Confidentiality and Duty to Warn: Ethical and Legal Implications for the Therapeutic Relationship

Presented by James R. Corbin, MSW, LSW on 10-09-2015 at 9 a.m. Pacific to 11 a.m. Pacific (2 p.m. Eastern)

What are the ethical and legal imperatives of client confidentiality and how do they impact the therapeutic relationship? Perhaps the relationship that exists between the mental health system and the law could be best described as “an uneasy alliance” (Melton, Petrila, Poythress, & Slobogin, 1997, p. 3). Many mental health professionals would consider themselves fortunate to avoid contact with a system whose laws and procedures often seem foreign to the therapeutic aims of their profession. On the other hand, attorneys and other professionals in the practice of law may view the mental health profession as a nebulous and somewhat unreliable science, particularly when it intersects with the legal system.

However, their shared history leaves little doubt that their present and future relationship is here to stay; the intersection between the mental health system and the law is unavoidable and can be one that is both mutually favorable and beneficial. Since Muller v. Oregon (1908, U.S. Supreme Court) and critical court decisions such as Brown v. Board of Education (1954, U.S. Supreme Court), evidence from the social sciences has been used in the judicial decision-making process (Levine & Wallach, 2002). For the clinician, a working knowledge of basic forensic social work can aid in navigating the system of law in a way that is both helpful and contributes to the best interest of the client.

Clinicians are ethically bound to preserve the confidentiality of communications between themselves and their clients; however, limits to confidentiality and privilege exist. This presentation will clarify the therapeutic, ethical, and legal issues surrounding confidentiality and privilege and discuss the related issues of therapeutic jurisprudence and forensic clinical practice. A discussion of case law will be presented to demonstrate the limits and bounds of confidentiality and privilege as found in various court decisions. A case vignette will illustrate the application of the laws and ethical imperatives of confidentiality and privilege when working with a blended family.

This intermediate, instructional level web conference is designed to help clinicians:

  1. Examine relevant ethical principles from the counseling professions related to confidentiality and duty to warn, as well as pertinent case law related to client privilege and confidentiality.
  2. Explain the duty to warn and the difference between client privilege and confidentiality.
  3. Analyze the term ‘therapeutic jurisprudence’ and understand the role of the forensic clinician.
  4. Determine the unique strengths and factors of risk in clinical work with blended families and custody/visitation disputes.
  5. Apply these ethical and practice standards as well as case law to clinical practice using several clinical case examples.

If you have any questions or concerns about this web conference, or would like more information, please contact us here.

Continuing Education (CE) Information

Two CE ethics credits will be provided by for attending this web conference in its entirety. is also an Approved Education Provider by NAADAC, The Association for Addiction Professionals (provider #135463). Of the eight counselor skill groups ascribed to by NAADAC, this course is classified within counseling services. is an NBCC-Approved Continuing Education Provider (ACEPTM) and may offer NBCC-approved clock hours for events that meet NBCC requirements. is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. maintains responsibility for this program and its content., SW CPE is recognized by the New York State Education Department's State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers #0395.

To receive CE credit hours for an archived event, you will need to complete a survey as well as a 12 or 15-question exam, verifying that you listened to or watched the event in its entirety. Archived CE events generally are considered "homestudy" by licensing boards.

Registration Information

Premium and Pro Membership with GoodTherapy includes access to this web conference at no additional cost, as well as other member benefits such as a profile listing in GoodTherapy's Therapist Directory. Not yet a member? Sign up for a Premium or Pro Membership, here.

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Mental health professionals who are not members can access the homestudy recording for $15.50. Sign up here to purchase this CE course and earn a CE certificate.

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Meet the Presenter

James R. Corbin, MSW, LSW

James R. Corbin, MSW, LSW

James Corbin is the co-developer of the Family Center at Temple—a counseling center for military service members and their families—where he is also the Clinical Director and Lead Clinician. Since 2008, he has served as a full-time clinical faculty member and instructor in the graduate school of social work at Temple University and was appointed in 2014 as Assistant Program Director in their School of Social Work. Most recently, he has developed an online Postgraduate Certificate in Military Counseling (CMC) for social workers, counselors, pastoral counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists, who are interested in developing a practice specialization with military populations. For more information on this program, go to the program's page on the Temple University website here or click on the link above.

James received his bachelor of arts degree in political science from Pennsylvania State University, his master’s degree in social work from Temple University, and completed his post-graduate studies at the Clinical Social Work Institute in Washington, D.C. He has worked for over 20 years in the mental health field and is a licensed social worker in Pennsylvania with a specialty in childhood mental illness and individual and family therapy with children, adolescents, and their families. â��He is a Give An Hour volunteer therapist and active member of the Harrisburg Regional Team of Operation Military Kids (OMK) and PACares, a regional networking team of military service providers. For more information about James and his work, please visit

Continuing Education Provider Approvals

  • is Approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. maintains responsibility for this program and its content.
  • Logo has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6380. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs.
  • Logo This course has been approved by, as a NAADAC Approved Education Provider, for educational credits. NAADAC Provider #135463. is responsible for all aspects of their programming.
  •, LLC is recognized by the New York State Education Department's State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers #SW-0395.
  •, LLC is recognized by the New York State Education Department's State Board for Mental Health Practitioners as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed marriage and family therapists #MFT-0022 and for licensed mental health counselors #MHC-0031.

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