The law protects the privacy of all communications between a patient and a psychologist. In most situations, we can only release information about your treatment to others if you sign a written Release of Information authorization form that meets certain legal requirements imposed by HIPAA. There are other situations that require only that you provide written, advance consent. Your signature on the Informed Consent form (given separately) provides consent for those activities. You should also know that we occasionally find it helpful to consult other health and mental health professionals about a case. During a consultation, we make every effort to avoid revealing the identity of the client(s). The other professionals are also legally bound to keep the information confidential. If you don’t object, we will not tell you about these consultations unless we feel that it is important to our work together. We will note all consultations in your clinical record.
There are some situations when we are permitted or required to disclose information without either your consent or authorization. They are:
- If you are involved in a court proceeding and a request is made for information concerning our professional services, such information is protected by the psychologist-client privilege law. We cannot provide any information without your written authorization, or a court order. If you are involved in or contemplating litigation, you should consult with your attorney to determine whether a court would be likely to order us to disclose information.
- If a government agency requests information for health oversight activities, we are required to provide it for them.
- If a client files a complaint or lawsuit against us, we may disclose relevant information patient to defend the practice.
- If a client files workers' compensation claims, we shall submit a report to the Workers’ Compensation Division.
There are some situations in which we are legally obligated to take actions, which we believe are necessary to attempt to protect you or others from harm, and we may have to reveal some information about your treatment. They are:
- If you communicate intent to harm or kill yourself, we may be obligated to seek hospitalization for you, or to contact family members or others who can provide protection and necessary support.
- If we have reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect or if we have observed a child being subjected to circumstances or conditions which would reasonably result in abuse or neglect, the law requires that we file a report with the appropriate governmental agency. Once such a report is filed, we may be required to provide additional information.
- If we have reasonable cause to believe that an at-risk adult has been or is at imminent risk of being mistreated, self- neglected, or financially exploited, the law requires that we file a report with the appropriate governmental agency. Once such a report is filed, we may be required to provide additional information.
- If you communicate a serious threat of imminent physical violence against a specific person or persons, we must make an effort to notify such person; and/or notify an appropriate law enforcement agency; and/or take other appropriate action including seeking hospitalization of the client.
- If you communicate a serious threat to national security, we must make an effort to notify an appropriate law enforcement agency.
- If you tell us of the behavior of another named health or mental health care provider that informs us that this person has either a) engaged in sexual contact with a patient, including yourself or b) is impaired from practice in some manner by cognitive, emotional, behavioral, or health problems, then the law requires us to report this to their licensing board at the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. We would inform you before taking this step. If you are our client AND a health care provider, however, your confidentiality remains protected under the law from this kind of reporting.
The following is not a legal exception to your confidentiality; however, please read this policy if you are in couple’s therapy.
- If you and your partner meet with your therapist individually as part of the couples’ therapy, what you say in those individual sessions will be considered to be a part of the couples’ therapy, and can and probably will be discussed in joint sessions. Do not disclose anything you wish kept secret from your partner. Your therapist will remind you of this policy before beginning such individual sessions.
While this written summary of exceptions to confidentiality should prove helpful in informing you of potential problems, it is important that we discuss any questions or concerns that you may have now or in the future. The laws governing confidentiality can be quite complex, and our therapists are not attorneys. In situations where specific advice is required, formal legal advice may be needed.