Will the things I discuss in therapy be kept private?
Confidentiality is a respected part of psychology's code of ethics. Psychologists understand that for people to feel comfortable talking about private and revealing information, they need a safe place to talk about anything they'd like, without fear of that information leaving the room. Your privacy is taken very seriously.
Laws are also in place to protect your privacy. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) contains a privacy rule that creates national standards to protect individuals' medical records and personal health information, including information about psychotherapy and mental health.
At your first visit with the psychologist, you can ask for a copy of the Privacy Practices Form. You can also download this form by clicking on the link below.
When can a psychologist share my private information without my consent?
In some specific situations, psychologists can share information without the client's written consent. Common exceptions are:
- Psychologists may disclose private information without consent in order to protect the patient or the public from serious harm--if, for example, a client discusses plans to attempt suicide or harm another person.
- Psychologists are required to report ongoing domestic violence, abuse or neglect of children, the elderly, or people with disabilities. (However, if an adult discloses that he or she was abused as a child, the psychologist typically isn't bound to report that abuse, unless there are other children continuing to be abused.)
Psychologists may release information if they receive a court order. That might happen if a person's mental health came into question during legal proceedings.
Will insurance companies see my records?
Psychologists will share certain information about your diagnosis and treatment with the health insurance company or government program (like Medicare) that is paying for your treatment so that the company or program can determine what care is covered. The health insurance company or program is also bound by HIPAA to keep that information confidential. However, if you choose to pay out of pocket for services, and you choose to not ask your insurance provider for reimbursement, your insurance company may not be aware that you are seeing a psychologist.
Similarly, your psychologist may ask for your consent to share information, or discuss your care, with your other health care professionals to coordinate your care.
What information can I share about my psychotherapy treatment?
Privacy is your right as a patient or client. If you choose to tell your friends or family that you're seeing a psychologist, you are free to do so. How much information you decide to share is up to you. Psychologists are ethically bound to protect your privacy regardless of what information you choose to share with others.
Sometimes, psychologists find it helpful to discuss your concerns or behaviors with other people in your life. A psychologist may want to interview your spouse to better understand what's going on in your home. Or, if a child is having trouble at school, the psychologist may want to interview the child's teachers. But whether you involve others is completely up to you. Psychologists generally can't contact anyone else without your written consent.
(Excerpt from article at apa.org/helpcenter/confidentiality)