Should psychologists and priests break confidentiality trust with clients on request by the police?
Should priests and psychologists and other mental health professionals break confidence with their clients on request by the police? In short, yes. This is no big deal as human rights practice dictates that one ought to have the confidence to discuss private matters in a safe environment free from threats. Break confidence with your therapist or psychologist and you may find yourself facing criminal prosecution.
The First Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees an individual the right to speak freely and express self-expression. It also guarantees freedom of religion, press, and association. In essence, it guarantees an individual the right to hold various opinions without fearing public retribution or penalties. These are the freedoms that give us the ability to write, speak, and act without limitations. Yet, in the case of human rights, one person may abuse these freedoms in a way that endangers the safety and well being of another.
When a criminal psychologist or priest breaks confidence with their professional, they may be subject to criminal sanction. There are laws in place that protect mentally healthy professionals from becoming criminal co-conspirators in the cases of their clients. Psychologists and priests who assist detectives in a criminal case may have to disclose information that will affect a case. Even when not accused of wrongdoing, a professional may inadvertently create a volatile situation that will jeopardize the safety of a client. For example, if a priest tells a client that his girlfriend had been stabbing herself in the stomach, this could have an effect on the safety of the man and the woman.
If a psychologist or priest is perceived to be aiding or abetting a crime, they may be charged with a crime. If they knew that a crime was going to occur but failed to report this information, they may be criminally prosecuted. The professional’s criminal record will then appear on the sex offender registry for the life of the sentence imposed upon the person convicted. This means that they could be required to be on the sex offenders list for the rest of their lives.
Priests are allowed to participate in sex crimes assessments for their clients; however, they must not disclose any information that would influence their diagnosis or decision in any way. Should psychologists or priests discuss details of the crime with their clients, they must make sure that they use absolute discretion. They should inform their clients of the consequences that may result from their decisions. Some of which include their possible removal from their offices or firing from their jobs. However, they should make every effort to inform their patients of the reasons for their decisions and the benefits and risks inherent in these decisions.
Although most people understand that it is vital to keep personal matters between yourself and your therapist confidential, they may be surprised by what the law states regarding psychologists and priests. priests are required to keep information about their private conversations and cases involving minors private, unless they are engaging in therapy with the victim and his/her family. In cases involving molestation or child abuse, professionals are required by law to immediately report any evidence of this to the proper authorities. If it is determined that a professional failed to do so, he or she could be subject to discipline from their licensing board.
There are many different scenarios when psychologists and priests may find themselves in sticky situations. For example, it may be necessary to consult private detectives in order to get information that has not been disclosed by their clients. This can be extremely dangerous, as the professionals involved in such cases may be required to reveal any information that leads to identifying the identity of the victim or finding a way to minimize the impact of a criminal conviction. Unfortunately, many victims of child sexual abuse feel that if they talk to a psychologist or a priest, they will jeopardize their chances of getting a settlement or justice.
The consequences of revealing information to criminals who are engaged in crimes against children would be dire. While therapists can certainly try to work within the confines of confidentiality, it is important for them to remember that what they have to share with these professionals is very private information. It would be highly unethical for professionals to reveal information obtained in therapy sessions. If therapists begin to share information obtained from therapy sessions with the police, they could face serious consequences.