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Alicia_MSW
Alicia_MSW, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Specializing in mental health counseling
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Does a psychiatrist have to report the potential of his patient

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Does a psychiatrist have to report the potential of his patient to harm others. If so, to whom do they make the report. Do they have to notify the potential victim?
Hello,

Thanks for your question. I'm happy to help you. In many states, most mental health professionals - including psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists, etc - are obligated to report situations to the authorities - i.e. the police and other law enforcement - when a patient states or insinuates that he/she wants to harm someone else. But a few states don't have this requirement (see attached link). The professional is also responsible for advising the potential victim - if that information is available. This is known as the duty to warn. It is a bit complex because every state makes their own regulations, and the psychiatrist must decide whether the danger is imminent. You may find this website helpful if you want some more detailed information regarding the law and the differences between the duty to warn requirements for states:
http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/health/mental-health-professionals-duty-to-warn.aspx

Hope that helps.
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