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“I had sex with my psychiatrist”

Cape Times

Michelle Jones

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Sylvia Ireland tells inquiry she had sex with her psychiatrist for two years. Photo: David Ritchie

A VISIBLY traumatised Sylvia Ireland, who has accused her former psychiatrist of misusing their therapy sessions to have sex, related details of the affair to the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA).

Ireland told members of its Medical and Dental Professions Board during a professional conduct inquiry into psychiatrist Ray Berard how they had a sexual relationship for two years while continuing psychotherapy sessions.

The inquiry follows a complaint Ireland lodged against Berard in August 2008.

Answering questions by Francois Grobler, acting for Ireland, she said she was using three types of medication at the time, all prescribed by Berard.

Ireland’s husband, Stuart Ireland, a high-profile businessman in the beauty industry, was paying for the therapy sessions.

Berard pleaded not guilty yesterday to a number of charges including entering into a physical relationship with a patient.

Other charges included having sex more than once during the existence of a doctor-patient relationship, failing to refer Ireland to another psychiatrist for care, misusing his position of trust and confidence towards Ireland and acting in a way which was calculated to bring his profession into disrepute.

Sylvia Ireland said her husband had recommended she see a psychiatrist because he was unhappy with her spending, the two were fighting and she was often angry.

Ireland started therapy sessions with Berard on Tuesday afternoons in November 2005.

Her husband later insisted on joining the sessions but Ireland said she needed time alone with Berard.

The couple then attended sessions with Berard on Thursdays with Stuart Ireland’s psychologist Anita Badenhorst as co-therapist.

“I resented Stuart coming into any of my personal sessions,” Ireland said.

Ireland described how her relationship with Berard changed from being purely professional to sexual.

“I trusted him. I made a mistake. I thought he was my friend and I got confused about friendship and him being my psychiatrist.

“Then he came to my house one day (about January or February 2006) and we entered into a sexual relationship,” Ireland said.

They had sex at her Claremont house and his practice.

“Anytime. Whatever time he wanted to. Practically every day.”

Ireland said she had ended their relationship in February 2008 when she met someone else.

“I met someone who was normal. I wanted a normal life.”

Ireland had then told her husband about her and Berard’s relationship.

She said her husband had still wanted to be with her, despite hearing about the affair.

Ireland said they continued therapy sessions during the two years of their affair and she had trusted Berard with her care.

“I trusted him implicitly and thought that he was completely on my side.”

Grobler had handed five pages of cellphone records to the committee.

These detailed about 128 phone calls, SMSes and MMSes sent from Berard to Ireland from August 2006 to February 2008.

He also handed up 29 pages of invoices sent from Berard to Stuart Ireland from November 2005 to April 2007.

The hearing continues today with Ireland’s cross-examination.

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