Our practice holds the therapeutic relationship in high regard. We recognize that our effectiveness in helping you depends on a healthy therapeutic relationship, which in turn requires comfort and trust. We also recognize that trust requires a sense of safety and privacy, and we are “sticklers” when it comes to confidentiality. Even though HIPAA only requires that we have a general consent to exchange treatment information with other health care providers, or other parties that you deem helpful, it is our policy to be in communication with other parties only with your written authorization to do so. It is also our practice to inform you after we have exchanged information with another party, and to let you know what information was exchanged.
Limits on Confidentiality
There are limits on confidentiality, however: in circumstances which involve concern for the safety of our clients or other people, the law mandates that we as therapists take whatever steps we can to try to prevent anyone from getting hurt. This includes threats of self harm, suicidality, child abuse, elder abuse, homicidal threat, etc. Under such circumstances we may contact family members, friends, the police, crisis intervention, or other parties which may be necessary to intervene. In such a case, we would not disclose detailed treatment information, but only such information as is necessary, depending on the circumstances, to hopefully assure that no one gets hurt. We would notify you afterwards, as soon as possible, should such steps ever need to be taken.
We may also need to provide information to your insurance company, should you decide to submit claims to your insurer (see below). We will only do so after you have signed a consent for us to communicate with them. If your insurer is a managed care company, they will ask for detailed clinical information about your care and your background. We will be glad to work with your managed care company if we are on their panel, but only after you have read and agreed to the terms in the Managed Care Statement of Understanding. Please understand that we have no control over how those parties utilize PHI after it leaves our office, and so we assume no responsibility for that.
Another issue related to privacy has to do with the fact that we reserve the right to speak with other professionals for peer supervision, staff training and/or consultation. It is one of the core values of Psychological Health Affiliates that our therapists do not work in isolation, but rather we consult with each other frequently regarding the care of our clients. We believe that in addition to providing accountability, this also helps us grow as professionals and ultimately improves the quality of care that you will receive.
During such consultations and supervision, your therapist will make every effort to avoid revealing unnecessary identifying information about you. The professionals we might consult with who are not in our office are individuals we respect and trust. They are also legally bound to keep Protected Health Information confidential. Unless you object, your therapist likely will not tell you about every consultation unless he or she feels that it would be helpful to you to do so.
While this written summary of exceptions to confidentiality should prove helpful in informing you about potential problems, it is important that we discuss any questions or concerns that you may have now or in the future. The laws governing confidentiality can be quite complex. In situations where specific advice is required, formal legal advice may be needed.
Much more can be said about privacy and the limits of confidentiality: please refer to the NPP for more information and detail.
Confidentiality with Children
Because we take our work with children so seriously, PHA has additional policies that have to do with confidentiality and privacy with minors. Please click HERE for more information.