Thursday, February 6, 2014

Duty To Warn

The Duty to Warn/ Protect is a very controversial issue amongst mental health professionals. Every state in the nation have different positions on the issue. Where do you stand?

If a client informs you that they have a plan to harm someone else, do you have the duty to warn that person? A famous case out of California:
Tarasoff V. Regents of the University of California introduced this concept in 1976. A therapist was helping a patient who ended up stalking and killing someone but the therapist did not warn this victim and could have saved her life. Many mental health professionals believe that there is a fine line when in comes to warning someone of harm because it could be a false threat and it could easily break the confidentiality and progress of treatment. How do you know if an oral threat will become a behavioral threat?

Not all states have a duty to warn but it's ethically important for us to inform the correct authorities and/or those in danger should we find out that there is a real threat to our patient or others. The map below is from The National Conference of State Legislators and clearly states which states are required to warn:

What is your states policy?

Check out this link from The National Conference of State Legislators

Click here to read more about the Tarasoff v. Regents case

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