Between 27 and 29 June 2023, the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal heard a charge of professional misconduct laid by a Professional Conduct Committee (“the PCC”) against Mr Gunther van der Heijden, registered psychologist (“the Psychologist”).
The charge alleged that the Psychologist conducted himself in an inappropriate and/or unprofessional manner by:
- Failing to observe a condition included in his scope of practice
- Practicing psychology without a current practicing certificate
- Making inappropriate, disrespectful, and harmful communications with members, staff and representatives of the New Zealand Psychologists Board (“the Board”) and fellow psychologists.
The conduct alleged above amounts to professional misconduct in that it has brought, or is likely to bring, discredit to the profession pursuant to section 100(1)(b) of the Act. A copy of the full charge can be found in Appendix A to the decision.
The full charge can be found in the Tribunal's decision.
The Psychologist received his qualification overseas in 2000 and was subsequently registered in New Zealand in the Clinical Psychologist Scope of Practice. In August 2019 the Psychologist's then supervisor, Ms E, notified the Board of several concerns about his competence. As a result, a Competence Review Panel (CRP) was convened. The report of the CRP found that the practitioner did not meet the required level of competence and required him to undergo a competence programme. The Board also imposed a condition that the Psychologist work with a supervisor, and although many attempts were made to appoint a supervisor, this was ultimately unsuccessful.
By August 2021, the Board resolved to suspend the Psychologist and refer information to a Professional Conduct Committee that the Psychologist may have been practicing without the required supervision. Following this decision, the Board received several further complaints from clients that he had provided psychology services to either without supervision or whilst he was suspended.
Throughout his communications with Board members, staff and representatives the Psychologist was consistently inappropriate, misleading and harmful. The practitioner regularly made harmful, baseless allegations about the integrity of the Board and caused significant distress to clients who he had diagnosed with various neurological disorders while suspended or without supervision.
The Tribunal was satisfied that the Psychologist was practising clinical psychology at the material times without the requisite supervision and additionally, at a later time whilst he was suspended.
The Tribunal also found the Psychologist's communications were likely to bring discredit to the profession and that disciplinary sanction was warranted. The Tribunal did not consider the Paychologist's behaviour as an isolated lapse in judgement, but rather a persistent and deliberate pattern intended to disparage and undermine. His communications were characterised as cruel, aggressive and demeaning.
The Tribunal was satisfied that a member of the public aware of the circumstances would conclude that the reputation and good standing of the profession was lowered by the Psychologist’s conduct.
The Tribunal ordered:
- Cancellation of registration;
- Conditions on re-registration;
- Pay 60% of the PCC and Tribunal costs, $81,879.05 and $30,584.67.
Publication of the decision and a summary was ordered.