Flemish minister takes up case of suspended psychologist

Flemish minister takes up case of suspended psychologist
Kaat Bollen . © Belga

Flemish minister for equal opportunities Bart Somers (Open VLD) has called for an explanation from the Psychologists’ Commission over disciplinary action taken against one of its members, Kaat Bollen.

The Commission is the body that rules over the psychologist profession, and in March 2020 issued a ruling against Bollen, a psychologist who deals with relationships and sexual matters, and who is regularly to be seen in the media.

The Commission was acting on a complaint from a colleague, who drew the Commission’s attention to Bollen’s various media appearances, and in particular her Instagram account, which the plaintiff complained was indiscreet and sexually tinted.

Added to that, the plaintiff also cited a film directed by Bollen, openly described as pornography intended for women.

The Commission found against Bollen, and issued a warning and a disciplinary sanction. Bollen appealed, and the final judgement was issued at the New Year. The disciplinary sanction was extended to a suspension – meaning Bollen can no longer practice officially as a psychologist.

The Commission justified its decision by pointing out that a psychologist, “must be aware of their profile and dignity at all times, both in the professional and private sphere”.

Bollen was not to be silenced.

“If being a psychologist in 2021 means that I cannot be myself, even in my private life, because that is what this is about, then I would rather not be a psychologist,” she told Het Nieuwsblad.

I have therefore decided to terminate my membership of the Psychologists Commission, and to surrender my title of psychologist. That hurts and it is difficult.”

At the centre of the complaint is Bollen’s Instagram account, which was alleged to be unbecoming of a psychologist. The account is open to the public, and has 1,148 posts and 19.7K followers.

On inspection, the posts are revealed to contain nothing that might raise the pulse-rate of a maiden aunt. One disembodied bare bottom is to be seen, and a couple of breast-feeding photos. Other than that, the account consists of a bewildering array of selfies of Bollen herself, sometimes with friends, often with the baby, occasionally with her partner.

Bart Somers, meanwhile, has no patience for what might be called slut-shaming, if there were anything sluttish in evidence.

In a statement, he said he expects to have a meeting with the Psychologists’ Commission in the coming week.

“It's unthinkable that women in Flanders in 2021 are still being told how they should or may dress. We don't need a clothing police here.”

And he said his office intended “to investigate what we can do against such an attitude”.

The Commission’s director, Julie Laloo, said they would certainly be willing to sit down with Somers, but declined to comment on the matter in hand.

Alan Hope

The Brussels Times

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