Australian Psychology Board Suspends Gregory D. Asher for Five Years; Sex with Patient

December 11, 2019

On December 10, 2019, the Psychology Board of Australia reprimanded psychologist Gregory David Asher, cancelled his registration, and disqualified him from applying for a psychology license for five years.

The investigative hearing which was carried out by the Victoria Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) found the following allegations proven to be true:

  • Asher engaged in sexual intercourse with a patient;
  • Asher engaged in inappropriate physical contact with the patient during psychology sessions by providing the patient with massages;
  • Asher failed to establish, recognize and adhere to the boundaries that should and ordinarily do exist between a psychologist and a patient;
  • Asher failed to maintain clear, accurate, and comprehensive written records of his treatment and;
  • Asher provided treatment to the patient which was inadequate or inappropriate.

Of Asher’s testimony in his defense, VCAT noted that he “made gratuitous, unwarranted, unsubstantiated and demeaning sexualized comments about [the patient]” and “objectified and sexualized [the patient] in a manner inconsistent with his professional obligations but consistent with the allegations levelled against him.”

Further, VCAT found his testimony to not be frank; though he testified that the patient was “difficult” or “defensive and confrontational,” his clinical notes routinely described the patient as “open and conversant.”

VCAT found that Asher did not give plausible evidence as to why he moved his sessions with the patient from a busy group psychology practice to his unmanned private practice; for seeing the patient at night (sometimes beginning at 10pm); for holding multiple sessions within a short time frame seemingly without therapeutic justification; or for why he asked the patient to be allowed to conduct sessions in her home.

VCAT found that Asher did not provide frank or consistent evidence as to what took place during sessions, including the circumstances of a hypnotherapy/guided meditation session or flotation tank therapy.

VCAT found Asher’s attempts to undermine the patient’s credibility were unsuccessful.

VCAT noted that there are many such cases of this nature, where the health practitioner becomes romantically/sexually involved with the patient, to the patient’s detriment and that this case was arguably more serious than many as the patient did not consider that she was in any form of intimate relationship with Asher—it was Asher and Asher alone who compromised the therapeutic relationship.

Source: Psychology Board of Asutralia v Asher (No 2) (Review and Regulation) [2019] VCAT 1957 (10 December 2019), Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Administrative Division, VCAT ref no. Z259/20.

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