Informed consent for psychotherapy: a look at therapists' understanding, opinions, and practices

Am J Psychother. 2003;57(3):384-400. doi: 10.1176/appi.psychotherapy.2003.57.3.384.


Forensic experts agree that the doctrine of informed consent now applies to psychotherapy. The optimum level of detail and content in this interaction remains nebulous. This study examines opinions and practices of therapists. The authors administered a survey regarding this subject to 231 psychotherapists. Six scales were constructed from this survey. High scores on these scales suggest more positive opinions regarding the application of the doctrine of informed consent to psychotherapy. Psychiatrists scored significantly lower on the Informed Consent (p = 0.005), Written Consent (p < 0.001), and Self-Disclosure (p = 0.026) scales than other types of therapists (suggesting a more negative opinion of the application of this doctrine to psychotherapy). Interpersonal therapists scored significantly higher than psychodynamic psychotherapists on the Informed Consent (p = 0.003) and Patient (p = 0.003) scales. Psychodynamic psychotherapists scored significantly lower than therapists with different modalities on the Written Consent scale. This paper suggests that opinions and practices of informed consent for psychotherapy vary with the characteristics of the therapist. More research in this area could serve as a guide for therapists embarking on the process of informed consent or for professional organizations who wish to establish guidelines.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatry / standards*
  • Psychotherapy*