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Hove psychologist denies inappropriate relationship with troubled teen
2:23pm Tuesday 3rd September 2013 in News
A Harley Street psychologist who told a teenage patient to cut off ties with her parents offered to be her legal guardian, a tribunal has heard.
Gillian Levett had arranged for a patient to be adopted by American friends, but after plans fell through she offered to become her legal guardian, it is alleged.
The Health and Care Professions Council heard that after the teenager, referred to as Miss A, took an overdose the American couple sent her a "cold" email saying they no longer wanted her to be part of their family.
Ms Levett then took the teenager into her home in Hove for four days a week on the proviso that she kept the arrangement secret.
The American couple, known as Nan and Len, bought the teenager a laptop and paid for her school fees, Miss A told the hearing.
They then arranged for her to stay with them at their family home in Virginia over the 2008 Christmas period.
Miss A said: "Towards the end of my stay with them they took me aside and asked me if I wanted to be part of their family. I said I really wanted to."
They arranged for the teenager, thought to be aged around 18 at the time, to go back and visit during the Easter break.
But in March 2009, when she was back in London, Miss A took an overdose after being taunted about her boyfriend on Facebook.
An old friend sent her "stupid remarks and threats", she told hearing, adding: "He said I should break up with (my boyfriend) or else he would make my life a misery."
She said the messages triggered her overdose.
"After the incident happened I went to Ms Levett's clinic and she suggested that I write something to Nan and Len (to tell them) what had happened and why it had happened," she said.
"I agreed to, I was very sorry for upsetting them.
"A week later I got a cold email from Len saying, 'we no longer think we can help you'. They no longer wanted to adopt me or have me as part of their family.
"I was angry and so hurt. I could not believe it really.
"I think it was difficult for Ms Levett. They were her friends and I think she was worried about me.
"Ms Levett sat me down with (her receptionist) Alison and said, 'I think we really need to help you and I think you need some support but if this is to go forward you must not tell anyone about it. If anyone finds out you could possibly be staying with me I could get into serious trouble'.
"The plan was for me to go and stay with Ms Levett at home ... staying with her Fridays to Mondays."
For months Miss A stayed with the psychologist each weekend, doing her homework, taking long walks with her and helping her prepare food, the hearing in London was told.
Miss A described Ms Levett as "more like family" than a psychologist.
On one occasion Ms Levett bought up the possibility of legal guardianship, she added.
She said: "It was that possibly she could be my legal guardian and maybe she could have a word with her lawyer."
The hearing also heard that after the youngster's laptop broke, the psychologist arranged for another patient to fix it. She also organised her some employment at the patient's sports shop in Shepherd's Bush, west London.
But the hearing was told that the man, said to be in his late 30s or early 40s, "inappropriately" knew about Miss A's eating disorder.
"He said something like, 'Gillian would be surprised to see you eating'," Miss A said.
"I was shocked that he knew I had eating problems. I was under the impression that everything I told Gillian was confidential.
"(When I asked her about it) she said not to worry, that it was in my best interests and I was being over-sensitive."
Yesterday the HCPC hearing was told that Ms Levett had an "inappropriate relationship" with Miss A and she "failed to maintain appropriate boundaries".
The psychologist started seeing Miss A in 2009 when she was 16 but did not charge her for sessions, treated her outside of normal clinic hours and even at her home, it is alleged.
The hearing was told that Ms Levett "regularly" socialised with Miss A, taking her out to dinner, to the cinema or the theatre and bought gifts for her.
She is also accused of suggesting that Miss A change her name so that she was no longer associated with her parents and discouraging the youngster from having contact with her family.
Ms Levett is also accused of having "inappropriate relationships" with several other patients and breaching patient confidentiality.
The psychologist denies misconduct.
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