Duty to Warn: No One Commits a Crime Without Thinking About It First

When you have a client who begins to get upset and you feel that he or she may act out in session, what do you do?

In recent years, duty to warn has been receiving increased attention following public tragedies and mass shootings such as Aurora, Colorado. We know that when a clinician is vigilant in recognizing and managing clients with violent behaviors, it can contribute to the appropriate handling of dangerous situations and minimize risk to themselves, patients, their families, coworkers, and the community as a whole.

As a frontline clinician who specializes in the treatment of personality disorders, managing clients with violent tendencies is a central concern. Some personality disorders are at a higher likelihood to harm others and put their mental health provider at risk, but not all personality disorders or those with mental illness are going to be violent and raise the “duty to warn” question.

Because the issue of duty to warn is complex, it’s important to review and understand the specific requirements for the state you practice in. And while duty to warn requirements may vary, the steps to take to protect yourself to manage and avoid in-session violence and threats are universal.

It does not matter if you are a novel or seasoned therapist, threat identifiers are not always searchlights, but often times tiny flashlights.

When the issues of in-session violence and threats do arise; are you prepared? In my book, Antisocial, Borderline, Narcissistic, & Histrionic Workbook: Treatment Strategies for Cluster B Personality Disorders (coming Fall 2015), I developed steps and strategies to keep you, your clients, and others safe. I invite you to learn about some of my personal experiences with duty to warn by watching the video below, and downloading the worksheet How to Manage and Avoid In-Session Violence and Threats.


Download the Worksheet:
How to Manage and Avoid In-Session Violence and Threats


This blog was brought to life by Daniel J. Fox, Ph.D. 

Daniel J. Fox, Ph.D. has been treating and specializing in the treatment and assessment of individuals with personality disorders for the last 14 years in the state and federal prison system, universities, and in private practice. He is a licensed psychologist in the state of Texas and has published several articles on personality, ethics, and neurofeedback. He is the author of The Clinician’s Guide to Diagnosis and Treatment of Personality Disorders. His specialty areas include personality disorders, ethics, and neurofeedback.

Six Steps of the Self-Mutilation Sequence

Join Daniel J. Fox, Ph.D., as he talks about self-sabotage and self-mutilation. Get the worksheet “Six Steps of the Self-Mutilation Sequence” to help you significantly decrease the probability of your client’s self-mutilating.



Download the Self-Mutilation Sequence Worksheet


This blog was brought to life by Daniel J. Fox, Ph.D. 

Daniel J. Fox, Ph.D. has been treating and specializing in the treatment and assessment of individuals with personality disorders for the last 14 years in the state and federal prison system, universities, and in private practice. He is a licensed psychologist in the state of Texas and has published several articles on personality, ethics, and neurofeedback. He is the author of The Clinician’s Guide to Diagnosis and Treatment of Personality Disorders. His specialty areas include personality disorders, ethics, and neurofeedback.

Treating Clients with Personality Disorders: Enhance the Strengths, Not the Weaknesses

When we overlook the client’s strengths in our treatment plans, we treat only a portion of our client and unintentionally distance ourselves from treating the whole person.

We tend to spend the majority of our time in treatment focusing on our clients’ weaknesses. While this is an important part of treatment, it leaves out a vital part of our clients: their strengths.

When we overlook the client’s strengths in our treatment plans, we treat only a portion of our client and unintentionally distance ourselves from treating the whole person.

Most individuals with a personality disorder come in with an overwhelming amount of weaknesses or areas of concern. As we progress in treatment we identify triggers and core content that promotes maladaptive patterns of behaviors that cause our clients to disrupt their lives. Bringing weaknesses into awareness should only be 10% of the treatment process; the other 90% is building on their strengths to overcome their weaknesses.

How can we ensure we highlight each patient’s strengths?

A worksheet has been created to help you work with your clients to identify their strengths. Download the worksheet – it has six strategies to help your client enhance their strengths in difficult situations. Next, watch the short video to learn the three categories of strengths. Understanding these categories will help you maximize your ability to identify and build upon your client’s strengths.


Get 6 strategies to help your client enhance their strengths in difficult situations.

Download: Strength Enhancement Worksheet



This post was written by the nationally recognized expert Dr. Daniel J. Fox.

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