Court-Ordered Therapy and Confidentiality

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There is more than one type of situation in which a Court might order a person appearing before them to partake in therapy. And, while ordering a person into therapy might not be as desirable as someone agreeing to enter therapy voluntarily, the action of mandating therapy can bring about positive results.

Types of Court Mandated Therapy

The circumstances in which a Court might mandate participation in therapy can include arrests and/or incidents that involved police intervention including;

  • The abuse of alcohol including being arrested for drunk driving, disorderly conduct or domestic violence
  • The use of drugs including misdemeanors and/or felonies committed while a person was under the influence of an illicit substance
  • Incidents of domestic violence for behaviors that involve anger issues and physical abuse

Other non-police related situations where a Court might order participation in therapy involve family issues including;

  • Divorce
  • Child Custody
  • Suspected child abuse
  • Suspected domestic abuse; and
  • Mental health issues that have not risen to the level of an arrest, such as suicide or a lesser sever form of self-harm reported by a parent or teacher or community member

Informed Consent

All forms of therapy require the patient/participant to give informed consent. Informed consent means that the person being asked to engage in the therapeutic relationship with the therapist understands the process they are agreeing to participate in.

It is also important that the person agreeing to engage in therapy understand the purpose, duration and consequences of entering into this relationship. If at any time the patient/participant does not want to continue to engage in therapy, they must also be made aware of what the consequences of making that decision will encompass. For example, if a person is mandated into therapy by the Court connected to an arrest, conviction and sentencing and they refuse to agree to mandated therapy, will they then be subject to a jail sentence instead?


In a traditional therapeutic relationship, where the patient is voluntarily choosing to enter into therapy, confidentiality is of the utmost concern. For a person to feel comfortable sharing intimate concerns and details about themselves and their life, they need to know that the information they share will not be divulged to anyone. While there are some exceptions to this rule, it is rarely necessary for a therapist to invoke their right to break a client’s confidentiality.

However, in Court ordered therapy the Court has a vested interest in knowing if the person is making progress toward change and engaging in healthy behaviors. As such, it is likely that the participant will not have the same rights to complete confidentiality as those engaged in voluntary therapy. In addition, children under the age of 18 will have even lesser rights to confidentiality. In these situations, the parties must be advised that their work with the therapist will not be completely confidential.

The Court will, most likely, require the therapist to divulge information pertaining to the participants progress; emotionally, socially and behaviorally. The most effective way to achieve sharing the necessary and pertinent information is for the therapist to provide the Court with a report, summarizing the client’s progress on various issues of concern. This report is often delivered to the court in mandated time increments so as to inform the Court as to the persons progress on a regular basis and over a defined period of time.

The Possibility of Positive Change

While many might feel less than willing to participate in therapy that they have been mandated to attend, it is still possible for progress to be made. In the event that you find yourself in a situation involving mandated therapy, keep in mind that a great deal of good could come from addressing the issues that are currently relevant in your work, family or social life.

If you find yourself in need of assistance with this, or any other legal issue, please contact the law offices of Owen Hodge Lawyers. At Owen Hodge, we are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.

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