The law protects the privacy of all communication between clients and psychotherapists (psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, marriage counselors). In most situations, I can only release information about a client’s treatment to others if the client signs a written authorization form that meets certain legal requirements imposed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
As part of my practice I may find it helpful to consult other health and mental health professionals about a case. During these consultations, every effort will be made to avoid revealing a client’s identity. The other parties consulted are also legally bound to keep the information confidential.
There are some situations in which psychotherapists are legally obligated to take action and reveal some information about a client's treatment in order to protect the client and/or others from harm:
1. If a psychotherapist has reasonable cause to believe that a child under age 18 is suffering physical, sexual or emotional abuse resulting in harm or substantial risk of harm to the child's health or welfare, the law requires that a report be filed with the Department of Social Services. Once such a report is filed, the psychotherapist may be required to provide additional information.
2. If a psychotherapist has reason to believe that an elderly or handicapped individual is suffering from abuse, the law
requires that the psychotherapist must report it to the law enforcement authorities. Once such a report is filed, the psychotherapist may be required to provide additional information.
3. If a client communicates an immediate threat of serious physical harm to an identifiable victim or if a client has a history of violence and the apparent intent and ability to carry out the threat, the psychotherapist is required to take protective actions. These actions may include that the client write a safety contract, notifying the potential victim, contacting the police, and/or seeking hospitalization for the client.
4. If a client threatens to harm himself/herself, the psychotherapist is obligated to request a client to sign a safety contract, to seek hospitalization for him/her, or to contact family members or others who can help provide protection.
If such situations arise, I will make every effort to fully discuss it with you before taking any action or releasing any information about you, and I will limit the disclosure to what is necessary.
While this written summary of exceptions to confidentiality should prove helpful in informing you about potential problems, it is important that you bring to my attention any questions or concerns that you may have now or in the future. The laws governing confidentiality can be quite complex, thus in situations where specific advice is required, formal legal advice may be needed.