In general, the privacy of all communications between a patient and a psychologist is protected by law, and I can only release information about our work to others with your written permission. But there are a few exceptions.
In most legal proceedings, you have the right to prevent me from providing any information about your treatment. In some proceedings involving child custody and those in which your emotional condition is an important issue, a judge may order my testimony if he/she determines that the issues demand it.
There are some situations in which I am legally obligated to take action to protect others from harm, even if I have to reveal some information about a patient’s treatment. For example, if I believe that a child, an elderly person or disabled person has been abused, I must file a report with the appropriate state agency.
If I believe that a patient is threatening serious bodily harm to another, I am required to take protective actions. These actions include notifying the potential victim, contacting the police, or seeking hospitalization for the patient. If the patient threatens to harm himself/herself, I may be obligated to seek a crisis assessment for involuntary hospitalization for him/her or to contact family members or others who can help provide protection.
These situations have rarely occurred in my practice. If a similar situation occurs, I will make every effort to fully discuss it with you before taking any action.
I may occasionally find it helpful to consult other professionals – either as individuals or in a consultation group - about a case. During a consultation, I make every effort to avoid revealing the identity of my patient. The consultant(s) is/are also legally bound to keep the information confidential. If you don’t object, I will not tell you about these consultations unless I feel that it is important to our work together.
While this written summary of exceptions to confidentiality, along with the more comprehensive list in the Notice of Privacy Practice for Protected Health Information, should prove helpful in informing you about potential problems, it is important that we discuss any questions or concerns that you may have at our next meeting.