Cases That Test Your Skills

Stalked by a ‘patient’

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Promoting litigation carries significant risk.16 Being a defendant in pro se litigation may be emotionally and financially stressful. This approach may be desirable if the psychiatrist’s institution is willing to offer substantial support. For example, an institution may provide legal assistance—including helping to defray the cost of litigation—and litigation-related scheduling flexibility. An attorney may serve as a boundary between the victim and the pro se litigant’s sometimes ceaseless, time-devouring, anxiety-inducing legal maneuvers.

Counterthreats. Warning a stalker that he or she will face severe civil and criminal consequences if his or her behavior continues can make clear that his or her conduct is unacceptable.17 Such warnings may be delivered verbally or in writing by a legal representative, law enforcement personnel, a private security agent, or the victim.

Issuing a counterthreat can be risky. Stalkers with antisocial or narcissistic personality features may perceive a counterthreat as narcissistically diminishing, and to save face will escalate their stalking in retaliation. Avoid counterthreats if you believe the stalker might be psychotic because destabilizing such an individual—such as by precipitating a short psychotic episode—may increase unpredictability and diminish their responsive to interventions.

Ms. I’s contact with the resident lasted approximately 20 months, slightly less than the average 26 months reported in a survey of mental health professionals.3 Because stalkers are unpredictable, the psychiatric resident remains cautious.

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Disclosure

The authors report no financial relationship with any company whose products are mentioned in this article or with manufacturers of competing products.

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