The law protects the privacy of all communications between a patient and a therapist. In most situations, I can only release information about you or your minor child’s treatment to other if you sign a written Authorization Form that meets certain legal requirements imposed by HIPAA. There are other situations that require only that you provide written, advance consent.
There are some situations where I am permitted or required to disclose information without either your consent or authorization:
- If you are involved in a court proceeding and a request is made for information concerning your diagnosis and treatment, such information is protected by the therapist-patient privilege law. I cannot provide any information without your (or your legal representative’s) written authorization, or a court order, or if I receive a subpoena of which you have been properly notified and you have failed to inform me that you oppose the subpoena. If you are involved in or contemplating litigation, you should consult with you attorney to determine whether a court would be likely to order me to disclose information.
- If a government agency is requesting the information for health oversight activities, within its appropriate legal authority, I may be required to provide it for them.
There are some situations in which I am legally obligated to take actions, which I believe are necessary to attempt to protect others from harm and I may have to reveal some information about a patient’s treatment. These situations are unusual in my practice.
- If I know, or have reason to suspect, that a child under 18 is abused, abandoned or neglected by a parent, legal custodian, caregiver, or any other person responsible for the child’s welfare, the law requires that I file a report with the Department of Children and Family Services. Once such a report is filed, I may be required to provide additional information.
- If I know or have reasonable cause to suspect that a vulnerable adult has been or is being abused, neglected, or exploited, the law requires that I file a report with the central abuse hotline. Once such a report is filed, I may be required to provide additional information.
- If I believe that there is a clear and immediate probability of physical harm to the patient, to other individuals or to society, I may be required to disclose information to take protective action, including communicating the information to the potential victim, and/or appropriate family member, and/or the police or seeking hospitalization of the patient.
If such a situation arises, I will make every effort to fully discuss it with you before taking any action and I will limit my disclosure to what is necessary.
Minors and Parents
Because privacy in psychotherapy is often crucial to successful progress, particularly with teenagers; and parental involvement is also essential, it is usually my policy to request an agreement with minors and their parent about access to therapeutic information. This agreement provides that during treatment, I will provide parents only with general information about the progress of the treatment, and the patient’s attendance at scheduled sessions. Any other communication will require the child’s authorization, unless I feel that the child is in danger or is a danger to someone else, in which case, I will notify the parents of my concern. Before giving parents any information, I will discuss the matter with the child, if possible, and do my best to handle any objections he/she may have.