Psych Crime Reporter

August 7, 2013

Board revokes therapist David Ridley’s license for sexually graphic communications to women

Filed under: psychotherapist,sexual misconduct,Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 8:33 pm
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On October 29, 2012, the Idaho State Board of Professional Counselors and Marriage & Family Therapists revoked the license of marriage & family therapist David Ridley.

The Board’s document details complaints received by the Board, primarily from females who reported that he contacted them via Facebook, offered and provided therapy services and engaged in sexually graphic and inappropriate communication with the women during their sessions.

The initial complaint to the Board was from another licensed professional counselor from another state who contacted the Board by more than 20 women who shared their experiences with Ridley’s therapy, and provided online transcripts (sessions were carried out online in some cases).

The remainder of the Board’s document contains data about complaint it received about Ridley from eight individuals.

Ridley voluntarily surrendered his license while under investigation but the Board took the disciplinary action of revocation of license and any rights of renewal.

Universal Health Services among defendants in sexual “grooming” suit

PHOENIX (CN) – A medical health technician seduced a mother of six at a psychiatric hospital, then got her to leave her family and “borrowed” $1,000 from her, the woman and her husband claim in court.

Kristiina Wuollet, and her husband Theodore claim that Clarence Copeland, then a medical health technician at Valley Hospital Mental Health and Chemical Dependency Care, began “grooming” Kristiina while she was a patient at the hospital.

They sued Copeland, the hospital, Universal Health Services, and Ascend Health Corp., in Maricopa County Court.

“During the duration that plaintiff Kristiina Wuollet resided at the facility, defendant Copeland began ‘grooming’ her, taking advantage of his position on her treatment team and of her vulnerability, through continuously flattering her and by initiating inappropriate intimate conversations with her,” the lawsuit states.

The Wuollets claim that Copeland’s job required him to “function as an active part of plaintiff’s treatment team, providing continuous patient care, supervision, interaction, and role modeling, and whose work was under the direction and care of a registered nurse.”

When Kristiina was discharged from Valley Hospital, Copeland got her contact information from her patient file and “began sexting with her and engaging her in numerous daily phone conversations,” according to the complaint.

Kristiina left her husband and children shortly after she was discharged, “moved in with defendant Copeland, and continued a sexual affair which had begun during her residency at the facility and continued for approximately eight months,” according to the lawsuit.

Theodore Wuollet says he filed a complaint with Valley Hospital after Kristiina was discharged, “providing evidence of the text message exchanges between his wife and defendant Copeland,” but Valley Hospital failed to respond.

The Wuollets, who have been married since 1987, claim Kristiina “was unable to protect herself from the exploitation she suffered at the hands of defendants.”

Copeland, who is no longer employed by the hospital, “abused his position of trust and ‘borrowed’ $1,000 from plaintiff Kristiina Wuollet, which has not been repaid,” the complaint states.

Copeland continued to contact Kristiina, including one instance “when he called her at her place of work and drove there to talk to her, threatening to move closer to her home so he could see her,” according to the complaint.

Valley Hospital did not respond by press time to a request for comment.

The Wuollets seek damages for breach of fiduciary duty, medical negligence, elder abuse and infliction of emotional distress.

They are represented by Terrence Woods and Marilyn Cage with Broening, Oberg, Woods & Wilson.

Source: Jamie Roos, “Hospital Tech Accused of Seducing Patient,” Courthouse News, August 7, 2013.

August 2, 2013

Suit alleges psychiatrist took nude photos of 14-year-old patient

A young woman is suing a Halifax psychiatrist for allegedly taking nude photos of her during the course of an appointment with him.

The claimant, who was about 14 years old at the time, went to Dr. Curtis Steele for treatment of “attention deficient and depressive symptoms” in 2003, a statement of claim filed in Nova Scotia Supreme Court alleges.

“During their last appointment, the defendant informed the plaintiff that he was a photographer,” the claim filed Thursday alleges.

“(Steele) asked the plaintiff if she would do some modelling for him. … At the inducement of the defendant, the plaintiff got completely undressed while he left the room,” the claim alleges.

“The defendant returned several minutes later and proceeded to take photographs of the plaintiff’s fully nude body in his office.”

The girl got dressed; before leaving, Steele advised her not to tell anyone, the claim alleges.

She never went back to Steele, states the claim.

The woman is suing the doctor for treating her in a “sexually inappropriate manner” and alleges her psychiatric treatment “fell below the knowledge, competence and skill of a similarly qualified psychiatrist,” according to the court papers.

Her lawyers, Wagners of Halifax, also allege she suffered harm because of the incident.

“The power entrusted in psychiatrists, particularly psychiatrists of children in need of care, must not be used in corrupt ways,” lawyer Mike Dull wrote in the claim.

“The defendant was to provide a place of sanctity, nurture and trust.”

The woman alleges a breach of fiduciary duty and is seeking aggravated, punitive and exemplary damages, the claim states.

The claimant, now in her mid-20s, did not want to speak to the media when contacted through her lawyer Thursday.

Reached Thursday, Steele said he was not aware of the statement of claim.

“I don’t want to comment until I’ve been notified,” he said.

The allegations have not been proven in court, and Steele has not yet filed a defence.

Source: Eva Hoare, “Woman sues psychiatrist over photos,” Herald News, August 1, 2013.

May 7, 2013

Psychologist John Cicconi loses license for sexual and abusive relationship with patient

Filed under: patient abuse,sexual abuse,sexual exploitation,sexual misconduct — Psych Crime Reporter @ 8:24 pm

A long-time psychologist who had an intimate and physically abusive relationship with a mentally ill patient has been de-registered.

Vincent Cicconi, who practiced in Moonee Ponds, was reprimanded and found guilty of professional misconduct for the three-year relationship with a female patient 20 years his junior.

The patient, who cannot be named, first met Mr Cicconi in April 2008 for treatment for her depression, anxiety and personality disorder, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard.

The patient abused alcohol, ecstasy and cannabis and Mr Cicconi described her to Centrelink as “basically homeless” and “unable to look for work, given her mental state”, the tribunal heard.

After the third consultation, the relationship between Mr Cicconi and his patient became “unorthodox” when he invited her to have lunch with him at a cafe. This was followed by repeated shared meals, him giving her lifts home after consultations, going to the cinema, restaurants and concerts together and him giving her money.

The professional relationship ended after about two months but the sexual relationship began a short time later.

The Australian Psychological Society’s code of ethics states that psychologists cannot have sex with a former patient for at least two years after the professional relationship has ended, and even then, it must be discussed with a senior psychologist. The patient is also encouraged to have independent counselling.

Mr Cicconi allowed his patient to stay overnight at his house and at the end of 2008, she moved into his home for about two months.

In their recently published judgment, VCAT deputy president Heather Lambrick and members John Farhall and Marian Power said the relationship between Mr Cicconi and his patient was “erratic and tumultuous” and “characterised by conflict, recriminations, separations and reconciliations”.

In March 2010, during an argument at his house, Mr Cicconi punched the patient in the face. Police later successfully sought an intervention order on her behalf against Mr Cicconi.

In February 2011, the pair had a “physical conflict” which left her with a bloody hand. Mr Cicconi was granted a diversion on an assault charge in court, meaning no conviction was recorded.

Despite this, contact between Mr Cicconi and the patient continued, and in 2012, they met again and had sex.

Months earlier, Mr Cicconi lied to the Psychology Board of Australia when it asked him for contact details for the patient.

The tribunal, describing the patient as “extremely vulnerable”, said the violence, sexual relationship and living arrangements between Mr Cicconi and the patient were “reprehensible”.

“Mr Cicconi should have realised that his own objectivity and capacity to provide appropriate treatment and care would be impaired,” the tribunal said. “The psychologist and patient relationship should have been immediately terminated with appropriate arrangements put in place for (the patient’s) ongoing care. This did not occur.”

The tribunal said that although it accepted Mr Cicconi was not adequately qualified to deal with the patient’s complex needs, he should have referred her on to someone who was, and not pursued a relationship.

It added that it could not rationalise the patient’s vulnerability and the inherent power imbalance in the relationship and that the entire profession was brought into disrepute when practitioners exploited professional relationships for their own advantage.

Mr Cicconi was reprimanded and his registration was cancelled, effective mid-May. He is not allowed to reapply for registration for 15 months after the cancellation begins, and will need to show that the conduct will not be repeated.

Source: Adrian Lowe, “Sex with patient costs psychologist his job,” The Age, April 30, 2013.

December 10, 2012

Study concludes that psychiatrists almost four times as likely to be sanctioned for sexual misconduct

Filed under: psychiatrist,sexual exploitation,sexual misconduct — Psych Crime Reporter @ 12:07 pm
The new analysis of a decade of discipline cases across Canada more than confirmed anecdotal evidence and a previous study that suggested a problem with psychiatry, said Dr. Chaim Bell of Toronto’s Mt. Sinai Hospital, who co-authored the paper.

Psychiatrists are twice as likely as other Canadian doctors to face professional discipline generally and almost four times as apt to be sanctioned for sexual misconduct, concludes a new study that underscores long-held concerns about the speciality.

Experts blame the problem in part on psychiatrists’ unusually close and long relationships with their patients, compared to surgeons and some other specialists who often have relatively brief contact with the people they treat.

Past research has suggested many of the wayward therapists may also be “lovesick,” middle-aged men in isolated practices who fall for younger women, the study notes.

Regardless, the new analysis of a decade of discipline cases across Canada more than confirmed anecdotal evidence and a previous study that suggested a problem with psychiatry, said Dr. Chaim Bell of Toronto’s Mt. Sinai Hospital, who co-authored the paper.

“This is surprising in how consistent it is across the various provinces, how consistent it is in different years, and how consistent it is with penalties and fines,” he said. “It’s also consistent with the sort of sensational, one-type anecdotal coverage you might get…. The [discipline case] that gets the front page is often the psychiatrist.”

Just this month, in fact, at least two psychiatrists have been in the news for sexual-abuse allegations. A London doctor under investigation by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons for allegedly masturbating and inappropriately videotaping female patients was charged by police with sexual assault and voyeurism. In Calgary, meanwhile, a psychiatrist is being tried on charges of sexually assaulting 10 male patients.

Dr. Bell, an internal-medicine specialist, stressed that it is still a small percentage of psychiatrists — about two per thousand — who get in trouble with their regulatory colleges. Given the “catastrophic” effect even rare cases of misconduct can have on patients and the public trust, however, psychiatry must do more to curb wrongdoing, the study’s authors say.

At the same time, the average psychiatrist who faced discipline over the 10-year study period had been practising for more than 30 years, perhaps reflecting a shrinking generation of practitioner, said Dr. Molyn Leszcz, Mt. Sinai’s chief of psychiatry.

Younger psychiatrists have been exposed to training on appropriate boundaries with patients, are more conscientious about their own emotional health and actually do their jobs differently, said Dr. Leszcz, who was not involved in the study. They are more likely to practise with groups of other doctors and spend less time in one-on-one psychotherapy sessions, he said.

“If you sit in your office and experience the kinds of strong feelings that get generated in psychotherapy all the time, in isolation, then it becomes harder to maintain professional perspective,” said Dr. Leszcz.

Still, the results from Dr. Bell’s study are “disappointing” in light of the measures taken to combat sexual abuse, said Dr. Donald Addington, chair of the Canadian Psychiatric Association.

“This kind of report makes us think about ‘What more could be done?’ and at this point, we don’t have a particular new plan or direction,” said the University of Calgary professor.

Dr. Bell said the regulatory colleges in each province do little tracking themselves of trends in discipline, so he and his colleagues developed a database of physicians punished for wrongdoing from 2000 to 2009, a total of just over 600 cases.

Psychiatrists made up 14% of that number, twice their percentage in the medical profession, concluded the study, just published in the journal Plos One. They were 3.62 times more likely than other physicians to be found guilty of sexual abuse of patients, had 2.32 times more chance of being convicted of fraud-related discipline offences, and were three times as apt to be found guilty of unprofessional conduct, the paper said.

Little research has been done on psychiatrists who “violate boundaries” with patients, but one 1989 study suggested a small number are actually psychotic, a somewhat larger group show antisocial or exploitative behaviour, and the largest category are the “lovesick” — typically neurotic, socially isolated middle-aged men who fall for much younger patients.

A 1997 Canadian study that followed a group of new psychiatrists over time concluded that the two who were eventually convicted of sexual abusing patients had identifiable personality problems even while still in training.

That raises the “ethically challenging” prospect of screening medical students for sexually exploitative tendencies before they are assigned to specialty training, the new study noted.

It is simply unclear, meanwhile, why a disproportionate number of psychiatrists are found guilty of fraud-related discipline charges, he said.

Source: Tom Blackwell, “Psychiatrists four times as likely as other Canadian doctors to be disciplined for sexual misconduct: study,” National Post, December 6, 2012.

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