Does what we talk about in therapy remain confidential?
In general, the law protects the privacy of all communications between a patient and psychotherapist, and I can release information about our work to others only with your written permission. But there are a few exceptions.
In most legal proceedings, you have the right to prevent me from providing any information about your treatment. In some proceedings involving child custody and those in which your emotional condition is an important issue, a judge may order my testimony if he or she determines that the issues demand it.
There are some situations in which I am legally obligated to take action to protect others from harm, even if I have to reveal some information about a client’s treatment. For example, if I believe that a child, elderly person, or disabled person is being abused I must file a report with the appropriate state agency. If I believe that a patient is threatening serious bodily harm to another, I am required to take protective actions. These actions may include notifying the potential victim, contacting the police, or seeking hospitalization for the client. If the client threatens to harm him or herself, I may be obligated to seek hospitalization for him or her or to contact family members or others who can help provide protection.
These situations have rarely occurred in my private practice. If a similar situation occurs, I will make every effort to fully discuss it with you before taking any action. I may occasionally find it helpful to consult other professionals about a case. During a consultation, I make every effort to avoid revealing the identity of my patients. The consultant is also legally bound to keep the information confidential. If you don’t object, I will not tell you about these consultations unless I feel it is important to our work together.
While this written summary of expectations to confidentiality should prove helpful in informing you about potential problems, it is important that we discuss any questions or concerns that you may have in person. I will be happy to discuss these issues with you if you need special advice, but formal legal advice may be needed because the laws governing confidentiality are quite complex, and I am not an attorney.