QLD Psychologist Conflict of Interest?

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5 April 2015
Advised at first appt with new psychologist that there could be a conflict of interest within the office as one their staff recognised my address as her own and brought it to the attention of the 'powers to be'. I live in a retirement village of sorts with 10 stages. The new psychologist told me that this staff member did not live in the same stage as me and did not know me on site. And because of this information I advised the psychologist that it is okay by me.

Obviously, my appointments with the psychologist were extremely sensitive and personal and there were many, many discussions held there I would never wanted to be repeated.
So I have just today found out who that staff member was. She rocked up to our unit with a Jade plant -Chinese for good luck! She is my next door neighbour! She advised me that she was leaving the complex permanently as his son is having his first child, she had lost her job, the timing is right, blah blah blah. And where did you work? You guessed it, right on the nose. Hence - the good luck plant! This person had no way of knowing the extremely bad times and bad luck I have had recently ..... not unless she had read my file.

I have three or four questions I would like answered please:
1st: has the psychologist broken any laws regarding this conflict-of-interest
2nd: if I had been fully made it aware of where this person delivered I would deathly not had bothered to go. Is this actually what is known as a conflict of interest. If I had known she had been my next door neighbour I would NEVER have gone through with the appointment/s. During my next appointment with my psychologist what is your advice for me to do? She lied to me for a start.

2nd question: do I have a right (under Australian law) to request to read my file?

3rd question: should I have a third party in the office as a witness to our discussion regarding what I feel is this conflict of interest?


Dear Allison,

Based on the information you have provided i don't believe the psychologist has broken any law nor has a conflict of interest occurred. It may be better described by reference to the psychologist's duties or responsibilities as articulated by the Australian Psychological Society Code of Ethics. This sets specific standards to guide both psychologists and members of the public to a clear understanding of what is expected in terms of ethical professional conduct by psychologists. You can access it here:

A conflict of interest is described in the code as where a psychologist engages in multiple relationships that may: (a) impair their competence, effectiveness, objectivity, or ability to render a psychological service; (b) harm clients or other parties to a psychological service; or (c) lead to the exploitation of clients or other parties to a psychological service. Multiple relationships are defined as when a psychologist, treating a client, also is or has been: (a) in a non-professional relationship with the same client; (b) in a different professional relationship with the same client; (c) in a non-professional relationship with an associated party; or (d) a recipient of a service provided by the same client. Therefore, your neighbour would not come within the scope of this definition and no multiple relationships appear to exist here.

Also, from an objective view - its a long way to jump from someone giving you a good luck plant because they are moving away, to assuming that they have read your psychologists file and now know all the intimate details of what you have divulged in the course of your psychology sessions. I realise the prospect of this is very upsetting for you, but you may be overreacting. Your neighbour's working at a psychologists office and coming into contact with confidential information is not a crime or a breach of any ethical standard. I don't know this woman or your relationship with her, but people have to work somewhere and it is inevitable that someone you live near is going to work at the psychologist's office. This happens quite often and it doesn't mean that everyone you encounter is so concerned with your private affairs that they would go to the trouble of reading the psychologists notes on your sessions.

With regard to obtaining a copy of your file or viewing your file, technically your psychologist owns any notes or records that they take in the course of treating you because he or she created them. However the code states that psychologists, giving consideration to any relevant law, should not refuse any reasonable request from clients, or former clients, to access client information.

If you feel you need to take this up with your psychologist, I don't believe it makes much difference whether or not you take someone else with you, and I'm not sure what you expect to transpire in the course of that conversation that would later need to be tendered as evidence.