'Doc, There's Something I Have To Tell You': Patient Disclosure to Their Psychotherapist of Unprosecuted Murder and Other Violence

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The current investigation examines the incidence of clients telling their psychotherapists of committing violent crimes for which they have not been prosecuted. Thirteen percent of the psychologists surveyed indicated that on at least one occasion a client self-disclosed to them during a psychotherapy session that he/she had murdered someone, not including the killing of another person in the line of duty in the military or as a public peace officer. One third of the psychologists had clients self-disclose an unprosecuted incident of a sexual assault, and more than two thirds had clients self-disclose an unprosecuted incident of a physical assault during a psychotherapy session. Data are reported on psychotherapists' views of the impact of such disclosures on the psychotherapy relationship, adequacy of being informed regarding legal obligations after hearing such reports of violence, and adequacy of graduate preparation to deal with these clinical situations.