Psychologists find it difficult to balance their clients’ and society’s interests when these interests differ from each other, such as when their clients pose a risk of harm to others. Society’s increasing preoccupation with harm makes their task even more difficult. The first aim with this article is to determine the reactions of those who make, enforce, and use law to address society’s concerns and how they impact on psychologists. The second aim is to propose how the profession can assist psychologists deal with the competing demands prompted by these reactions.
A legal‐ethical analysis was used to identify the reaction of governments, the judiciary, and investigators, followed by a proposal setting out how the profession could assist psychologists respond to the reaction of these entities.
Society sets high privacy standards, but has paradoxically simultaneously been weakening its protection of aspects of individuals’ privacy. Governments, the judiciary, and investigators for instance expect psychologists to play a more active role in protecting individuals, property, and the public from harm. This makes it difficult for psychologists to determine how to balance their clients’ and society’s interests while maintaining their trust. The situation requires the profession to help psychologists manage these challenges.
The profession and psychologists run the risks of losing the trust of society and/or the public or sections thereof if they do not find the appropriate balance between these societal expectations and their clients’ autonomy and privacy. The profession can and should assist psychologists manage this challenge.