Avoiding Liability Bulletin – November 2005

… I once received a call from an angry patient who asked whether a therapist was permitted by law to physically strike a patient. When I replied: “it depends,” the patient was rather taken aback, to put it mildly. Some time later, I learned that the therapist had been charged by the licensing board with striking the patient and that the therapist ultimately prevailed when it was shown that the striking was warranted under the circumstances.

While the facts in this case involved the patient going “out of control” in the therapist’s office (knocking over lamps, pushing, screaming, breaking glass), there may be other cases where the patient more directly attacks the therapist physically, forcing the therapist to vigorously defend himself/herself. Not really very “light” stuff after all!

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About the Author

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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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