Keeping Things Confidential
There are many reasons behind the need for confidentiality in therapy. The assurance of privacy helps jumpstart the trust in the therapeutic relationship so unhealthy patterns can be examined. Without a healthy relationship, it is next to impossible for any progress to be made. Who wants to talk to someone they don’t trust?! Check out Dr. Carl Rodger’s work on the Helping Relationship for more info how important this relationship is to Change.
At the University Counseling Center, we take the charge of confidentially very seriously. All of our records are kept in an online, password protected database. All personal information is kept in a locked closet at our center. And our staff is committed to maintaining the privacy of the students that we serve.
Ethically, we are not allowed to speak with anyone about your case unless you have signed a release to do so. In fact, if your roommate, parent or English teacher calls us up and asks for information about our sessions without a release, we are obligated to tell them we cannot confirm or deny if you are a client here. This includes staff such as Residence Life.
As many departments do, we have student workers. No need for this to be a concern. They do not have access to student records and are not allowed to make appointments. On top of that, they sign a confidentiality agreement with us to ensure your privacy.
Like everything in life, there are exceptions to the rule. Of course! Right? In general, if given the choice, therapists would rather protect people and their safety over protecting confidentiality. So the three major exceptions include: If you are at risk for suicide, if you are actively planning on physically harming someone else, and if you report child or elder abuse. I feel like, if you know I am going to protect you and others, then that builds trust as opposed to breaking it.
If you are more interested in confidentiality and the Duty to Warn, check out the fascinating and tragic Tarasoft case: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarasoff_v._Regents_of_the_University_of_California
Also, the child and elder abuse exception comes from our staff being mandated reporters. The question of reporting or not in these situations has been taken out of our hands so that we are acting in the best interests of the less powerful on a consistent basis.
I hope this was a helpful guide. The next entry will be about tips for managing anxiety. Did you know that anxiety can be healthy? Yup.
-Logan Williamson, LPC