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Does the psychotherapist-patient privilege apply to Stephen Collins' confessions of child molestation?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Oct 22, 2014 | 0 Comments

Television actor Stephen Collins has been making headlines recently--due to the media release of a tape recording in which he confesses to molesting several underage girls.

From a criminal defense attorney's perspective, the most interesting thing about the recording is where and how it was made.

Collins' wife made the recording without his knowledge and then released it to the media. AND she made the recording while she and Collins were in a session with a therapist.

Normally, confessions like the one Collins made to his therapist would be protected by the psychotherapist-patient privilege. This important evidentiary privilege protects confidential communications between a patient and his/her therapist.

As the patient in that relationship, Collins may have the right to prevent the recording from being used as evidence against him in any criminal proceedings arising from the possible molestation.

It is true that the psychotherapist-patient privilege only protects confidential communications with a therapist. In this case, Collins' wife was present for the therapy session.

But if her presence was supposed to be aid the therapeutic purposes of the session (if it was couples therapy, for example), then anything Collins said to her and the therapist may still be considered confidential--and protected by the privilege.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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