Judge hears arguments on suspended Fredericton psychologist's request for injunction

·3 min read
Fredericton psychologist Joan Wright was suspended for professional misconduct and violating the boundaries of the psychologist-client relationship (Photo: Jeff Crawford - image credit)
Fredericton psychologist Joan Wright was suspended for professional misconduct and violating the boundaries of the psychologist-client relationship (Photo: Jeff Crawford - image credit)

Chief Justice Tracey DeWare heard three hours of submissions Friday from the lawyer for psychologist Joan Wright and the lawyer for the regulatory college that suspended her licence.

Wright, a well-known Fredericton psychologist, was in court seeking a stay in the suspension of her licence to practise.

She was suspended by the College of Psychologists of New Brunswick last week for professional misconduct and violating the boundaries of the psychologist-client relationship.

She wore a black and white checked suit and was still during her lawyer Kelly Lamrock's submission to the court.

Lamrock asked for an injunction until June, when the judicial review of the college's decision will take place, so Wright can continue to serve her clients without interruption.

"A sudden disruption to continuity of care put them in harm," Lamrock said.

He called the suspension and the college's published decision a "professional death sentence."

Lamrock said Wright has 31 years of professional experience and was a first-time offender.

The complaint against Wright came from a former client and the psychologist he saw after her.

After an eight day-hearing last fall, the complaints committee found that Wright used "experimental" treatments, administered therapy she was not trained to provide and crossed boundaries in the relationship with her client.

The decision April 14 said that Wright asked her client to "remove articles of clothing" and took photographs of "naked body parts."

Lamrock said the college misrepresented Wright's dealings with her client, using hypersexualized language to describe what happened.

"At every turn they used language that is excessive given the findings," said Lamrock.

But Sheila Lanctôt, the lawyer for the college, said the language used was a fair representation — that during the hearing the client said that in some sessions he was "down to his underwear," and Wright took photographs of him.

Lanctôt also said the client testified that Wright used neuro-linguistic programming therapy, which Lanctôt likened to hypnotism.

She said that at one point Wright put the weight of her entire body on his.

"The minimization of what these allegations … is really shocking," said Lanctôt.

The registrar of the College, Jacques Richard, was also present.

Lanctôt argued that Wright should be filing an appeal to the college, instead of asking for a stay and judicial review.

"You can't overturn a decision and allow someone to practise after such a thorough review was done," said Lanctôt.

Under the province's Psychologists' Act, Wright has 30 days from the time she received notice to appeal the decision.

To get her licence reinstated on a conditional basis, Wright has to complete three university level courses — on cognitive behavioural therapy for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, on the ethics in psychological treatment of clients, and on psychometrics.

She also has to pass an examination for the professional practice of psychology and pay a $2,000 fine.

DeWare said she will provide an oral decision on Wright's injunction request on April 29.