General Confidentiality Policy
Services obtained through Counseling Services are confidential, in keeping with general ethical standards for mental health professionals and applicable state laws. Although Counseling Services is part of a larger university, no records or information about clients will be released to any other campus office or official without the clients' written consent, except in the following instances:
1) When a client reports abuse or neglect of a child, a report must be made to the appropriate state authority/agency.
2) When a client reports abuse of a dependent adult or elderly person, a report must be made to the appropriate state authority/agency.
3) When a client is deemed by the therapist to be a threat to her/himself, a specific other, or the property of another, the therapist must comply with the law and make necessary reports to the appropriate authority/agency and/or individuals potentially affected.
4) At times, Counseling Services may receive a court order from a judge compelling the release of client records.
5) Counseling Services may release necessary and relevant information to related parties/departments on campus as specified in the Informed Consent to Treatment Form.
Disclosure of Confidential Information (Release of Written Records)
Client Access to Records
Clients wanting access to their written record must submit a written request. Counseling Services staff will do their best to meet the student's request in accordance to HIPAA guidelines. Except in rare occasions, summaries of a client's course of treatment are provided directly to another relevant provider. Client's records are not typically released to the client, especially when such access might entail substantial risk of adverse consequences for the client.
Refusal to Release Records to a Client
In those instances where a therapist has determined that showing a client her/his record would be detrimental, the therapist involved may still provide a verbal paraphrase of the contents of the record to the client if doing so would be helpful. When the request to inspect and/or obtain copies of all or part of a record is denied, there shall be a written entry in the record noting the date of the request, the reason(s) for refusal, and a description of the specific adverse consequences anticipated. Additionally, any client whose request for records is denied will be informed by the Director in writing that s/he has the right to designate a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, or other licensed mental health professionals as the recipient of the record.
Records of Minors Consenting for Treatment
Minor clients eligible to consent for their own treatment (as outlined above) have the same rights with regard to accessing records as adult clients. In these cases, their parents or guardians do not have access to their records without the minor's written consent.
Parental Access to Records of a Minor When the Parent is Consenting for Treatment
In general, therapists working with minors will inform parents at the outset of treatment that therapy is most effective when clients are assured confidentiality. Thus, parents will be encouraged not to review the records of their minor but instead rely on periodic verbal reports from the therapist. All efforts should be made for the therapist and parent(s) to have an agreement in place from the outset of treatment as to the nature and scope of information to be shared.
Parents or guardians who give their consent for counseling will not have access to the minor's record if it is determined that providing access would have a detrimental effect on the therapist's professional relationship with the minor.
Disclosure of Confidential Information to Third Parties
Any current client who wants information about her/his record to be released to a third party must complete a written consent form. In general, consent for the release of information is valid for 12 months after signing (unless otherwise specified on the form); however, the client may revoke consent in writing at any time.
In instances where a third party presents a release of information form to Counseling Services signed by a former client, the Director or her designee will attempt to contact the former client to ensure that her/his signature for release of information is valid and to discuss the nature and scope of information that the client wants to be released, prior to releasing any information to the third party.
In instances where a client's record is being subpoenaed, the Director is responsible for verifying that the subpoena is legitimate. If the subpoena is legitimate, the Director will attempt to contact the client to confirm that s/he wants records released. The record will be reviewed to determine the information which can be released and information (e.g., records from an outside agency) which may not be released. The Director or her designee will then copy the appropriate information from the record and send it to the requesting party.
In instances of a court order for release of records, Counseling Services will attempt to contact the client to discuss the nature and scope of information being requested. If there is information in the record which is not deemed relevant to the nature of the court case, the Director or her designee will attempt to discuss the release of record with the judge to request that irrelevant portions of the record not be released.