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J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 1999;27(3):397-406.

Risk communication: clinicians' reported approaches and perceived values.

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  • 1Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, MCP Hahnemann University, Philadelphia, PA 19102-1192, USA.


Despite significant conceptual and empirical advances in research on the risk assessment of violence during the last decade, there has apparently been no empirical research in the related area of risk communication. After summarizing the major theoretical and practical justifications for studying risk communication, this article describes the results of two studies of clinicians' risk communication practices. In Study 1, practicing clinicians (psychiatrists and psychologists; n = 55) were surveyed. Only one clinician indicated that he employed numerical probability figures in communicating risk; a total of nine reasons for not using numerical probabilities were cited, in varying combinations, by participants. Risk communication practices that were reportedly employed included a total of 11 approaches, endorsed in varying combinations. In Study 2, a separate sample of clinicians (n = 59) rated (1) the importance of the Study 1 reasons against using numerical probability figures in risk communication and (2) the value of the different forms of risk communication derived in Study 1. These data apparently offer the first empirical description of how clinicians communicate the results of risk assessments of violence and their reasons for communicating in such ways.

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