Celebrity psychologist loses his license after damning texts reveal he had affair with client

A celebrity psychologist whose videos have been viewed by millions has been barred from practising after entering a “sexual relationship” with a client, which he says could not have happened due to his erectile dysfunction.

Sydney-based psychologist Dr Ali Sahebi was found guilty of “unsatisfactory professional conduct” and “professional misconduct” at the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal on Thursday morning, which ordered his registration be cancelled.

Dr Sahebi, who is from Iran, has more than 400,000 followers on Instagram and has given multiple TED talks on psychology.

Dr Ali Sahebi
Dr Sahebi, who is from Iran, has more than 400,000 followers on Instagram and has given multiple TED talks on psychology. YouTube / Dr. Ali Sahebi

Earlier this year, Dr Sahebi found himself in hot water after describing homosexuality as a “self-destructive behaviour” in one of his viral videos.

A petition was made for Dr Sahebi to take the video down which he did, also issuing an apology.

The tribunal heard how Dr Sahebi, who at the time had a wife and children, engaged in a “sexual relationship” with one of his therapeutic patients in April and May of 2021.

The relationship came to light after the patient made a formal complaint to the Health Care Complaints Commission in August 2021.

The relationship

The tribunal heard how the relationship began after she saw Dr Sahebi for private therapy sessions about her mother’s recent death and financial problems.

Dr Sahebi invited her to regular “group therapy sessions” he would host at his home which would often lead to the group socialising and drinking together.

The tribunal heard that after one of the “group sessions” Dr Sahebi opened a “good quality whisky” for the pair to drink before things got “physical”.

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In the woman’s statement, she said she was “still feeling drunk” when the pair had sexual intercourse but was “conscious and shocked” as she “didn’t expect that”.

“I asked what are we doing and what is this. He said that he likes and loves me so much that he wanted to stay with me and be my partner,” she said in her statement which was submitted to the tribunal.

The pair began a relationship of sorts before Dr Sahebi told her he needed to return to Iran in mid-May to see his sons, the tribunal heard.

“I felt I was in a full relationship with him,” she said.

“He led me to believe that he was in a broken marriage and there was no relationship between them like husband and wife. When Mr Sahebi left for Iran after our sexual relationship, I was angry.”

The patient said she had paid for eight sessions but had only attended five.

“He refunded me the whole amount for all eight sessions,” she said in the statement.

Several messages and voice messages were also submitted to the tribunal, with Dr Sahebi telling the patient in one text that she needed a massage and was at her “service”.

Dr Ali Sahebi
“He led me to believe that he was in a broken marriage and there was no relationship between them like husband and wife. When Mr Sahebi left for Iran after our sexual relationship, I was angry,” the woman said. YouTube / Dr. Ali Sahebi

In May, Dr Sahebi sent a voice message to the patient stating: “You made me crazy, I am enchanted by you” before stating: “I will lick you all over, I want you.”

Dr Sahebi denied he was in a sexual relationship with the patient and told the tribunal the pair were merely “close friends”.

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Dr Sahebi’s defense

During his evidence, Dr Sahebi told the tribunal the voice messages and texts had been “mistranslated” from their original Persian and said the “lick you all over” message was “a metaphor”.

“It is not realistic literal terms. It’s really affectionate and caring that normally that’s saying to the daughters or sons, because ‘I’m licking you’ it’s a shortened term for, ‘I’m licking you like a cow that licks her calf’,” he told the tribunal during his evidence.

“That’s the metaphor in Persian language and this is a really, really wrong one. It doesn’t mean anything sexual. I’m just appreciating her qualities.”

When pointed to a voice message he sent in May, where he told the patient he loved her “athletic body”, Dr Sahebi said that was also a “metaphor”.

“This is not just meant to women. I admire your body; that’s it. This is not sexual at all,” he said.

“It means when the person is [an] energetic and healthy person.”

Dr Sahebi also told the tribunal he could not have had a sexual relationship with the woman as he suffers from erectile dysfunction.

“I had an accident some years ago and since then I lost my erection and am absolutely sexually dysfunctional,” he told the tribunal.

“I am ready for any medical or forensic examinations in this regards.”

The findings

The tribunal found Dr Sahebi guilty of “unsatisfactory professional conduct” and “professional misconduct” for both his sexual relationship with the patient as well as the “group therapy sessions”.

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The tribunal heard from two other patients who gave evidence about Dr. Sahebi’s home “group therapy sessions” with one of the clients saying “The gatherings had dancing and music, food and drinking, mostly alcoholic”.

In its decision, the tribunal panel labeled Dr. Sahebi as “persistently untruthful” in his evidence.

“The respondent was not a credible and reliable witness,” the decision stated.

“This dishonesty was an egregious breach of his duty. Rather than admit his conduct and address the reasons for it, the respondent has neither apologized for his behavior nor expressed any remorse or contrition.”

The tribunal panel said he engaged in the conduct for his “own sexual gratification”.

“A reprimand would not be sufficient to denounce the professional misconduct of the kind which we have found,” they said.

Dr. Sahebi’s registration was canceled and is now prohibited from providing any health service.

He will be unable to apply for a review of the orders for two years and was also ordered to pay the costs of the HCCC.

Dr Sahebi has been contacted for comment.

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