How serious should the potential harm be for a clinical psychologist to break confidentiality to provide a warning?
The decision to break confidentiality should be made based on an assessment of the potential harm that could occur if confidentiality is maintained. Generally, the potential harm should be serious and imminent. This means that the psychologist believes that
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Examples of situations where a psychologist may need to break confidentiality to provide a warning include:
If the client is at risk of suicide or self-harm
If the client is at risk of harming others
If the client is unable to care for themselves due to a mental or physical condition
If the client is at risk of being abused or neglected
If the client is engaged in criminal activity that poses a danger to themselves or others.
In such situations, the psychologist must follow the relevant laws and ethical guidelines for reporting and disclosing information. They must also weigh the potential harm of breaking confidentiality against the potential harm of not doing so.
It is important to note that breaking confidentiality should not be taken lightly and should only be done when necessary to prevent serious harm. The psychologist should also communicate clearly with the client about the limits of confidentiality from the outset of the therapeutic relationship.