People V.  Garcia: NASW-CA Joins in an Amicus Brief

In December 2014, NASW and the California Chapter joinedgavel in an amicus brief – friend of the court brief -with the California Psychiatric Association in the case of People v. Garcia.  The issue in this case addresses the scope of the psychotherapist-patient privilege and whether it is appropriate to require a mandatory waiver of the psychotherapist-patient privilege as a condition of probation for individuals convicted of sexual offenses.  A waiver in those instances requires that the confidential information disclosed by the client in therapy be reported to the probation department (law enforcement). 

NASW’s participation in this amicus brief supports its mission of promoting high standards of professional practice in the area of clinical social work. NASW’s policy statement, “Confidentiality and Information Utilization”, states that social workers are expected to fully inform clients “about the implications of sharing personal information, including the ethical and legal obligations of the social workers to respect privacy and protect the confidentiality and legal constraints and limitations that impinge on both the client and the social worker.”  NASW, Social Work Speaks 61, 65 (2006). NASW also supports “policies and practices that promote respect for confidential information exchanged by colleagues in the course of their professional relationships and transactions when collaboration is required and appropriate.” NASW, Social Work Speaks 60, 62 (2012).

NASW supports the review of the California Court of Appeals’ decision that requires a mandatory waiver of the psychotherapist-patient privilege as a condition of probation for individuals convicted of sexual offenses since it presents an issue of substantial importance to its members and to other mental health professionals throughout the country. If the decision is allowed to stand, it will have adverse consequences on social workers and other mental health professionals, as well as the clients they treat.

The amicus brief filed in People v. Garcia can be found in the NASW Legal Defense Fund brief database at www.socialworkers.org/ldf/brief_bank/default.asp#387

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