her as my client."
Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Kevin Allan ordered the counsellor write an apology to the woman, which he has done, the report said.
"By failing to maintain appropriate professional boundaries and keep accurate records, and knowingly to record false information, the counsellor did not provide the woman with a safe and supportive service, and failed to comply with the relevant ethical and professional standards," Allan said.
"I have reflected long and hard on this situation and … [i]t is an action I will never
repeat. … This event has certainly been a learning curve and I must reiterate there was
never any malice involved," the counsellor said in the report.
"I have accepted and with much regret acknowledge boundaries were crossed with
[Ms B]. For that I am deeply sorry … I hope that all my actions now are reflected with
integrity and honesty."
Counselling in New Zealand told HDC the counsellor should have been well aware of the standards he was required to meet given his experience and training.