Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tarasoff and Duty to Warn in North Carolina

Title of Study:

Tarasoff and Duty to Protect in North Carolina


A. Keith Mobley & Eugene Naughton, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Source (Journal name, date of publication):

North Carolina Counseling Association (2011)

What was the purpose of this research?

This conceptual article reviews the Tarasoff case and its implications for counselors practicing in the state of North Carolina. Implications for preventing and reacting to possible dangerous clients are discussed.

If applicable, who were the participants, and what were they asked to do?


Major findings or points:

The Tarasoff Decision provided the basis for the “duty to warn” clause found in the ACA Code of Ethics and many state statutes. However, the state of North Carolina has not always held up the “duty to warn” ethic, as demonstrated by a number of court cases reported in this article. In particular, prior case law has required that mental health providers protect the health of the public when a client is under their control in a mental health facility. However, LPC’s lack the authority to involuntarily commit or release a client on the bases of his/her propensity for violence.

Major caveats:

Where a lack of legal guidance in NC supports a “duty to warn,” ACA clearly states this ethic’s importance. The authors provide several points that might assist clinicians in making proactive and reactive choices. However, the authors to not provide a one-size fits all answer to solving ethical issues. In the end, the practitioner’s ability to protect himself or herself is up to the discretion of the counselor and is subject to North Carolina law that does not have a cut and dry solution in regard to the counselor’s “duty to warn.”

What does this research mean for counseling practice, settings, and/or training?

Counselor educators and counselors alike can benefit from reading the proactive and reactive guidance provided by the authors. The authors explain the importance of informed consent, knowing your client, being able to detect violent clients, creating a plan for when violent clients arise, and for aligning appropriate professionals for consultation and supervision. In addition, steps for reactive services are also included which include reminding and including the client in situations where confidentiality may be broken, develop a safety plan for all parties involved, positioning key supervisors and legal consultants to aid in the decision-making process, and maintaining accurate and up-to-date paperwork to fully protect one’s clients and ability to practice counseling.


Tarasoff; Ethics; ACA; North Carolina case law; Duty to Warn

1 comment:

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