Psychologist reprimanded over six-year affair with patient
A Melbourne psychologist has been reprimanded for having an affair with a female patient while he treated her and her husband for marital problems.
Frank Luzza also treated the wife for anxiety and depression and the husband for anger management.
He gave the couple food and wine, visited them at their house, went to social events with them and regularly went on walks with the woman.
The affair happened for six years from 1992, but the couple told the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency in November 2010. It then took the agency until last July to begin proceedings in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Dr Luzza surrendered his registration in February, meaning that VCAT was only able to reprimand him and find that he engaged in unprofessional conduct. It chose not to fine him.
The affair had its genesis when Dr Luzza began hugging the wife when she cried during consultations. Over time, the wife said, the hugs became more intimate and the doctor rubbed her shoulders and back.
The wife and Dr Luzza had sex in his consulting rooms at his home, and at other locations.
She told the tribunal that during this time, she was vulnerable, depressed and had low self-esteem. She said she felt "powerless" to stop the behaviour, or to leave.
During consultations with the husband only, Dr Luzza never discussed marital problems between the couple's relationship, VCAT senior member Robert Davis and members Gwenneth Crawford and Carolyn Manning said in their judgment, released publicly on Monday.
Dr Luzza denied that he forced the wife into a relationship, or that the affair was against her will.
"Whilst a personal and family friendship developed ... the therapeutic relationship continued in such a way as to provide [the woman] with the necessary psychological support she needed at the time," he told the tribunal.
But he conceded that his own wife, who was not professionally trained, tried to warn him of the inappropriate relationship with his patient.
The tribunal members chose not to fine Dr Luzza because he admitted the allegations, which meant no public hearing was required.
They said that had Dr Luzza still been a registered psychologist, they would have cancelled his registration.