Melbourne Psychologist Marilyn Brideson Banned for Three Years for "Bizarre, Reckless, and Exploitative" Treatment of Patient

August 11, 2021

A Melbourne psychologist has been banned for three years after overstepping professional boundaries with a client in a manner described as “inappropriate, confounding, disturbing and unacceptable”.

Marilyn Brideson began treating the woman in 2006 after socializing with her occasionally.

Ms. Brideson believed the client was the victim of a “satanic cult” which abused and murdered children, based on what she said during treatment, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard.

Over the four years she provided regular treatment, the pair shared a personal relationship, going to the movies, out for coffee, emailing each other about personal matters, dining in Ms. Brideson’s house and travelling together.

The tribunal found Ms. Brideson committed multiple breaches of her professional obligations by overstepping boundaries, providing inadequate services and failing to make adequate records.

The client was given treatment that risked creating false memories, VCAT heard.

Ms. Brideson had failed to conduct an adequate initial assessment of the woman and monitor her risk of substance abuse and self-harm.

She also gave her anti-anxiety and depression medication intermittently, without liaising with a psychiatrist or GP, the tribunal found.

She also provided advice to the woman’s daughter, which was inappropriate given it was potentially harmful to the daughter and made revelations without her consent.

The client, a child abuse survivor with complex mental health issues, had developed an intense attachment to Ms. Brideson, but this was not appropriately managed.

The tribunal agreed with clinical psychologist Guy Coffey, who in his report described Ms. Brideson’s treatment as “bizarre, reckless and exploitative.”

He also said her techniques had potential to distort the client’s memory and create false ones.

The tribunal said Ms. Brideson’s breach of professional boundaries had potential to worsen her client’s mental health.

“It is a red flag and an example to the profession of what to avoid in the practice of psychology,” deputy president Heather Lambrick and members Gwenneth Crawford and Marian Power said in their ruling this week.

“Ms. Brideson harbored, at best, a blind indifference to her professional obligations and the wellbeing of her client.

“We consider that by her actions, Ms. Brideson brought her profession into disrepute.”

Generic image. The tribunal found the psychologist guilty of professional misconduct.

Generic image. The tribunal found the psychologist guilty of professional misconduct.

Ms. Brideson’s counsel argued although the woman posed a complex case, she did not want to “leave her client in the wilderness”.

However, the tribunal said she could have referred her to an appropriate expert.

Ms. Brideson continued to provide infrequent sessions between 2010 and 2017.

She accepted her professional judgment was deficient in this case, potentially putting her client at risk of harm, the tribunal heard.

However, she rejected her conduct was an abuse of power and trust, a factor the tribunal said reflected her lack of insight into the “tremendous power” held by psychologists dealing with vulnerable individuals.

“It is conduct of this type that can and does cause significant harm to both clients and the reputation of the profession of psychology,” the tribunal members said.

Ms. Brideson was reprimanded and found guilty of professional misconduct.

She has since retired and surrendered her registration, however the tribunal imposed a three-year ban on providing any health service involving mental health, which would have otherwise been open to her.

Source: Melissa Iaria, “A psychologist has been banned over a client relationship deemed ‘inappropriate’ and ‘disturbing’,”, Aug. 11, 2021, URL:  


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