State places counselor Gary Nicholson on probation for negligence, malpractice
May 3, 2009
The Washington Department of Health (DOH) placed registered counselor Gary Nicholson on 24 months probation for unprofessional conduct. According to the DOH’s documents, from December 2007 to January 2008 Nicholson counseled a client who sought help in dealing with past sexual abuse and help with sexual identity issues. During a telephone call prior to their first meeting, Nicholson disclosed his own sexual orientation to the new client. At the first meeting, Nicholson gave the client his personal contact information so that the client could contact him outside of work. A personal relationship grew, fostered by Nicholson’s actual pursuit in the form of calls, text messages and e-mails to the client. Nicholson suggested to the client that he accompany him on an outing to a casino, which the client agreed to. They gambled and had dinner together. Nicholson disclosed more personal information to the client, including information about his own past and present romantic relationships. When Nicholson dropped the client off at home, he kissed the client on the cheek and asked “Is this all I get?” Following the trip to the casino, the client terminated counseling, having lost trust in Nicholson but Nicholson continued to contact the client by text message and e-mail. The DOH has noted in its charges that Nicholson’s unprofessional conduct constituted “incompetence, negligence or malpractice which results in injury to a patient or which creates an unreasonable risk that the patient may be harmed.” In addition to probation, Nicholson must pay a $1,500 fine to the DOH’s Registered Counselor Program and is bound by numerous conditions, including supervision of his practice by a qualified professional.
(Stipulated Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Agreed Order, In the Matter of Gary Nicholson, Credential No. RC0039881, No. M2008-118557, State of Washington Department of Health, May 13, 2009.)
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