Policies about Privacy, Confidentiality, and Privileged Communication
In general, the law protects the relationship between a client and a psychotherapist, and information cannot be disclosed without written permission. Exceptions include:
- Suspected child abuse or dependant adult or elder abuse. I am required by law to report this to the appropriate authorities immediately.
- If a client is threatening serious bodily harm to another person/s, I must notify law enforcement authorities and inform the intended victim.
- If a client intends to harm himself or herself, I will make every effort to enlist their cooperation in ensuring their safety. If they do not cooperate, I will take further measures without their permission that are provided to me by law in order to ensure their safety.
I am required to abide by the professional practice standards for licensed marriage and family therapists and California law. I do not disclose client confidences and information to any third party without a client’s written consent or waiver except when mandated or permitted by law. Verbal authorization will not be sufficient except in emergency situations. State law mandates that I report to the appropriate authorities suspected cases of child abuse/neglect, elder abuse/neglect, or abuse/neglect of disabled persons and instances of danger to self or others when reasonably necessary to protect the client or other parties from a clear and imminent threat of serious physical harm.
Certain types of litigation (such as child custody suits or certain Federal parole situations, for example) may lead to the court-ordered release of information without your consent. Also note that if payment for my services is through a third party insurer, such as health insurance policies, HMO or PPO plans, or EAP programs, you must sign a release of information and all information will be disclosed.
When working with couples, families, or groups, I cannot disclose any information outside of the treatment context without a written authorization from all individuals competent to sign such authorization. For example, I cannot release any information about either or both spouses I have seen for marital therapy to an attorney without signed authorizations from both spouses.
When working with a family or couple, information shared by individuals in sessions where other family members are not present must be held in confidence (except for the mandated exceptions already noted) unless all individuals involved sign written waivers at the outset of therapy. Clients may refuse to sign such a waiver but should be advised that maintaining confidentiality for individual sessions during couple or family therapy could impede or even prevent a positive outcome to therapy. Conversely, when in a family or group therapy context, I will not be party to "secrets" such as one individual contacting me privately, between sessions, to share information they want me alone to have and not share with other family or group members. I will respectfully not allow myself to receive such "private, secret" information and ask that you will relay such information in the context of the family or group therapy.