Protecting the Campus Community
Psychologists adhere to a strict code of ethical and legal responsibility to protect the confidentiality of clients. This strict protection of clients' personal information is the key to any productivity in counseling work. The code is more stringent than the confidentiality responsibilities of medical personnel, housing, administrators and faculty. One of the reasons why psychologists might break confidentiality is in the case that a client is viewed as imminently dangerous to self or others.
Imminent danger/imminent threat means that an impending or immediate threat of serious, life-threatening injury or harm to self or others is highly probable in the next 24 hours.
A clinician goes through a complex system of assessment and decision making to determine if a student is an imminent threat. In addition to taking into account the person's clinical and personal history, this process involves assessing someone's explicit or implicit intent to harm, plan to harm, means to harm and risk factors associated with harming oneself or others. In addition to a thorough clinical interview with a client to gather this information, the clinician consults with the director of the counseling center and other pertinent counseling center or psychiatric staff before confidentiality is broken and outside individuals are notified that a student is imminently in danger. If the assessment of the student occurs on a Friday, a safety plan is instituted for the weekend.
If the clinician and director have reason to believe that a student is engaging in or is likely to engage in conduct that constitutes, contributes to or results in a serious and imminent risk to self or someone else, the clinician will contact appropriate legal or medical authorities in order to ensure the student's safety and the safety of others.