The law protects the privacy of all communications between a patient and a therapist. In most situations, if you are 18 years of age or older, I can only release information about your treatment to others if you sign a written authorization form that meets certain legal requirements imposed by HIPAA and Illinois law. However, there are several situations in which no authorization is required. Examples are listed below. Please see the HIPAA Privacy Notice on page 8 for details and website link for more information.
Consultation with other health or mental health professionals
Teaching and supervision
Malpractice suits or complaints
Judicial and administrative proceedings (e.g., if you are involved in court proceedings)
Workman’s Compensations claims
Government/Health Agency oversight
Health Insurer payment or collection on overdue fees
Therapists are mandated reporters. As such, there are some situations in which I am legally obligated to take actions in order to protect you and others from harm. If these circumstances arise in the course of your treatment, I may be required to reveal information about you or your treatment without your specific authorization. If such a situation arises, I will make every effort to fully discuss it with you before taking any action and I will limit my disclosure to what is necessary.
Exceptions to confidentiality:
If I have reasonable cause to believe that a child under 18 known to me in my professional capacity may be an abused child or a neglected child, the law requires that I report this to the local office of the Department of Children and Family Services.
If I have reason to believe that an adult over the age of 60 living in a domestic situation has been abused or neglected in the preceding 12 months, the law requires that I report this to the agency designated to receive such reports.
If I believe that you present a clear, imminent risk of serious physical or mental injury or death to yourself, I may be required to disclose information in order to take protective actions. These actions may include seeking your hospitalization or contacting family members or others who can assist in protecting you, such as friends or the police.
If you have made a specific threat of violence against another or if I believe that you present a clear, imminent risk of serious physical harm to another, I may be required to disclose information in order to take protective actions. These actions may include notifying the potential victim, contacting the police, or seeking your hospitalization.
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 have now or arise in the future. The laws governing confidentiality can be complex, and I am not an attorney. In situations where specific advice is required, formal legal advice may be needed.
All information client and clinical information, both paper and electronically, is kept according to HIPAA. For all clients, I keep a Clinical Record that includes information about reasons for seeking therapy, diagnosis, treatment goals, progress towards goals, medical and social history, treatment history, past treatment records received from other providers, professional consultations, billing records, and any prepared reports, including those to insurance carriers. In addition, I may also keep Psychotherapy Notes, which are designed to assist me in providing you with the best treatment. While the contents of Psychotherapy Notes vary, they can include the contents of conversations, my analysis of conversations, and how they impact treatment. They may also contain sensitive information revealed to me that is not required to be included in your Clinical Record. These Notes are kept separate from your Clinical Record. While insurance companies can request and receive a copy of your Clinical Record, they cannot receive a copy of Psychotherapy Notes without your authorization. Both sets of records can be misinterpreted and/or be upsetting to untrained readers. For this reason, if you request to review them, I recommend that you do so in my presence, or have them forwarded to another mental health professional to discuss their contents. In most circumstances, I am allowed to charge a copying fee of $2 per page.
HIPAA provides you with several rights with regard to your Clinical Records and disclosures of PHI. These rights include requesting amendments to your record; requesting restrictions on what information from your Clinical Records is disclosed to others; requesting an accounting of most disclosures of PHI that you have neither consented to nor authorized; having any complaints you make about policies and procedures recorded in your records; and the right to a paper copy of this Agreement and Notice of Privacy Practice. I am happy to discuss these rights with you.
MINORS & PARENTS
Patients under 13 years old and their parents should be aware that the law allows parents to examine their child’s treatment records. Parents of children between 13 and 18 cannot examine their child’s records unless the child consents and I find no compelling reasons for denying this access. Parents are entitled to information concerning their child’s current physical and mental condition, diagnosis, treatment needs, services provided, and services needed. Since parental involvement is often crucial to successful treatment, in most cases, I require that patients between 13 and 18 years old and their parents enter into an agreement that allows parents access to certain additional treatment information. If everyone agrees, I will provide parents with general information about the progress of their child’s treatment and his/her attendance at scheduled sessions. Any other communication will require the child’s authorization, unless I feel that the child is in danger or is a danger to someone else, in which case, I will notify the parents of my concern. Before giving parents any information, I will discuss the matter with the child, if possible, and do my best to handle any objections he/she may have.