What Reasonable Therapists Need to Do to Protect the Public
What Reasonable Therapists Need to Do to Protect The Public (and Protect Themselves from Legal Liability) when they have a Potentially Violent Patient
- Make an assessment of the patient’s potential for violence. The four important dimensions are: type of harm, seriousness of harm, imminence of harm, likelihood of harm.
- Determine how real the threat is. This is usually based on: the patient’s past history of violence, the patient’s ability to control his impulses, and use of alcohol and drugs.
- Take some appropriate action.
What is appropriate action obviously varies under the circumstances. It can include:
- Changing the patient’s treatment program.
- Requesting that the patient agree to be hospitalized (voluntary commitment).
- Trying to get the authorities to involuntarily commit the patient.
- Warn the potential victim, or warn others who can warn the victim.
- Advise the police with jurisdiction where the victim is or where the patient may be.
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