Washington Law Review


In federal courts, Federal Rule of Evidence 501 governs all privileges, including the psychotherapist-patient privilege. Unlike many state statutes that explicitly recognize the psychotherapist-patient privilege and define its scope through exceptions, Rule 501 merely directs courts to use their reason and experience to interpret common law principles. Under this vague standard, the federal circuits lack uniformity in their treatment of the psychotherapist-patient privilege. This Comment suggests that Congress should explicitly recognize the privilege and define its scope through exceptions. To support this conclusion, this Comment discusses the justifications for recognizing a psychotherapist-patient privilege, uses the paradigm of formal versus nonformal decisionmaking to examine the difficulties of applying Rule 501 to the privilege, and takes advantage of the specific factual context of state cases to support the establishment of certain exceptions.

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