The Duty To Warn Doctrine:  The Statute Is Only As Effective As The Circumstances Allow


The Duty To Warn Doctrine is the other side of the Duty To Protect Doctrine.

The former indicates that a patient has stated in a therapy session to the therapist the intention to commit a harmful act against someone, and the therapist has many remedies at their disposal to reduce the likelihood of harm coming toward the intended victim.  The latter indicates that the therapist has created a safe environment for therapy sessions, has a secure office for patient records, will provide the best therapy allowed, the therapist will behave with professionalism, and yes, there is that patient-doctor confidentiality.

In America where the statute allows the Duty To Warn Doctrine (in the most robust language possible and with clarity), a therapist can throw out the patient-doctor confidentiality because the therapist has a legal obligation (the first line of defense) to contact the intended victim’s family, the intended victim, and the police (in that correct order) to prevent a Tarasoff situation.  The therapist can place the patient on a rigorous schedule of outpatient visits for therapy.  Also, the therapist can have the patient hospitalized.  

The caveat:  A therapist is not liable when the patient is maintaining routine visits for therapy, taking prescribed medications (when the diagnosis necessitates prescriptions), the diagnosed condition appears to be lessening, there are no outward signs of disturbing behaviors (i.e., the therapist observing patient’s behaviors–mental & emotional), and yet goes out and harms someone anyway.  Scenarios outside of and after a therapist’s office session can explain why a patient will go out and physically harm someone (i.e., set them off), after having what appeared to be a successful health appointment with a therapist.

There is no predictability when a patient will go out and harm others in society when they have not made any indication of the sort  to the therapist in a therapy session even remotely (i.e., verbal, written correspondence, harassment, etc.)

A therapist can experience disappointment in this type of situation, but that disappointment is a long walk from the therapist being held negligent for what they are not responsible for.


Mental Health Services Can Only Do So Much

It’s necessary that people become aware earlier rather than later that they have a family member with a potential mental health disability and get them into treatment as soon as possible. This precautionary measure can avoid harm coming to members of society, and that family member having disputes with law enforcement authorities.

Members of the criminal justice system need to determine if they’re protecting law-abiding members of society, or criminals who actually belong in prison receiving psychiatric treatment.


September is Self-Awareness Month

“Self awareness is having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions” (Pathway to Happiness, 2017).  Also, the concept provides us the ability to gain comprehension about others, their perceptions of us, our dispositions and interactions with them (Pathway to Happiness).

The following is an excellent resource on self awareness:

[Video] Roy Baumeister – What is Self Awareness?




The Trayvon Martin Case and Pathologies

There are several elephants in the room.  Let’s explore them.


  • History Revisited.  Since the 1980’s, there’s been a culture, a mindset, a philosophy, which has swept over American youths: Rap/Hip-Hop–The music, drugs, language, clothes, weapons, drive-by shootings, and horrific gang initiations. Fortunately, not all young people subscribe to the ideology.  Those who have live in juvenile detention facilities, then moved into adult prisons.
  • Personal History. The deceased was suspended from school repeatedly, used drugs, wanted a gun, engaged in physical altercations, and used abominable language towards and about others.   Why wasn’t he under the care of a psychiatrist?
  • Societal Menace. The question isn’t Why did George Zimmerman get out of his car, but instead Why was the deceased outside during evening hours in the first place without parental supervision? 
  • Skill Deficiencies. Because the deceased lived in a crime-ridden neighborhood, and wasn’t under parental supervision, constructive skills to defuse situations would have gone a long way. When confronted by Zimmerman, the deceased merely had to say Talk to my father.
  • Limited Worldview. Parents have to socialize their children beginning at a young age, getting them into the world, where they become involved in activities with diverse groups.  The process needs reinforcing until adulthood.   Youth will experience a stunted personal development if parents fail to provide this necessity. Clearly, the deceased only knew his front and back doors.
  • Rachel Jeantel.  Only her former educators can address if she’s an example of voluntary illiteracy.  She and the deceased were contemporaries on so many levels.
  • Irony. People nurturing conflict, making threats, engaging in physical and verbal altercations against others because of this case, are unwittingly participants of the culture which has permeated American society for over thirty years.  They, too, can be considered societal menaces.
  • Playing the victim. It’s one thing to be a victim, and another to play the role.  When a victim regains their life and engages in constructive pursuits, society respects them. Society doesn’t respect the victim. Society feels sorry for the victim.  In fact, when the role is played too long, society views the individual with contempt.  Respect and sorrow are mutually exclusive entities.
  • Acceptance. Many parents have buried offspring from gang violence.  Where are the mass demonstrations in the hundreds of thousands across America every year?
  • Acceptance. Many parents have buried offspring from gang violence.  Where are their voices in Congressional hearings, demanding clothing lines and music labels associated with the culture get shut down?
I look forward to your comments.