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Sharing Patient Data in Sexually Violent Predator Proceedings  

Author:  Kait Gilleran .; Georgia M. Winters.

Source: Volume 23, Number 04, June/July 2022 , pp.49-55(7)

Sex Offender Law Report

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In the United States, 20 states, the federal government, and the District of Columbia have some form of “sexually violent predator” (SVP) law allowing for the civil commitment of those deemed at high risk to sexually reoffend following completion of a prison sentence. Those who meet SVP criteria are mandated to participate in treatment that aims to reduce recidivism and prepare SVPs for community re-entry. But treatment is often disclosure-based and therefore potentially incriminating. Mental health professionals working with this population may be asked to disclose data gathered during therapy to aid in civil commitment proceedings (CCPs), the legality of which disclosure is supported under mandatory reporting laws established following the Tarasoff decision (Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California, 551 P.2d 334 (1976)). As such, the conduct of those professionals working with SVPs has significant psycho-legal implications for their patients. In this article, the authors present ethical considerations for mental health professionals working with SVP populations, specifically in the context of treatment and CCPs, and provide recommendations for ethical practice with this population.

Keywords: Tarasoff doctrine; Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct (EPPCC); Informed Consent; Confidentiality

Affiliations:  1: Fairleigh Dickinson University School of Psychology and Counseling; 2: Fairleigh Dickinson.

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