The privilege study: an empirical examination of the psychotherapist-patient privilege.

North Carolina law review 07/1982; 60(5):893-942.
Source: PubMed
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    ABSTRACT: Confidentiality is widely considered to be of great importance in psychotherapy. With few exceptions, the breaching of confidentiality is an ethical violation and grounds for litigation. One such exception is the mandated reporting of known or suspected child abuse, representing a legally sanctioned limitation of confidentiality. Because clients generally expect unlimited confidentiality in therapeutic relationships, many therapists have begun to "forewarn" clients as a matter of informed consent. This research report: (a) briefly reviews issues surrounding mandatory reporting and confidentiality as they relate to forewarning, (b) defines and discusses forewarning as contrasted with "informing," (c) examines state statutes, case law and ethical guidelines relevant to forewarning, and (d) presents a survey of 428 mental health providers (MHPs) on their forewarning practices in which 36.9% forewarned all clients, 36.4% informed clients only upon suspicion of abuse, and 20.6% informed only after receiving a disclosure of abuse. The implications of these findings are discussed.
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    ABSTRACT: All 51 jurisdictions in the United States require physicians to report suspected child abuse. In most jurisdictions, reporting requirements override both confidentiality and privilege associated with the physician-patient relationship. The authors review the literature relevant to the conflict between privacy and reporting abuse and report the results of a national survey of therapists at sex offender treatment units. They discuss ethical problems experienced under these statutes by therapists who attempt to provide treatment for sex offenders, and by therapists who are required to report past instances of child abuse even when there is no evidence of ongoing abuse.
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    ABSTRACT: This study explored relations between willingness to disclose in 5 psychotherapy scenarios and 2 independent variables (privilege condition and previous therapy experience). Scenarios involved suicidal, gravely disabled, physically abusive, and sexually abusive patients, and a police officer patient who shot a suspect. For each of the 5 scenarios, participants in the privilege condition had significantly higher willingness-to-disclose scores than participants in the non-privilege condition. There were no significant differences between willingness-to-disclose scores of participants with and without therapy experience; neither was there a significant interaction between privilege condition and therapy experience. Privilege condition was more predictive of willingness to disclose than personal characteristics or therapy experience. Results provide empirical support for the U.S. Supreme Court's recognition of the psychotherapist-patient privilege in Jaffee v. Redmond (1996).
    Ethics & Behavior 02/2003; 13(4):385-400. · 0.78 Impact Factor