Duty to Warn vs. Protect and Tarasoff…

27 Sep

Paul Herbert and Kathryn Young write a great article on Ethics and Legal responsibility.  This responsibility in the counseling profession was defined by the legal case “Tarasoff.”

The core innovation of Tarasoff was the creation of a new exception to psychotherapist-patient confidentiality. (Herbert & Young, 2002, p. 275)

This article, defines the difference between the duty to warn (which can breach confidentiality) versus the duty to protect (which can involve alternatives like involuntary commitment).  Understanding ethical/legal limits to confidentiality is an important part of the practical side of counseling.  I found the article while googling for ethics articles.  It is the clearest and most detailed article I’ve found on a very difficult topic.  I’ve included the link within the APA citation bellow 🙂

In Tarasoff, the court declared that “once a therapist does in fact determine, or under applicable professional standards reasonably should have determined, that a patient poses a serious danger of violence to others, he bears a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect the foreseeable victim of that danger” (Ref. 1, p 345). (Herbert & Young, 2002, p. 275)


Herbert, Paul B., & Young, Kathryn A. (2002). Tarasoff at Twenty-Five. The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. Retrieved May 6, 2010. http://www.jaapl.org/cgi/reprint/30/2/275.pdf

One Response to “Duty to Warn vs. Protect and Tarasoff…”

  1. Michael November 2, 2010 at 8:52 PM #


    eliminate involuntary treatment and commitment.

    I have no comment on Tarasoff. 🙂

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