An NHS psychologist has been struck off after having an “intense” and “highly sexual” affair with a patient who had a history of mental health problems.
Dr Elinor Harper, whose job involved treating patients with psychological difficulties, told the patient that their love was “like two stars collided”.
A Health and Care Professional Tribunal Service hearing was told that during a therapy session in November 2018 the male patient, referred to as Service User A, told Harper that he loved her. At the end of the session they hugged.
This left Harper “tingling all over” and feeling “flustered”, the hearing was told, and at their next session, she told him that she was in love with him and they kissed. They spoke or messaged every day and met in hotels twice in December 2018.
According to his witness statement, Service User A said the psychologist told him that she was married but that she did not want to be with her husband. According to Harper, the patient wanted to keep the relationship a secret as he was terrified that his former wife would stop him seeing their children if she found out.
The couple’s relationship became “very intense very quickly” and “highly sexual”, the panel was told.
In WhatsApp messages exchanged between the couple, Harper said: “I love you too. . . always. . . I couldn’t admit it to myself straight away.
“But since the day you first held me and stroked my back and looked deep in my eyes. . . the flood gates have opened and my love for you just flows through me . . .there’s no stopping it now.
“We’re like two stars collided.”
The panel was told that when the patient had told her “this is not right, you’re supposed to be my therapist”, Harper responded: “It is, people have different perspectives.” She also let him open gambling accounts using her details, despite her knowing he had a problem with betting.
The couple’s relationship ended in April 2019. After taking sick leave as she was “struggling”, Harper handed in her notice in July 2019 and ended her employment in October that year.
In September of that year, the patient’s ex-wife made a formal complaint about Harper, accusing her of grooming and engaging in an inappropriate personal and sexual relationship with her former partner. When challenged, Harper had said that she felt mortified and physically sick at the accusation but denied an affair. She also denied the affair when confronted by a colleague.
The tribunal found that the psychologist had abused her position of trust and struck her off.
The panel concluded: “[She] breached professional boundaries and engaged in a personal and sexual relationship with Service User A, whom she knew to be a vulnerable client.
“There is no evidence of remorse or apology from [her]. There was no recognition of the impact of her actions on [him], his family, other professionals or on the wider public perception of the profession.”
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