A man argued that he should be able to opt out of the Queensland legal system.
A man argued that he should be able to opt out of the Queensland legal system. ©istockphoto/DNY59

Sex related suspension review

THE leniency of a two-month suspension given to a former North Coast psychologist found guilty of professional misconduct towards a female mental health patient may be appealed by the Health Care Complaints Commission.

The Psychologists Tribunal of NSW last week found Graeme Schubert, 57, acted inappropriately while treating a sexual assault victim at a North Coast Area Health Service mental health clinic between February 2004 and August 2005.

The tribunal heard that Mr Schubert showered the 43-year-old female patient with explicit sexual advances and innuendo including kissing, hugging and caressing under the pretence of 'legitimate' therapy.

The complaint, brought by the HCCC, arose from an investigation conducted by the local health service after the woman allegedly attempted suicide in August 2005.

Mr Schubert, who is married, confessed to his patient that he was 'sex-obsessed' and had 'very strong sexual feelings for her'.

At one stage when the patient told him that she was psychologically traumatised by the treatment, he responded, 'sit in the f------ chair. The f------ therapy has gone out of the f------ window'.

He also told her that there were many times he went home from their sessions 'wet in his pants' and that for him 'sex is one of, if not the greatest pleasure in life'.

In a letter to the Commission Mr Schubert said all discussions of sexuality were initiated by the woman.

He said he refused her approaches and each time restated his ethical boundaries and offered to refer her to another doctor which he said she refused.

He admitted using the 'f' word on occasion but only as an example of types of conversations in society and was remorseful of condoning 'boundary breaches'.

Mr Schubert has been allowed to continue practising since the complaint was made and is still registered as a psychologist on the Hastings Macleay General Practice website, offering 'counselling and assessments; stress, pain and emotional management; and hypnotherapy'.

When contacted yesterday, he expressed dissatisfaction with the finding but would not comment further.

The tribunal found that Mr Schubert had demonstrated serious breaches of public trust by allowing repeated inappropriate physical contact; used unacceptable language; disclosed his own sexual response; failed to communicate with other staff; contaminated the professional client relationship; and referred to himself 'as a cowboy' in the practice of his profession.

North Coast Area Health chief executive Chris Crawford said Mr Schubert had been suspended from the health service as soon as the misconduct was brought to its attention in August 2005.

“Following an investigation by the NCAHS he was dismissed in April 2006,” Mr Crawford said.

HCCC executive officer Kimber Swan told The Northern Star the Commission was 'considering whether or not there were any reasonable grounds for appeal against the Tribunal's decision - including in relation to the adequacy of the orders made'.

The tribunal has ordered Mr Schubert undergo counselling for two years and receive periodical supervision if he resumes practising.

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