Fredericton psychologist disputes findings that led to licence suspension

·3 min read
Fredericton psychologist Joan Wright disagrees with the findings of the College of Psychologists of New Brunswick and objects to the language the college used to describe her treatment of a patient. (Photo: Jeff Crawford - image credit)
Fredericton psychologist Joan Wright disagrees with the findings of the College of Psychologists of New Brunswick and objects to the language the college used to describe her treatment of a patient. (Photo: Jeff Crawford - image credit)

Fredericton psychologist Joan Wright is disputing many of the findings in a decision by the College of Psychologists of New Brunswick last week that saw her suspended for "professional misconduct, incompetence and violating the boundaries of the psychologist-client relationship."

Her lawyer, Kelly Lamrock, filed an application for a judicial review and a request for an injunction with the Court of Queen's Bench on Tuesday to pause the suspension and allow Wright to continue to practise.

In an affidavit, Wright said the decision by the college had done irreparable harm to her and could also cause irreparable harm to her many patients who are now without a therapist.

"The scarcity of psychologists in New Brunswick is well-known, and this is particularly true in specialized areas like PTSD," Wight said in the affidavit.

The College of Psychologists of New Brunswick was not immediately available for comment.

Wright has two clinics in the Fredericton area, Joan Wright & Associates, on Brunswick Street, and Mindshift clinic, in Lincoln.

"The Mindshift clinic takes on the most complex cases involving post-traumatic stress disorder," Wright said.

A patient with complex needs

Wright said she was notified of the complaint in October 2018 by a former patient who had been referred by the mental health clinic at 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown.

The former patient had a complex set of needs, said Wright, and she treated him for PTSD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and borderline personality disorder from 2006 to 2018. Another practitioner, who works in the same area, was a co-complainant and treated the former client after he left Wright.

Wright said that during the years of treatment, the client made "sporadic progress, followed by regression." She said she recalled it being a difficult case.

Wright also said the patient left her care after he had a "negative reaction" toward her because of her advice. She said that in a fit of anger, he'd described his new partner's young daughter in profane terms.

"When I urged him to apologize and consider how abandoned this made her feel, he became very angry and approached me in a physically aggressive way. He is a larger man and at some point I did have to raise my voice to tell him to move away from me because I was getting physically afraid. This seemed to break the trust we had and I could not figure out how to restore it.He left the practice."

Accused of 'experimental interventions'

The college's decision, dated April 14, outlined a list of several failings on Wright's part, including "using experimental and non-evidence-based interventions" for PTSD and administering therapy she was not trained to provide, asking a client to "remove articles of clothing" to take photos of the client's "naked body parts," and massaging the client's neck, and recommending the client purchase and use an "anal device."

Wright's affidavit said the committee used "hypersexualized language" to describe mundane details, making them seem worse.

"For example, the taking of photographs of how the patient stood barefoot became the repeated phrase 'pictures of naked body parts," light and brief pressure, not [massage], on the neck to release muscle tension, while fully clothed became "touching various body parts" and the request that he remove his socks became "he was asked to remove articles of clothing in the Member's presence,' all of which appear to show an inexplicable determination by the Committee to sexualize, exaggerate, and defame my practice."

Wright also said the areas of psychology she used to treat PTSD were cognitive behavioural therapy and bioenergetics analysis therapy, or BAT, which combines mind and body work to deal with emotional problems, when the cognitive therapy was not effective.

Wright said the treatment "is not radical or new." She said she spent more than 500 hours in training to administer BAT and stopped using it around 2016.

Although her own practice is suspended, Wright's colleagues in Fredericton and Lincoln are still able to practise.

The hearing on the injunction is scheduled for Friday at 1 p.m.