The American court system recognizes that some relationships deserve legal protection so that the parties can be sufficiently open with each other. For example, a client must feel comfortable with his or her attorney to share all information that may be relevant to the case, spouses must be able to be completely open with each other, Catholic priests cannot violate the sanctity of confession, and the patient must be able to that. To tell their doctor everything that is wrong with them, even if it is due to drug use or sexual abuse. In the same vein, a patient’s confidentiality must be ensured when speaking to a mental health professional, otherwise they will not be open and honest and, therefore, will not be able to get the help they need. As a result, therapists, psychologists, and counselors are not supposed to disclose any information about patients to spouses, police officers, or others. However, there are exceptions, and therapists can break confidentiality to report criminal activities to the police when they could help protect someone, including the patient, from danger.
What therapists are required to report?
In most cases, the psychiatrist is not required to report past Crimes. Even if you admit to your therapist that you are guilty of multiple robberies, rapes, or murders, therapists cannot report this information to the police, because it would violate patient confidentiality laws if they did. For example, if you tell your therapist that you want to rape the girl next door, the therapist should report this information to the police or the victim if they believe you can realistically follow through on these urges.
In criminal cases, these restrictions on therapist confidentiality are not limited to the parties who are initially provided with the information. So in the previous example, if you later rape a different teenage girl, the psychologist might be asked to testify about what you said about your desires since they had already made this information known when they told the police or the girl’s parents.
What past crimes should a therapist report to the police?
In most cases, the psychiatrist is not required to report past Crimes. Even if you admit to your therapist that you are guilty of multiple robberies, rapes, or murders, therapists cannot report this information to the police, because it would violate patient confidentiality laws if they did. If they think there’s evidence you might do it again, they can.
So, for example, if you tell your therapist that you killed someone, they can help you work through the trauma of the experience and resolve the anger issues that caused it, but they can’t legally tell the police. However, if you say tell your psychiatrist about this experience and then you start telling him about your hatred for your next-door neighbor and say you want to shoot him in the face, he may be asked to report it to the authorities or your neighbor if he feels this way. The threat is real and credible.
While the therapist does not have to report past crimes in most cases, there are exceptions when it comes to abuse and other crimes against children, the disabled, or the elderly. If a counselor believes that someone has abused or neglected a child, dependent adult, or elderly individual, they must report the crime. They must also report anyone they reasonably suspect has intentionally viewed or downloaded child pornography.
What can a therapist choose to report?
Mental health professionals are known as mandatory reporters, which means they must report situations in which patients are at risk of abuse or are likely to commit crimes against others. In other cases, the decision is ultimately up to them and should be based on the facts at hand and how realistic it is that the patient will be exposed to physical, sexual or emotional harm. The therapist may choose to break confidentiality when his or her patient discusses:
Suicidal thoughts are a sensitive issue for mental health professionals. They want patients to feel safe about discussing their feelings but still want to protect those who may actually harm themselves. When clients express thoughts about harming themselves, the therapist should consider their risk factors and take action only if the client demonstrates a high-risk imminent threat of suicidal behavior. At this stage, they may seek a higher level of care, including institutionalization.
If the patient is a minor under the age of 16 and the therapist has reason to believe that he or she is the victim of a crime, the therapist may He chooses To break patient confidentiality and report the crime if they believe it is in the patient’s best interest. For example, if a therapist suspects that a minor’s stepfather is harassing her, he or she can contact children’s services and the police and report his suspicions. On the other hand, if a teenage boy says he was sexually assaulted years ago by an ex-boyfriend, the psychologist may choose to focus on helping him heal rather than reporting the crime to the police or the boy’s parents.
What about crimes in which a psychiatrist is involved?
A mental health professional is not required to keep discussions confidential if a patient tries to use them to commit a crime or has a crime committed against them. For example, if a psychiatrist believes a patient is faking ADHD to get a prescription for Adderall abuse, the doctor is no longer bound by confidentiality laws.
Likewise, if a patient attempts to rob or assault their therapist, they can provide this information to the police and testify in court about the crime.
What should you never tell your doctor?
Therapists must report you to the police if they think what you say suggests that you will harm another person, that you have intentionally downloaded or viewed child pornography, or that you have previously abused a child, disabled person or elderly adult. As a result, it is best to avoid telling them about any criminal activities you plan to commit in the future, any interest you have in child pornography, or any past abuse you have committed against a child, disabled person, or elderly adult.
The laws determining when therapists must report crimes are complex, so if you’re not sure whether a topic should be off-limits, don’t say anything that might get you in trouble without talking to a defense attorney first. If you would like to seek treatment for these problems, it may be advisable to use a pay phone to call a counseling hotline or an anonymous online treatment service. However, remember that you need to make efforts to keep your identity private when using these services and you should use a pseudonym and avoid providing personal information such as your credit card number or address.
Waiver of therapist confidentiality for criminal defense
Sometimes, it may be in your best interest to waive your right to psychological confidentiality in criminal cases. For example, if you and your attorney decide to make your mental condition part of your defense strategy, your psychiatrist may be called as a witness. While attorneys rarely rely on the insanity defense, a claim of diminishment of fact is a common partial defense (meaning it will entitle you to reduced charges or a reduced sentence) for those who do not have a specific intent to commit a crime due to their mental condition.
You can always discuss crimes with your lawyer without worrying about him calling the police. You can schedule a free initial consultation with attorney Peter M. Liss by calling (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024.