What is Therapist-Client Privilege?

Therapist-client privilege is a confidentiality agreement between a mental health professional and a client. The specific laws and guidelines regarding the boundaries of the agreement vary from region to region, and at best are somewhat murky. Therapist-client privilege is meant to give the patient some degree of security, so they will feel safe revealing intimate or personal details to their therapist.

Many places have strict rules governing the rights and responsibilities of health workers in terms of their patients’ privacy. These laws ensure that a patient’s personal data will be kept in strictest confidentiality, except in certain circumstances. The backbone of privilege laws is to encourage truthfulness in patients who may feel shamed or embarrassed when giving personal details. Clearly, the purpose of these laws is vital, as lies told to doctors or therapists can impede proper treatment.

There are boundaries to therapist-client privilege, specifically concerning evidence of illegal activity. Although the laws vary from place to place, most therapists are legally bound to report any information regarding certain acts, such as child abuse or suicide. Failure to report such information can lead to the loss of license to practice as well as possible criminal charges, so mental health professionals must be very aware of the particular laws in their area. Often, therapists will outline their legal responsibilities to their clients at their first meeting, so both parties are aware of the privacy strictures before treatment begins.

There are many things that are covered by therapist-client privilege, including some which may seem to be in a morally grey area. For instance, if a therapist has a client who carries on extra-marital affairs, this is information they generally must hold in confidence. If both parties in the marriage are clients of the therapist, an agreement may be reached at the beginning of treatment that allows the therapist to tell one spouse what the other has said, to avoid any conflict of interest.

Therapist-client privilege can be beneficial to both the client and the professional, but it remains a confusing issue in many circumstances. For instance, if a client has made a threat of violence, some counselors are forced to decide if the issue is serious enough to report to authorities. Where laws are murky, these decisions are often made on a case by case basis, and can be a great source of stress to both client and therapist.

For the most part, therapist-client privilege is a way to ensure the safety and privacy of a person seeking help. A great deal of trust is required for a therapist to be able to help clients, and the existence of laws and guidelines regarding privacy is vital to building and maintaining trusting relationships. While some therapist-client privilege laws are desperately in need of clarification, the system is considered helpful by many patients, therapists, and experts.

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Post 3

Crispety- The same is true for a psychology therapist. In relationship psychotherapy a psychologist therapist has to disclose child abuse or any form of domestic violence perpetrated on others in order to protect the current victims and potential victims.

This is similar to the clergy who may receive a confession and although the priest may absolve the church follower at the moment of confession they have a moral obligation to tell the authorities especially if the person is confessing to a murder.

The public safety trumps confidentiality law protection for these professions.

Post 2

BrickBack- I agree with you an attorney client privilege is sacred and this legal privilege needs to be protected.

The only exceptions to attorney client privilege involve declarations of harming one’s self or harming others.

Here the attorney confidentiality is no longer valid because the information has to be shared with authorities because if the acts of violence were carried out and it could be proven that the attorney had prior knowledge of this information they will be held liable and could receive criminal charges and disbarment from the state bar association.

Post 1

I just want to say that I think it would be a conflict of interest if an attorney represented both parties in a divorce because the attorney confidentiality is compromised.

The attorney client confidentiality would be not be adhered to because the strategy that the attorney has to provide one client is diametrically opposed to what he would have to do with the other party of the divorce.

One side would lose and it could really be a mess for the attorney. He or she would not be able to disclose any information to either party.

I don’t think an attorney would ever represent both sides of a case.

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