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Resources :: Guide :: Vulnerable and risk sensitive participants :: Risk-sensitive populations :: Specific threat :: Report

What Are My Responsibilities to Report a Threat?

Mental health care providers are legally responsible to report a threat.  The Code of Virginia defines a mental health care provider as the following:

  • certified substance abuse counselor
  • clinical psychologist
  • clinical social worker
  • licensed practical nurse
  • licensed substance abuse treatment practitioner
  • marriage and family therapist
  • mental health professional
  • mental health service provider
  • professional counselor
  • psychologist
  • registered nurse
  • school psychologist
  • social worker 

Although the code does not specifically list researchers, the participant may be considered a client or patient in your care. If the third party is a child, you have additional obligations to protect the child from physical and sexual abuse in general.  Please see Child Abuse for more information.

You are not held liable for failing to report a threat if one of the following apply:

  • Breaching confidentiality with the limited purpose of protecting third parties by communicating the threats made by your client to potential third party victims or law-enforcement agencies or by taking any of the actions below.
  • Failing to predict, in the absence of a threat, that the client would cause the third party serious physical harm.
  • Failing to take precautions other than those described below to protect a potential third party victim from the client's violent behavior.

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