A Toronto psychologist has had his license suspended, and is facing a reprimand, for allegations of professional misconduct that included inappropriate physical conduct with a patient and practising under the influence of alcohol.
AD, a member of the College of Psychologists of Ontario authorized in clinical, counseling, and industrial/organizational psychology, did not attend the disciplinary hearing but was represented by legal counsel.
The allegations against AD included sexual abuse of a patient, identified as AW, failing to maintain the standards of the profession, and practising under the influence of alcohol. AD pleaded “no contest” through his counsel, which is neither an admission of guilt nor a denial but waives the right to a full hearing with evidence and witnesses.
AW became a patient of AD in February 2019 after being referred by another psychologist, Dr. CK, due to AD’s expertise in anxiety and trauma. The treatment included proximity exercises and evolved into increasingly intimate physical contact that was not recognized as a clinical technique. During therapy sessions, alcohol was consumed on at least three occasions.
In one incident, during a session on June 12, 2020, AD and AW consumed alcohol and then laid down on the couch together at the psychologist’s request. While lying on the couch, AD kissed AW and touched her inappropriately. The touching was unwanted and, at the end of the session, AD hugged and kissed her again.
AW did not return to see AD after that incident, but he sent multiple follow-up emails and made multiple calls to AW. She did not welcome the contact and felt his behaviour was inappropriate and concerning.
The Panel of the Discipline Committee found that AD did engage in sexual abuse by kissing AW three times and touching her inappropriately.
The Panel also established that AD was in violation of professional standards including failing to maintain appropriate boundaries with the patient and using his position to coerce her into tolerating his sexual advances. The Panel also found that AD provided a service that he knew or ought to have known was not likely to benefit AW.
As a result of these findings, the Panel accepted a jointly proposed penalty ordering that AD be reprimanded via video conference within 60 days. The reprimand will then be published on the Register of the College.
His certificate of registration is to be suspended until an “Undertaking to Resign and Never Reapply” is received by the College. AD was also ordered to pay costs in the amount of $6,372.50.
The Panel noted, “Members of the public must be able to trust that when they receive services from a member of the College, they will be treated in a manner that not only meets the clinical standards of the profession but also does not cross a professional boundary put in place to safeguard their well-being. (AD) has failed on both counts.”
For more information, see Ontario (College of Psychologists of Ontario) v. Dessaulles, 2023 ONCPD 2 (CanLII)