What prevents people from seeing a therapist is the fear that the information they tell them will get out. It should ease the worries of every client that therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists are to protect their client’s privacy by not revealing what is discussed in therapy. Unless a client talks about something that can danger themselves or others, a mental health professional under law is not allowed to tell anyone what is discussed during therapy.
Mental health professionals are not just supposed to protect what is discussed in therapy from getting out but they are also not allowed to tell anyone that their client is in therapy to begin with. Clients go through huge emotional rollercoasters as well as traumatic events that they do not want the whole world to know about. A therapist always wants their clients to tell them everything that is going on with them and to be able to trust them. If they do not, they will not get the full amount of support that they are seeking for successful treatment. That is why it is important for the information between a therapist and a client to only stay between them. Phone crisis counselors or life coaches are not legally required to protect their client’s confidentiality but they will not reveal any information that identifies their clients. Without trust, there is no point in counseling.
Therapists will also not acknowledge clients if they run into them outside of therapy or follow them on social media to protect their client confidentiality. They will not reveal any information on voicemail unless the client gives them permission. They will also not acknowledge their appointment with their client to any third parties without permission. It is important for therapists to keep their end of the client confidentiality agreement or will get in trouble with the state licensing boards or sued by their clients. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is a privacy rule that creates national standards to protect medical records and personal health information. A psychologist will give their client written information of privacy policies and how their personal information is handled.
Even though therapists are supposed to hold the secrets of all of their clients, there are certain exceptions to the rule. For example, a therapist is allowed to break consent to protect a patient or the public from any harm like if a client threatens to kill themselves or commit harm to someone else. Therapists also have the power to report ongoing domestic violence or any neglect of children, the elderly, or someone with a disability. A therapist can keep their client’s confidentiality if they have told you they have been abused as a child. If that abuse is continuing with other children, only then are they allowed to break the confidentiality agreement. Confidentiality can also be released if a therapist has received a court order if a client’s mental health has come into question during the legal proceeding.
A therapist can share their information of a client’s diagnosis and treatment with the client’s health insurance company or government program, like Medicaid or Medicare, that is paying for treatment to determine what care needs to be covered. The insurance companies will keep this information confidential. If a client decides to pay out of pocket and not ask their insurance companies for reimbursement, the insurance company will not know you are in therapy. Whenever consent needs to be broken, therapists are supposed to ask their client for consent to share anything or to discuss with other mental health professionals to get the right quality care. In most cases when it comes to minors, a parent is normally involved in their child’s therapy process.
A therapist may give their parent information about their broad treatment goals and how their progress is going without giving specifics unless needed. Therapists will give ground rules of the type of information that they will share with their parents. For example, if a minor has committed risky behaviors, a therapist will tell their client their parents will know about it. A therapist can also encourage to have an interview with the client’s spouse to learn about their homelife or a want to speak to a child’s teacher to know why they are doing bad in school. A therapist normally cannot contact anyone else in their client’s life without a client’s written consent.
Remember that as a client, you are in control of how much you share. The more you share, the more your therapist will be able to help you. For example, if you are going to therapy for addiction and the reason you are self-medicating is because of past trauma, you need to tell your therapist so that you can be diagnosed not only with addiction but with PTSD. This way, you will get an accurate treatment plan. A therapist is there to make your life easier. They will not make it harder by sharing personal information.
If a client tells you something where confidentiality needs to be broken, speak to your client about the need to break confidentiality and encourage your client to seek help from an additional resource like the police. Explain to your client before starting therapy sessions with them about when to break confidentiality for no misunderstandings. Trust is key when it comes to seeking help and should not be broken unless it can cause harm to anyone.
Located in Tacoma, Washington, Bayview Center’s mission is to offer clinically-driven programs and services to treat a number of substance abuse disorders along with anxiety and depression using cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, trauma therapy, yoga therapy, and more for a successful recovery. For more information, please call us 888-570-7154 at as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.