A conwoman posed as a counsellor and fleeced a mother who was grieving over two miscarriages.
Christine Stevens advertised herself on Facebook and duped vulnerable Lisa Williams into paying £185 for nine counselling sessions.
A court heard she claimed to be head of a council’s therapeutic services and even used the authority’s logo on emails and invoices.
She also put the initials of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) on her correspondence to imply she was an accredited member of the body.
Stevens, 47, who has a history of dishonesty, preyed on Mrs. Williams after she lost two babies in the space of a few months last year.
Her callous deception was uncovered when her victim contacted Cheshire East Council to complain about the advice she was getting and Stevens was charged with fraud.
Anne Roues, prosecuting at South Cheshire Magistrates Court, said: “The victim had been feeling extremely down and decided to seek counselling.
“This was a lady going for help and believing she would pay for a service and would receive one.
“She gave out confidential information which has caused her substantial anxiety.”
Mrs Williams had a few sessions with Stevens before asking for her office number and the name of her manager to make a complaint.
Mrs Roues added: “The defendant said she didn’t have an office land line and the complainant became suspicious.”
Stevens, of Congleton, Cheshire told police she was unemployed but classed herself as a private counsellor.
She admitted having no links to the council or being a member of the BACP and pleaded guilty to fraud by misrepresentation.
Stuart Flood, defending, said Stevens had qualified as a counsellor in July.
He said: “She is adamant that when she spoke to Lisa she said she was a private counsellor but certain e-mails were sent that would give her the impression she was working for the council. Lisa was her first client.
“I don’t think my client set out to deceive anyone.”
Stevens was ordered to repay the cash and carry out 120 hours of unpaid work.
She was also made the subject of a 12-month supervision order and told to pay £85 costs plus a £65 victim surcharge.
After the case Mrs Williams, 39, of Alsager, Cheshire, said: “It has affected me deeply and caused me major anguish, distress and upset.
“It has made me aware there are people out there who will do things like this.”