Confidentiality during Mental Health Treatment
A big worry about talking to a therapist is: your privacy. Will the therapist tell anyone else all of my business?
The short answer is no, unless you or someone else is in danger.
Also therapists and psychiatrists can share certain things like your diagnosis or how you are doing on your medications to other healthcare professionals taking care of you like your primary care doctor.
Some of these rules depend on the state you live in. These can be complicated but are there to keep you safe and your thoughts and emotions private.
In the state of Pennsylvania, if you are 14 or older, you can see a therapist by yourself for mental health or substance use problems without your parent having to know, and you can check yourself in to a hospital for mental health treatment but your parent will be notified you are in the hospital.
Confidentiality is very important and includes: scheduling appointments, consenting (giving your ok for) therapy, and medical records (notes written about you in a paper or computer file). Psychologists understand that they can only help you if you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts in a safe space.
These records (notes written about you) can only be shared with someone else when:
a) you sign a form that gives your permission
b) your therapist thinks you are in danger of harming yourself (example: you have a plan to commit suicide) or harming others
c) you report that you or other children are currently being abused or neglected – most adults who work with you are “mandated reporters” which means they have to notify Child Protective Services about abuse they learn about even if they don’t know whether its actually happening or not. If that has to happen, ask to be there while a phone call or report is written so you know what is said. Read more about mandated reporters here.
If you are unsure about how your information and records are being handled or if you have any questions at all, just ask!
Hiding things from your therapist because you’re worried about your privacy will make it harder for them to help you. And its your right to know and ask how your information is being handled. Ask all the questions you have first so you can feel comfortable enough to share!
Try looking up your states’ “confidentiality laws for minors” and let us know in comments if you found a good resource! What other confidentiality questions do you have?