Counsellor's tale: pill led to backside 'kiss' — (Sydney Morning Herald)

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Sydney Morning Herald


August 23, 2010

BITING a female head teacher on the backside was never the intention of a school counsellor, Graham Patrick Holbrook.

He was simply miming a kiss, the psychologist said, his embarrassing actions inspired by the bawdy medieval author Geoffrey Chaucer and driven by the anti-depressant drug Zoloft.

But the Psychologists Tribunal of NSW took a dimmer view of the behaviour exhibited by the Canterbury Tales-loving counsellor and struck him off the psychologist’s register for a series of similar incidents involving primary and high school students under his care.

This behaviour, between 2002 and 2006, included inappropriate comments to students, staff and other people, some of which had sexual and drug overtones. He also touched students inappropriately and breached professional boundaries.

Suppressing the identity of the schools, the tribunal determined last month that Mr Holbrook was guilty of professional misconduct, not of good character and suffered from an impairment.

In a written submission to the tribunal, Mr Holbrook said that the majority of complaints against him should be rendered invalid if the adverse drug reaction from Zoloft was taken into account. Zoloft is by far the most popular antidepressant in use in Australia. It has been associated with mania or hypomania, but sexual side-effects tend towards diminished libido.

Mr Holbrook said the influence of Zoloft had blunted his interpersonal sensitivity, disinhibition, and impaired social judgment in the school setting with various teachers and students and at a hairdressing salon outside school.

Rejecting allegations he bit a female colleague during a workshop, the former English teacher said he was miming kissing her bottom in an act inspired by Chaucer. ”In Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale, a knight pontificates and professes refined, courtly love, for the object of his affections,” he said. ”The lady of his affections requests that the knight close his eyes whilst she positions her naked bottom in his vicinity and invites the suitor, unbeknown to him, to bestow a kiss …

”Under the influence of the Zoloft, I became rather manic and followed Chaucer’s bawdy example, in a way which seemed amusing at the time. However, I admit that when you are not intoxicated on Zoloft it is simply embarrassing.”

In February the magistrate Kim Pogson convicted Mr Holbrook at Ballina Local Court on charges of aggravated indecent assault, arising from his counselling of a 14-year-old female student, and gave him a 12-month good behaviour bond. The court heard he had placed his hands on the girl’s thighs and pushed up the hem of her skirt.

Mr Holbrook is appealing the decision before Lismore District Court.