Privacy and confidentiality

This section is not meant to constitute legal advice. If you have specific questions about confidentiality, please consult an attorney.  The therapist/client relationship is a legally protected relationship governed by the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and a variety of state laws and statutes that are state specific. Information disclosed during a session as well as any clinical notes generally cannot be shared without expressed written permission from the client. The following situations are exceptions/limits to confidentiality where mental health professionals may be required to report or share information:

  1. If a therapist suspects abuse of a vulnerable adult (elderly or disabled) or child, they are required to report the abuse to child or adult protective services.
  2. If a client is threatening serious bodily harm to another person, the therapist is required to report that threat to the police.
  3. If a client demonstrates intent and a plan to hurt or kill themselves, the therapist is required to report this threat.
  4. If the client is involved in a legal battle such as a divorce or custody, a judge can request that mental health and medical records be released to the court.  If the judge orders the records via a subpoena and signed written order, the therapist may be required to release records and testify in court proceedings.
  5. Insurance companies have some rights to review treatment records to verify treatment goals and progress and the appropriateness of services.

A client can protect their privacy by taking the following steps: they can limit who knows about their treatment and pay out-of-pocket for services.  In that case, fewer people will know about their treatment and have access to their records.