Consent and psychotherapy

(See E Consent in Chapter 4, pp. 113-15.)

Consent in medical practice generally

It is unlawful to carry out medical treatment without consent, which must be given voluntarily by a person who has capacity to do so. Persons who lack capacity may undergo treatment in the absence of consent, if it is in their best interests and they are not resisting treatment (see the 2007 amendment to the Mental Capacity Act, 2005). Patients who have a mental disorder and who are refusing treatment may be treated against their will, but only if they are detained under Section 3 of the MHA and if there has been a second opinion.

Medical psychotherapists are not exempt from discussion of consent, and it is good practice to document a discussion of consent at the beginning of treatment. It is especially a good idea to discuss consent to disclosure of personal information to other people, e.g. feeding back to a referring psychiatrist. It is wise to have some discussion with a new patient about consent to disclosure of information to the GP and whether there are any family members who may be involved at some point. It is also advisable to document any such discussions. Some therapists like to use consent forms, and, if so, a copy of any form should be given to the patient.

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