Minnesota psychologist Angela Peterson reprimanded for personal relationship with patient

December 28, 2010

A psychologist in western Minnesota has been reprimanded for befriending a woman whose family was under her care, state officials said Monday.

Angela A. Peterson, 40, has had her license put on conditional status by the Minnesota Board of Psychology. That means Peterson can practice only while supervised by a board-approved psychologist for at least one year, when she can ask for an end to the sanction.

She also must take a course on professional behavior and report back to the board about what she learned.

Specifically, according the board, Peterson and the client “developed a significant personal relationship” that included “going out to bars together.” The board also noted that the children of the two women were spending so much time together that Peterson eventually referred the entire family to another therapist.

Peterson treated the woman and her children from January 2007 to May 2008.

In 2009, Peterson left her private practice in southwestern Minnesota, where the two families lived, and now works for Lakeland Mental Health Center in Fergus Falls.

In a telephone interview, Peterson said that two of her four young children had become “good buddies and then best friends” with two of the client's children. Their households lived less than two blocks away, she said.

Peterson attributed the development of the friendship to living in a very small town, where dual relationships — in this case professional and social — are unavoidable.

“At no time during the therapy or after did any harm come to the client or her family because of the relationship,” Peterson said. “I don’t feel that I violated any professional boundaries.”

She added that “we became friends, and our families became intertwined. And we maintain a close friendship to this day, as do our kids.”

The board also found that Peterson turned over the woman’s name and phone number to another client without permission.

The panel said Peterson’s actions violated statutes covering, among other things, unprofessional conduct and failure to safeguard private information.

Peterson signed the order, meaning that she agrees to the findings and will not challenge them.

Source:  Paul Walsh, "W. Minn. therapist is disciplined for befriending client," Star-Tribune, December 28, 2010.


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