Exploring the why of psychologist misconduct and malpractice: a thematic analysis of court decision documents

Paul Kremer, Mark Symmons, Brett Furlonger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Objective: To identify reasons for misconduct and misconduct amongst Australian psychologists. Method: During the 5-year period from 2008 to 2013, 42 psychologists across 41 cases were found guilty of misconduct and malpractice by civil and administrative courts across Australia. The court decision documents were analysed using Braun and Clarke's () qualitative methodology to explore themes relating to the court's objective, the psychologist's subjective, and the authors' interpretive causal reasons transgressing psychologists engaged in misconduct and malpractice. Results: Explanations given by psychologists for misconduct and malpractice behaviours included the use and abuse of legal and illicit substances, addiction behaviours, and impairment due to mental disorder or unresolved trauma. A number of other reasons identified by the courts and by the authors from the evidence cited in the published court decision documents are also discussed. Possible contributing factors for why misconduct and malpractice behaviours occurred coalesced into three themes: the externalisation of responsibility for personal actions and behaviours, a lack of objectivity concerning why such behaviours occurred, and an inability to understand how personal circumstance affected the provision of ethical services to clients. Conclusion: (a) The complexity of situations and scenarios surrounding psychologist malpractice can be simplified for the benefit of designing interventions by applying Glass' () concept of the "slippery slope." (b) Court records have benefit as detailed data, but could be augmented for greater value with a simple and easily completed additional coversheet of background and demographic data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)454-463
Number of pages10
JournalAustralian Psychologist
Volume53
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018

Keywords

  • Australia
  • Court
  • Ethics
  • Malpractice
  • Misconduct
  • Psychologist

Cite this

@article{88798897ed2b46348c841646cf7c1d2a,
title = "Exploring the why of psychologist misconduct and malpractice: a thematic analysis of court decision documents",
abstract = "Objective: To identify reasons for misconduct and misconduct amongst Australian psychologists. Method: During the 5-year period from 2008 to 2013, 42 psychologists across 41 cases were found guilty of misconduct and malpractice by civil and administrative courts across Australia. The court decision documents were analysed using Braun and Clarke's () qualitative methodology to explore themes relating to the court's objective, the psychologist's subjective, and the authors' interpretive causal reasons transgressing psychologists engaged in misconduct and malpractice. Results: Explanations given by psychologists for misconduct and malpractice behaviours included the use and abuse of legal and illicit substances, addiction behaviours, and impairment due to mental disorder or unresolved trauma. A number of other reasons identified by the courts and by the authors from the evidence cited in the published court decision documents are also discussed. Possible contributing factors for why misconduct and malpractice behaviours occurred coalesced into three themes: the externalisation of responsibility for personal actions and behaviours, a lack of objectivity concerning why such behaviours occurred, and an inability to understand how personal circumstance affected the provision of ethical services to clients. Conclusion: (a) The complexity of situations and scenarios surrounding psychologist malpractice can be simplified for the benefit of designing interventions by applying Glass' () concept of the {"}slippery slope.{"} (b) Court records have benefit as detailed data, but could be augmented for greater value with a simple and easily completed additional coversheet of background and demographic data.",
keywords = "Australia, Court, Ethics, Malpractice, Misconduct, Psychologist",
author = "Paul Kremer and Mark Symmons and Brett Furlonger",
year = "2018",
month = "10",
doi = "10.1111/ap.12343",
language = "English",
volume = "53",
pages = "454--463",
journal = "Australian Psychologist",
issn = "0005-0067",
publisher = "Australian Psychological Society",
number = "5",

}

Exploring the why of psychologist misconduct and malpractice : a thematic analysis of court decision documents. / Kremer, Paul; Symmons, Mark; Furlonger, Brett.

In: Australian Psychologist, Vol. 53, No. 5, 10.2018, p. 454-463.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Exploring the why of psychologist misconduct and malpractice

T2 - a thematic analysis of court decision documents

AU - Kremer, Paul

AU - Symmons, Mark

AU - Furlonger, Brett

PY - 2018/10

Y1 - 2018/10

N2 - Objective: To identify reasons for misconduct and misconduct amongst Australian psychologists. Method: During the 5-year period from 2008 to 2013, 42 psychologists across 41 cases were found guilty of misconduct and malpractice by civil and administrative courts across Australia. The court decision documents were analysed using Braun and Clarke's () qualitative methodology to explore themes relating to the court's objective, the psychologist's subjective, and the authors' interpretive causal reasons transgressing psychologists engaged in misconduct and malpractice. Results: Explanations given by psychologists for misconduct and malpractice behaviours included the use and abuse of legal and illicit substances, addiction behaviours, and impairment due to mental disorder or unresolved trauma. A number of other reasons identified by the courts and by the authors from the evidence cited in the published court decision documents are also discussed. Possible contributing factors for why misconduct and malpractice behaviours occurred coalesced into three themes: the externalisation of responsibility for personal actions and behaviours, a lack of objectivity concerning why such behaviours occurred, and an inability to understand how personal circumstance affected the provision of ethical services to clients. Conclusion: (a) The complexity of situations and scenarios surrounding psychologist malpractice can be simplified for the benefit of designing interventions by applying Glass' () concept of the "slippery slope." (b) Court records have benefit as detailed data, but could be augmented for greater value with a simple and easily completed additional coversheet of background and demographic data.

AB - Objective: To identify reasons for misconduct and misconduct amongst Australian psychologists. Method: During the 5-year period from 2008 to 2013, 42 psychologists across 41 cases were found guilty of misconduct and malpractice by civil and administrative courts across Australia. The court decision documents were analysed using Braun and Clarke's () qualitative methodology to explore themes relating to the court's objective, the psychologist's subjective, and the authors' interpretive causal reasons transgressing psychologists engaged in misconduct and malpractice. Results: Explanations given by psychologists for misconduct and malpractice behaviours included the use and abuse of legal and illicit substances, addiction behaviours, and impairment due to mental disorder or unresolved trauma. A number of other reasons identified by the courts and by the authors from the evidence cited in the published court decision documents are also discussed. Possible contributing factors for why misconduct and malpractice behaviours occurred coalesced into three themes: the externalisation of responsibility for personal actions and behaviours, a lack of objectivity concerning why such behaviours occurred, and an inability to understand how personal circumstance affected the provision of ethical services to clients. Conclusion: (a) The complexity of situations and scenarios surrounding psychologist malpractice can be simplified for the benefit of designing interventions by applying Glass' () concept of the "slippery slope." (b) Court records have benefit as detailed data, but could be augmented for greater value with a simple and easily completed additional coversheet of background and demographic data.

KW - Australia

KW - Court

KW - Ethics

KW - Malpractice

KW - Misconduct

KW - Psychologist

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85044605577&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1111/ap.12343

DO - 10.1111/ap.12343

M3 - Article

VL - 53

SP - 454

EP - 463

JO - Australian Psychologist

JF - Australian Psychologist

SN - 0005-0067

IS - 5

ER -