Confidentiality: What You Should Know

It’s scary to share your most intimate feelings with another person, but sometimes you need to get it all out or seek guidance on what to do in a specific situation. If you’re going to a counselor or therapist, you may be worried about whether the words you speak are going to be kept confidential. The good news is, therapists are required by law to keep your information private, so you shouldn’t have to worry. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is the legal policy that protects your privacy when you discuss anything with your psychologist. 

However, as an experienced McLean, VA therapist – including those who practice at Lindsey Hoskins & Associates – can confirm, there are some limited exceptions to confidentiality laws that you should know about. Certainly, if you agree to allow your therapist to disclose certain information for a specific purpose, this consent will be honored. Additionally, there are some times when confidentiality may be broken by a therapist for reasons pertaining to legal exceptions, risk of self-harm, or risk of harm to others.

In the Case of Suicide or Other Harm

If you were to discuss your plans to commit suicide, your therapist would be able to break confidentiality as an exception to HIPAA. They could seek further help for you in a more controlled environment, such as a mental hospital. However, the remainder of what you’ve shared will still be kept confidential. The exception for suicide or self-harm only extends far enough to get you necessary help. 

If you tell your therapist that you are planning to harm another person, that’s another exception to HIPAA. Depending on the situation, your therapist may legally call a mental health doctor, the local authorities, or someone close to the situation.

In the Case of Domestic Violence or Abuse

If you or someone in your family is the victim of ongoing domestic violence or abuse, your therapist is required to report it. If it’s an isolated incident, the professional may or may not report it, but if it’s ongoing, it should always be reported. This applies whether you are the abused or the abuser. It also applies to children, adults, the elderly and individuals with disabilities.

In the Case of a Court Order

Per some legal proceedings, an individual’s mental health might come into question. The court might order the therapist to divulge certain information. The court typically doesn’t order more than what is absolutely necessary, but the therapist would be required to release information if it was necessary for the law to play out.

Getting the Help You Need

As you can see, confidentiality is a priority when it comes to psychotherapy, but there are some instances in which it is necessary to breach it. If you are concerned about your specific situation, contact a therapist to discuss their policies today so you can start getting the help you need while remaining informed about your rights.