Is a Therapist Required to Report My Crime?

SQ Attorneys

Mental health professionals typically have a duty to maintain doctor patient confidentiality with their clients under HIPAA. This confidentiality covers “privileged communications,” which are discussions between two individuals that involve confidential information. State laws generally recognize a doctor-patient privilege, and this extends to psychotherapists as well. Therefore, in most cases, what you talk about in a therapy session stays in the room.

There are limits to this privilege, however, and this duty of care can be overridden. Therapists are required to break confidentiality in many cases. When does client confidentiality end and public protection begin? Do psychiatrists and therapists have a duty to disclose patient information if a patient poses a threat?

Therapists typically have a duty to report threats when imminent harm is involved. Specifically, they usually have a duty to warn authorities about two main types of threats: threats of harm to others and threats of self-harm.

If a client discloses a plan to cause serious bodily harm to another identifiable person, the therapist is generally required to report this threat to the police. When a patient threatens to kill another person, the psychiatrist is no longer bound by their duty of confidentiality toward the patient. If the patient plans some sort of imminent attack or calamity, the psychiatrist or psychotherapist generally has a duty to disclose the information under most states’ laws. The therapist may also need to warn the intended victim or potentially affected parties directly.

If a client expresses serious intent to harm themselves and has a specific plan to do so, the therapist may need to take steps to intervene. This could include hospitalization or involving emergency services.

But it’s not always clear how this information should be disclosed, or to whom. For example, if a psychiatrist suspects that a patient plans to kill a particular person, should they tell that person? Or should they simply go to the police? It’s a tough call because a psychiatrist often hears about troubled thoughts. It’s not always easy to distinguish which ones pose a real threat and which can be treated through the medical process.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge (theft or otherwise), immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So, it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer. SQ Attorneys can be reached at (425) 359-3791 and/or (206) 441-0900.

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