Avoiding Liability Bulletin – July 2005

… Some practitioners have learned the hard way that they need to distinguish between ethical standards and laws. While a conflict between the two can occur in any number of areas of practice, I have seen a striking example in the area of confidentiality. If state laws require that confidentiality be kept, but ethical standards allow a breaking of confidentiality, therapists would, in my view, be wise to follow state law. In fact, many associations’ ethical standards provide that when there is a conflict, state law shall govern. With respect to the issue of AIDS/HIV, for example, does your state’s law require confidentiality even where the patient reveals that he or she is sexually active? Are there any exceptions? What about the ethical standards of your professional association – are they consistent with the law? Check this out now, before a serious mistake is made.

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Richard Leslie

Richard S. Leslie is an attorney and acknowledged expert on the interrelationship between law and the practice of marriage and family therapy and psychotherapy. Most recently, he was a consultant to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) and has written articles regarding legal and ethical issues for their Family Therapy Magazine. Prior to his work with AAMFT, Richard was Legal Counsel to the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) for approximately twenty-two years. While there, he also served as their director of Government Relations and tirelessly advocated for due process and fairness for licensees and applicants.

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