Client confidentiality and confessing to murder

If you are a clinical psychologist and your client confesses to past violent physical or sexual behaviour, even murder, what would you do? This a question that all clinical psychologists may be confronted with at some point during the careers, and for many this will be on multiple occasions. Yet according to Walfish, Barnett, Marlyere, and Zielke (2010), approximately 1/5 of psychologists are unclear about how to handle such situations. The latter is particularly worrying, and questions whether graduate training programmes are failing to prepare some individuals for the harsh reality of clinical practice.

Walfish, S., Barnett, J., Marlyere, K., and Zielke, R. (2010). “Doc, There’s Something I Have To Tell You”: Patient Disclosure to Their Psychotherapist of Unprosecuted Murder and Other Violence. Ethics and Behavior, 20 (5), 311-323 DOI: 10.1080/10508422.2010.491743

Christian Jarrett has blogged about this study in the British Psychological Society’s research digest

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