Duty to Warn

Duty to Warn

Dutyto Warn


The denotes the obligation of a counselor to inform thirdparties or authorities if a client poses a threat to himself/herselfor to another identifiable individual. The legality was establishedin the Tarasoff case ruling by the California Supreme Court. The casefollowed after a therapist failed to inform a young woman of theimminent threat made by a patient. Subsequently, the young woman waskilled, and her family sued the therapist. gives thetherapist an entitlement towards breaching the confidentiality of aclient if it’s ascertained that the client possesses a threat tohis/her life or that of others. The legality also protects thecounselors and clinicians from prosecution, if the law finds out thatthe breaching of confidentiality was of benefit to the threatenedpersons. However, it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that clientintends to be malicious (Tarasoffv. Regents of the University of California et al., 1976).


RiskAssessment and the

Thepsychologist’s assessment of the danger that the client holds istermed as a risk assessment which is a key factor in strategies. The assessment is a continuous flowing process. Thepsychologist must investigate and track symptoms and signs ofpotential violence from a client’s first indication of intent toharm. This should continue right up through the very last therapysession, even if it seems that a client’s aggression has calmed.This is a delicate process that requires mindfulness on the part ofthe psychologist. In order to avoid accusations that put a client onthe defensive, the psychologist should engage the client in a mutualprocess of keeping all concerned safe from harm (Slovic et al., 1984)

CompetentRisk Assessment

Specificinformation should be gathered from a competent risk assessment. Suchspecific details include (Appelbaum,2007).

  1. Age of client- This is a key factor in determining the level of dangerousness that a patient possesses. Adults are likely to cause fatal harm as compared to children who might show a smaller scale threat.

  2. Sex of client- It is commonly believed that a male carries more strength than a female. Therefore, men are likely to cause serious harm than women, so their risk assessment might be different and should incorporate a very keen attention to detail.

  3. Immediate surroundings: If a client lives with a bigger family unit, he/she is likely to cause harm to many members of the family especially young innocent children. Thus, the family or neighbors should be prior warned of the imminent danger and children should not be left alone under any circumstances whatsoever.

  4. Health/Criminal History: If a client had a previous mental assessment, he/she has high chances of reflecting danger. Therefore, it is better to pay attention to his/her past. Criminals are more likely to engage in serious crime if their rehabilitation did not yield results.

  5. Health/mental status: Psychotic individuals cause a lot of harm. Thus it should come to the full attention of the clinician that the client needs immediate help before anything else.

Asa psychologist I can gather and use this information in two differentcircumstances:&nbsp

  1. In a hypothetical situation as the clinician in-charge: As the chief clinician, the sole responsibility of taking care of a client’s health condition should be the supreme purpose. Attention to the specific details should lead to risk assessment and therefore this should follow the correct medication and a check-on-progress. However, if a client’s shows intent to harm, the person (s) directly involved in the risk should be prior warned. It is a breach of confidentiality, but it makes sense in preventing any danger.

  2. &nbspIn a hypothetical situation as the clinician and not the decision maker: After accurate risk assessment, the client should be given a medical therapy. However, any danger that he/she possesses should be communicated to the relevant authorities who should seek to devise measures that would eventually prevent the life of others and the person involved in the assessment. Specific details should be handed into the authorities and this enough to contain harm.


TheTarasoff case ruling by the California Supreme Court. 1976. (Tarasoffv. Regents of the University of California)&nbsp

Slovic,P., Fischhoff, B., &amp Lichtenstein, S. (1984). Behavioral decisiontheory perspectives on risk and safety.&nbspActapsychologica,&nbsp56(1),183-203.

Appelbaum,P. S. (2007). Assessment of patients` competence to consent totreatment.&nbspNewEngland Journal of Medicine,&nbsp357(18),1834-1840.