Two-year ban for ‘erotic’ therapist
Boundaries crossed … Joe Levonian’s research into anorgasmia was a ”personal interest”. Photo: Domino Postiglione
A HYPNOTHERAPIST has been banned from practising for two years after using ”erotic techniques” to treat a woman’s smoking aIDiction then having sex with her.
Joe Levonian, of Balgowlah, was also ”reckless” in giving two other women sexual massages as part of his personal research project into anorgasmia, as the inability to orgasm is termed.
The Health Care Complaints Commission found Mr Levonian ”displayed little appreciation of the importance in maintaining appropriate professional boundaries” and would pose a risk to the public if allowed to continue unsupervised.
The commission received a complaint last May about Mr Levonian’s erotic hypnotherapy from a woman who wanted to quit smoking.
In her evidence, the woman, identified as Client A, said that during a hypnosis session in his office Mr Levonian had placed his hand on her breast while repeating the words: ”You are getting more and more aroused.”
At their fifth session, Mr Levonian said she looked tense and needed a massage. The commission’s report said: ”Client A stated that during the massage, when she was lying on her front with her eyes closed, the massage became sensual. When she turned over, she saw that Mr Levonian had started taking off his pants and they engaged in consensual sexual intercourse.”
Two days later, the pair met at a cafe where Client A said she was struggling emotionally. She said Mr Levonian had agreed to report himself to the Australian Hypnotherapists’ Association.
”Mr Levonian told the commission he felt ‘guilty’, ‘remorseful’ and ‘immediately knew he had done the wrong thing’ and ‘crossed the professional boundary’ … Client A said she felt manipulated and violated by the event,” the commissioner, Kieran Pehm, said in his decision.
In investigating her complaint, the commission became aware of Mr Levonian’s research project into anorgasmia and contacted two women, cousins, who had agreed to take part, consenting to have their genitals, anuses and breasts touched by the hypnotist. One woman said she had left the treatment room and never returned once she became aware Mr Levonian had removed his pants and was leaning against her in silky boxer shorts. Mr Levonian claimed they were football shorts.
Mr Pehm said Mr Levonian had no approval to conduct research by any recognised body and the only basis for the research was ”his own personal interest”.
”Mr Levonian was, at the very least, reckless to proceed with his project without satisfying himself and others to its legitimacy,” Mr Pehm found. ”What happened during Mr Levonian’s session with Client B and C was highly sexual in content and it does not appear [he] could possibly have separated his own personal interests and remain detached while this was going on.”
Mr Levonian, who is training as a nurse, must not provide hypnotherapy, treat any sexual dysfunctions or conduct any research involving humans without the approval of a human research ethics committee for two years.
In a statement, Mr Levonian’s solicitor, Claire Mallon said: ”At the time of the matters in question, Mr Levonian was suffering from severe reactive depression … He is extremely remorseful for his temporary errors of judgment.”
The case study is to include:
* An introduction ?
* A summary of the above case and its context .?
* A detailed analysis of the social, legal, ethical and/or professional issues involved in this situation, making reference to your research in the area ?
* An outline of appropriate professional and legal responses to the case study, based on relevant codes of ethics, professional standards and legislation
PACFA sets high standards of ethical conduct for the counselling and psychotherapy profession. This supports the ethical practice of counsellors and psychotherapists and helps to protect the public form harm.
Practitioners registered with PACFA are required to abide by the Interim Code of Ethics 2015 and the Codes of Ethics of any PACFA Member Associations to which they belong. PACFA Member Associations are required to abide by the Code of Good Governance.
PACFA and it Member Associations operate complaints handling processes for situations where there are concerns that the required standards of ethics have not been met. The complaints system holds practitioners accountable for any breaches of the relevant Codes of Ethics.
For information on how to make a complaint, go to the Complaints page. All complaints are heard in accordance with PACFA’s Professional Conduct Procedures.
PACFA’s ethical standards are implemented and reviewed by the PACFA Ethics Committee. For more information about the work of the Ethics Committee, go to the Ethics Committee page.
PACFA also provides training in ethics and ethical practice to support practitioners and to maintain high ethical standards. For details see the Ethics Training page.
Overview of PACFA Code of Ethics
The PACFA Code of Ethics establishes minimum standards of ethical practice for Counsellors and Psychotherapists for the information and protection of those using their services. Below are some of the key principles and responsibilities set out in the Code. For full details, you can download the Interim Code of Ethics 2015.
* Counsellors respect the essential humanity, worth and dignity of all people and promote this value in their work.
* Counsellors recognise and respect diversity among people and oppose discrimination and oppressive behaviour.
* Counsellors respect the privacy of their clients and preserve the confidentiality of information acquired in the course of their work.
* Counsellors protect the rights of their clients including the right to informed consent.
* Counsellors take steps to maintain and develop their competence throughout their professional lives.
* Counsellors abide by the laws of the society in which they practice.
* Counsellors take all reasonable steps to avoid harm to their clients as a result of the counselling process.
* Counsellors faced with situations which extend the boundary of their competence seek supervision and consider referral to other professionals.
* In the event of harm resulting from Counselling, Counsellors take responsibility for restitution.
* Counsellors promote client autonomy and encourage clients to make responsible decisions on their own behalf.
* Counsellors consider the social context of their clients and their connections to others.
* Counsellors are responsible for setting and maintaining professional boundaries within the Counselling relationship.
* Counsellors must not exploit clients, past or present, in financial, sexual, emotional or any other way.
* Counsellors will not accept or offer payments for referrals, or engage in any financial transactions, apart from negotiating the ordinary fee charged for Counselling.
* Sexual relations between the client and the Counsellor can never be acceptable and constitute unethical behaviour. This is not restricted to sexual intercourse and includes any form of physical contact, whether initiated by the client or the Counsellor, which has as its purpose some form of sexual gratification, or which may be reasonably construed as having that purpose.
* Counsellors should consider that the deeper the involvement with the client’s emotional life during Counselling, the less likely is the possibility of a subsequent equal relationship following termination of therapy. Counsellors must seek professional supervision should any attempt to build a relationship with a former client be considered.
* Counsellors treat with confidence any personal information about clients, whether obtained directly or by inference. This applies to all verbal, written, recorded or computer stored material pertaining to the therapeutic context. All records, whether in written or any other form, need to be protected with the strictest of confidence.
* Clients must not be observed by anyone other than their Counsellors without having given informed consent. This applies both to direct observation and to any form of audio or visual transmission or recording.
* Counsellors and Supervisors are responsible for protecting the client’s rights of confidentiality in the supervisory context by ensuring that shared information is disguised appropriately.
* Exceptional circumstances may arise which give the Counsellor good grounds for believing that the client will cause serious physical harm to others or themselves. In such circumstances, the breaking of confidentiality may be required, preferably with the client’s permission, or after consultation with a Counselling Supervisor.
* Any breaking of confidentiality should be minimized both by restricting the information conveyed to that which is pertinent to the immediate situation and by limiting it to those persons who can provide the help required by the client.
* Agreements about confidentiality continue after the client’s death unless there are overriding legal considerations.?Special care is required when using specific Counselling situations for reports and publication. The author must have the client’s informed consent should there be any possibility of identification of the client.
* Counselling activities are to be undertaken only with professional intent and not casually and/or in extra professional relationships.
* Contracts involving the client should be realistic and clear.
* When a client is incapable of giving informed consent, Counsellors obtain consent from a legally authorised person.
* Any publicity material and all written and oral information should reflect accurately the nature of the service offered and the training, qualifications and relevant experience of the Counsellor.
* Counsellors are responsible for communicating the terms on which Counselling is being offered.
* Counsellors will disclose any conflict of interest which may arise in relation to a client and will seek supervision to resolve appropriate action which may include referral.