An occupational therapist who kissed, cuddled and sent sexy pictures to a client she was treating with a brain injury - often during appointments - has been found in breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights.
The occupational therapist started treating the man, in his 30s, after he was referred by ACC to a rehabilitation service for a 12-week Training for Independence Programme, according to a report by Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Vanessa Caldwell.
The man sustained a brain injury at work, suffered from depression, lacked self-confidence and was entered in to a programme which included seeing an occupational therapist to get him ready to return to work.
But just two weeks into the home visits, the occupational therapist started messaging the man regularly outside the sessions about both occupational therapy and personal things.
During the appointments they also started kissing and cuddling and the woman also took her daughter to one of the home visits because she had a "busy week".
At one point the woman texted the man apologising for overstepping professional boundaries saying in her 20 years in the role it was the first time she had kissed a client and they would have to wait until the programme ended in November before they could have sex.
However, the relationship progressed and about four weeks into seeing each other they started kissing and cuddling.
They also sent intimate text messages to each other and, when the man stopped responding, the therapist promised to send him a naked photo if he did.
The therapist also texedt him telling him she wanted to have sex with him and in another text commented on his genitalia.
The relationship finished at the same time the programme ended in November 2018.
It wasn't until more than a year later in May 2020, when the man was visited at home by a rehabilitation service social worker during another programme that he mentioned the texts and indicated he wanted to make a complaint about the occupational therapist.
The rehabilitation service management and human resources met with the woman and suspended her for alleged serious misconduct. She resigned the next day.
The woman told the HDC that since leaving the rehabilitation service she has not practised as an occupational therapist and felt too ashamed to return to that vocation.
In a statement to the HDC, the woman said she deeply regretted her behaviour and she should have maintained professional boundaries no matter what the client's actions were.
She said she had been under "enormous emotional stress and not thinking clearly".
However, she said the texts provided to the HDC were "cherry-picked" and not a true reflection of what happened. She said they did not have sex.
Caldwell, in her findings, said there was a clear power imbalance and the occupational therapist failed to comply with professional, ethical and other relevant standards.
"The maintenance of professional boundaries is an integral part of the provision of health
services," said Caldwell.
Caldwell recommended the occupational therapist undertake further training
relating to the management of boundaries and for the Occupational Therapy Board to consider whether she should undertake a competency review and further training reapply should she reapply for her annual practising certificate.
She was also told to make a written apology to the man.