A number of years ago I was working with a group of homeless women and men. One of the members of the group, Jake, came in and boasted about killing a guy. Jake was a white supremacist migrant from Oregon who turned tricks and shot up crank. He had not actually killed anyone, but he did send the guy to the hospital. They had gotten into an altercation on a bus when Jake stabbed the guy. Jake's buddies counseled him to keep his antics to himself lest someone call the cops. His story showed up in the news the following day.
When I later retold the tale to a friend she was appalled that I did not turn Jake in myself. She thought it would to him good to cool his jets behind bars. I disagreed with her assessment. Behind bars he would spend his time with a bunch of like-minded white supremacists learning how to become a more hardened crook. In the wider world he would have a greater variety of people and experiences from which to learn and grow.
This case came to mind when I listened to Toby Watson describe his practice in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. In a podcast interview he advocates a form of civil disobedience against mandated reporting laws for psychotherapists. He describes a few cases where he acted counter to the requirement for licensed therapists to call the cops when a client describes violent tendencies. In making his stand public he makes himself vulnerable to bullying by the bad boyz. It is tantamount to posting dissident theses on a church door.
Watson makes some pretty good points in the interview. His goal is to benefit his clients by getting them to take more responsibility for their actions. He sees the medicalization of violent conduct as an approach that tends to prevent perpetrators from moving beyond institutional dependency. His approach to deinstitutionalization seems to have some merit. I only hope he is not derailed by the big guns who risk the loss of funding were his work to become popular.
What is your perspective on mandated reporting laws with respect to psychotherapy? Are they important for public safety? Or are they a manifestation of totalitarianism to be resisted by conscientious professionals?