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Relationship Between Counsellor And Prisoner

Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Kevin Allan today released a report finding a counsellor in breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights (the Code) for developing a personal relationship with her client, who was a prisoner.

The counsellor provided counselling to the man from May 2017 until his transfer to another prison in April 2018.

From January to April 2018, the man telephoned the counsellor on 56 occasions. The conversations were recorded and were personal and domestic in nature.

When the man was transferred from the second prison to a residential facility, both he and the counsellor told staff at the facility and the man’s probation officer that they were in an intimate relationship. The counsellor visited the man and sent him gifts and money.

The Deputy Commissioner noted the power imbalance between prisoners and health providers, and emphasised that the onus was on the counsellor to maintain professional boundaries and ethical standards.

"The report highlights the importance of health providers maintaining professional boundaries and relationships with consumers," said Mr Allan.

"I do not consider that a relationship being consensual altered this fact," he said.

Mr Allan recommended that should the counsellor return to work as a counsellor, the New Zealand Association of Counsellors require her to undertake further training on ethical and boundary issues, and that she be mentored regularly by a mentor selected by the association.

The full report on case 19HDC00980 is available on the HDC website.

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