Duty to Warn, Duty to Protect, And Duty to Control: The Exceptions to Mental Health Provider-Patient Confidentiality

This resource was created by SMI Adviser content partners and approved by the SMI Adviser clinical expert team for inclusion in the knowledge base.

This issue brief aims to define the contours related to clinician’s roles with regard to a “duty to protect” third parties who might be at risk at the hands of a patient or client of a mental health professional. It provides a historical overview of legal cases related to duty to protect and explains the parameters of the clinician’s ethical responsibility in performing assessments of violence risk.

An appendix to the issue brief outlines relevant statutes of each state regarding the clinician’s duty to protect. The statutes listed are valid as of February 18, 2020.

Additionally, SMI Adviser offers these answer cards to supplement the issue brief:

  1. What should I do if my patient expresses a risk of harm to others?
  2. When should I become concerned that a patient with delusions poses a risk to others?
  3. What was the key point of the 1976 California Supreme Court ruling in Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California?



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