Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Sam McFarland, David Shiek, Lynn Clark

Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Involuntary psychiatric hospitalization in the Commonwealth of Kentucky has become a salient issue based, in part, on two recent court rulings and a call for legislative reform of the laws governing this procedure. The role cc the mental health professional, who may be directly or indirectly involved in the hospitalization process, requires knowledge and sensitivity of these laws and related legal issues.

One hundred and five Kentucky mental health professionals, including physicians, psychologists, and social workers, responded to a questionnaire designed to assess their knowledge and attitudes on seven selected laws and legal issues regarding involuntary hospitalization in Kentucky.

The professional groups differed significantly in their knowledge of only one of the seven knowledge items. Neither profession nor any one of seven other demographic and background variables were related to overall knowledge of the laws and issues surveyed, both within and across professional groups.

Analysis of the attitude items revealed a significant difference between professional groups on three particular issues. A significant difference between professional groups was also found in their overall attitudes toward due process rights for individuals involved in cases of involuntary hospitalization with social workers exhibiting most concern for these rights followed by Physicians and psychologists. Across professional groups, no other demographic variables were found to be related to overall attitudes. Within professional groups, psychologists who had been in their profession longer and psychologists whose training had not covered the legal rights of mental patients and the legal procedures of involuntary hospitalization exhibited more concern for due process rights.

Although the results indicated that respondents had little knowledge of tne laws and issues surveyed, mental health professionals seemed to have a concern for these issues. It was recommended that the educational preparation of mental health professionals should include more comprehensive coverage of the laws and issues regarding involuntary hospitalization. Further, the state should require a demonstration of this knowledge either as a part of certification and licensure examinations or as a separate examination for mental health professionals who plan to practice or work in Kentucky.


Industrial and Organizational Psychology | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences