Privacy, Confidentiality and Privilege

Revised:  May 06, 2007

By:  Mentor Research Institute


The following is an outline of general guidelines that are intended to sensitize and educate readers to the complexities of privacy, confidentiality and privilege.  The information outlined below is not intended to substitute for or replace the importance of informed legal advice.  The issue of privacy, confidentiality and privilege is complicated. 

Privacy

Services provided to clients and patients are generally treated as private. This means the professionals and their support staff should take reasonable steps based on appropriate standards of practice to insure they do not reveal your identity, discuss information, or reveal the content of their communications with others.  Privacy is not a statutory protection, but rather a professional relationship. Information is not confidential if you are not in a treatment relationship.

Patient Confidentiality/Privilege

Confidentiality is a legal protection and assurance of your right to privacy to the fullest extent allowable by state law. Psychotherapy, counseling, assessment and associated services that are related to diagnosis and treatment are confidential and protected in accordance with State law. Patient confidentiality applies only to those aspects related to a diagnostic and treatment relationship with you.

Attorney Client Privilege

Privilege is generally considered a legal protection and an assurance of your right to privacy as part of an attorney-client relationship.  Any services provided as a consultation in connection to an attorney-client relationship is considered privileged and protected to the fullest extent allowable by state law.   This usually applies in connection to legal or criminal proceeding in which a psychologist or psychiatrist is consulting with your attorney.

Exceptions

If you request that that your counselor or therapist communicate with someone, you will normally be asked to sign a "Release of Information" and to specify what can be communicated and for how long the release will remain in effect. It is often a policy for many professionals that some information cannot be kept private. Under certain circumstances certain information may be revealed or released to others for legal or ethical reasons. The following are examples of exceptions that may apply:

  • If your therapist or counselor is subpoenaed and ordered to testify in a court of law if their objections are overruled. This happens in very few instance and typically occurs in legal proceedings involving child custody, law suits in which services your received are considered to be evidence in a court of law, or charges involving certain types of criminal behavior.
  • If your therapist believes that abuse or harm has been done or may be done to a child or to an elderly person. This would involve situations where they find it is necessary to report this information to proper authorities.
  • If your therapist or counselor believe that you are dangerous to yourself, or another person, your counselor or therapist may take steps necessary to protect you or the safety of others. 
  • If during a medical emergency your therapist or counselor needs to reveal information that is necessary to protect or insure your health and safety.
  • If you are a minor, or a minor that is not emancipated, a therapist of counselor may be required to advise or involve your parents or guardian in your treatment.
  • If your therapist or counselor must take action to collect a debt incurred for services, your name and the amount of your debt may be revealed to a collection agent.

If you have any questions, concerns, or confusion regarding your rights to privacy, or any potential exception, please discuss this with your attorney or treatment professional.