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The Therapist's Duty to Protect Victims of Domestic Violence: Where We Have Been and Where We Are Going

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After ten years of court decisions that have gradually broadened the scope of the psychotherapist's duty to protect potential victims from violence, California has recently passed legislation that limits liability only to those cases where a patient has made a specific threat to an identifiable victim. Although this legislation has articulated the appropriate clinical response in such situations, it may have created a false sense of security for therapists treating patients who are perpetrators or victims of family violence. Though some perpetrators of violence do make a specific verbal threat, therapists are likely to encounter many more who do not verbalize a threat, but nevertheless pose a serious danger to their family members. This article briefly discusses the recent history of the duty-to-protect issue and the violence prediction literature as they relate to domestic violence. Specific interventions are suggested for clinicians in cases where the violence potential is great but no specific threat is made by the client.

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: 1: Private practice, Sausalito, CA. 2: University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH.

Publication date: January 1, 1986

More about this publication?
  • Violence and Victims discusses theory, research, policy, and clinical practice in the area of interpersonal violence and victimization across such disciplines as psychology, sociology, criminology, law, medicine, nursing, psychiatry, and social work.

    The journal's 2014 Impact Factor is 0.858.
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