Lethbridge psychologist heading back to work next month following suspension

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. –

A Lethbridge psychologist, who only recently had his practice permit suspended for “unprofessional conduct” of a sexual nature involving two female high school students, is about to head back to work as a family counsellor.

That’s raising questions among those who work in the sexual health community.

In 2015, Zachery Rhodenizer was a family school liaison officer for the Horizon School Division in Taber according to his now deleted LinkedIn profile.

He was accused of engaging in a “prohibited relationship” with two 15-year-old girls, both of whom he was counselling at an unnamed school for anxiety and depression.

According to the allegations set out in the College of Alberta Psychologists Hearing Tribunal, the 31-year-old had ongoing “inappropriate, intimate or sexual” texts and talks with one girl and spoke in a “sexually seductive” way to the other.

It wasn’t until 2020, when one of the students complained to the college and then in February 2022 when the findings were quietly posted online.

“Our primary mandate is public protection and we take those kinds of complaint allegations, especially of a sexual nature and especially if they involve minors,” said Dr. Troy Janzen, the complaints director and deputy registrar for the College of Alberta Psychologists.

“We take those extremely seriously and we always have.”

Rhodenizer admitted his unprofessional conduct and was given a four month licence suspension, told to take an ethics course and can only work with adults.    

“It is a significant penalty,” said Dr. Janzen.

“Plus the fact that we made it public allows for everybody to see that, as well as our members.”

MORE SHOULD BE DONE: SEXUAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS

However, sexual health professionals believe more should be done.                                                                                                   

“I certainly would’ve preferred to see something stronger coming forward from a decision like this because if these behaviours are here earlier in their career, chances are they’re going to be here later as well,” said the Chinook Sexual Assault Centre’s CEO, Kristine Cassie.

Cassie went on to say that a breach of trust like this can have long term impacts.                                                              

“It really does shatter the foundation of who are we supposed to be trusting as we move forward and how we maneuver the rest of our life.”

In the tribunal’s report, Rhodenizer only resigned after one of the girls confronted him in 2016, knowing he “crossed professional and ethical boundaries.”

But he didn’t report it to his supervisor,  

He moved on to a job at an elementary school and became a registered psychologist in 2019.

During the investigation, Rhodenizer’s lawyer argued that he was acting like a “silly stupid boy” who had not yet “learned to control his urges.”

The tribunal rejected that.            

“A crossing of those boundaries and engaging in any kind of intimate, romantic and or sexual relationships has always been prohibited by our code of ethics for as long as psychology has been a profession,” Dr. Janzen told CTV News.

Rhodenizer is the owner and director at Lethbridge Institute of Family Therapy, as well as the director of Lifestar Alberta.

He gets his licence back in July and can eventually ask the college to lift his restriction on working with minors.

CTV News reached out to Rhodenizer multiple times over the past week but has yet to receive a response.

You can find the full report and decision of the College of Alberta Psychologists Hearing Tribunal here.

View original article here Source