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Laine Clark

Fake psychologist fined after treating patients

The woman pleaded guilty in court and was fined $8500 for posing as a psychologist. (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

For months, a Sunshine Coast woman treated clients including vulnerable patients and children at a Queensland psychology clinic.

After concerns were raised, the woman was asked to prove she was a registered psychologist.

Authorities then discovered the registration number she provided belonged to an unrelated practitioner.

The woman on Thursday copped a hefty fine for posing as a fake psychologist after being charged by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra).

The woman described herself as a registered psychologist before she was appointed by the clinic in mid-2021.

"Between June 14, 2021, and January 7, 2022, she provided psychological services to six clients including vulnerable patients and children referred under the National Disability Insurance Scheme," an Ahpra statement said.

While she had some formal qualifications, the woman was not eligible for registration as a psychologist under national law.

"This registration is required to practise as a psychologist in Australia," Ahpra said.

Concerns were raised with the Office of the Health Ombudsman and the woman's contract was terminated by the clinic when it was confirmed she was not registered.

"She provided a registration number that belonged to an unrelated ... registered practitioner whose surname happened to be the same as the woman's maiden name," Ahpra said.

The woman was charged by Ahpra with three counts of claiming to be registered under the health practitioner regulation national law.

She pleaded guilty and was fined $8500 at Maroochydore Magistrates Court on Thursday.

"Falsely claiming to be a registered psychologist is a serious offence and we will not hesitate to act," Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher said.

"This is the second case this year in which Ahpra has prosecuted a fake psychologist which highlights that employers need to check both the registration status and identity when employing a psychologist."

The woman was also ordered to pay Ahpra $1750 in costs.

No convictions were recorded.

"The board urge employers to be thorough when employing or contracting a registered psychologist," Psychology Board of Australia chair Rachel Phillips said.

"It's necessary to check both registration and identity. The public register confirms the person is registered to practise. Verifying identity confirms the person is who they say they are - both steps are necessary for a robust process."

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