In general, the confidentiality of all communications between a client and a psychologist is protected by law, and information can only be released to others outside of the practice with your written permission. If you are seeing a psychiatrist, or have recently been treated by another mental health provider, you may be asked to sign a form giving permission to make contact and discuss your case. In addition, your therapist may occasionally consult with another mental health professional outside of the practice, but will typically make every effort to avoid revealing the identity of the client. On extremely rare occasions, your therapist may get ongoing supervision from someone outside of the SAS of NJ practice because of problems not originally made clear during the initial phases of treatment. If this should seem warranted this will be discussed with you beforehand.
In addition, your case may be discussed with other therapists on staff at SAS of NJ. They are restricted by the same laws of confidentiality. Finally, support staff has been instructed in the rules of confidentiality, have been trained in the protection of your privacy, and have signed a written document where they agree not to release any information outside of the practice without permission from a mental health professional at SAS of NJ.
Confidentiality regarding sharing information outside of the practice is maintained under all circumstances, except when it is believed that you or someone else may be put at risk if confidentiality is not broken. If it is believed that there is a possibility that you or someone else may be in danger, such as when there exists the potential for suicidal or homicidal behavior, or a minor or elderly person is at risk for abuse, then your therapist may contact whomsoever it is felt is appropriate to protect those that require protection, and share specific information about you and/or our treatment.
Limited confidentiality may also be broken If your account is more than 60 days overdue and suitable arrangements for payment have not been agreed to. Your therapist will have the option of using legal means to secure payment, including the use of collections agencies or small claims court. If such legal action is necessary, the costs of bringing that proceeding will be included in the claim. In most cases, the only information which would be releases about a client’s treatment would be the client’s name, the nature of the services provided, and the amount due. An alternative might also be for SAS of NJ to submit your bills to your insurance carrier for out of network benefits, and ask for reimbursement to be sent directly to our office. Information regarding your insurance coverage is requested at the time of intake, even though we do not typically accept payment from insurance companies, in part for this very reason.
Clients who have an outstanding balance and who do not ultimately pay are very rare. When there is a problem paying a bill, we will work with you to develop a payment plan, and will contract with you for the time you need to reimburse us. However, if a client does “disappear” with an outstanding balance, we retain the option of breaching confidentiality to obtain monies due.
You have the right to prevent your therapist from providing any information about your treatment in most judicial proceedings. Under certain conditions, however, a court may request client records. These may include child custody proceedings and proceedings in which your emotional condition is an important element. These cases are handled very carefully, and under no condition would information be provided without your prior knowledge unless circumstances make that difficult or impractical.
Both law and the standards of our profession require that we keep appropriate treatment records. You are entitled to receive a copy of the records, unless it is believed that seeing them would be emotionally damaging, in which case, the therapist will be happy to provide them to an appropriate mental health professional of your choice. Because these are professional records, they can be misinterpreted and/or can be upsetting, so it is recommended that you and your therapist review them together so that the two of you can discuss what they contain. Clients will be charged an appropriate fee for any preparation time which is required to comply with an information request.
NOTE FOR MINORS: If the client is under eighteen year of age, please be aware that the law may provide parents with the right to examine the treatment records. It is SAS policy to discuss this with the client. If the client desires to keep part or all of therapist-client conversations private from the parent(s), and the therapist believes it to be clinically advantageous to do so, he or she will verbally request an agreement from the parent(s) to allow for the therapist and the client to speak confidentially.
If the parents are divorced, a copy of the custody decree will be requested. If there is joint custody, the signature of both parents on the signature page of this document will be required.
While this written summary of exceptions to confidentiality should prove helpful in informing you about potential problems, it is important that you discuss any of your questions or concerns with your therapist. The laws governing these issues are quite complex, and your therapist is not an attorney. While we are happy to discuss these issues with you, should you need specific advice, formal legal consultation may be desirable.