Confidentiality is an important part of the counseling relationship. The law protects the confidentiality of communication between a therapist and a client with the following exceptions:
As a rule, providers will disclose no information about you, or the fact that you are a client of Pathos Counseling, without your written consent. Our formal Mental Health Record describes the services provided to you and contains the dates of our sessions, your diagnosis, functional status, symptoms, prognosis and progress, and any psychological testing reports. Health care providers are legally allowed to use or disclose records or information for treatment, payment, and health care operations purposes. However, we do not routinely disclose information in such circumstances, so we will require your permission in advance, either through your consent at the onset of our relationship, or through your written authorization at the time the need for disclosure arises. You may revoke your permission, in writing, at any time, by contacting the practice.
Limits of Confidentiality:
Possible Uses and Disclosures of Mental Health Records without Consent or Authorization
We may use or disclose records or other information about you without your consent or authorization in the following circumstances, either by policy, or because legally required:
- Emergency: If you are involved in in a life-threatening emergency and we cannot ask your permission, we will share information if we believe you would have wanted us to do so, or if we believe it will be helpful to you.
- Child Abuse Reporting: If we have reason to suspect that a child is abused or neglected, we are required by Virginia law to report the matter immediately to the Virginia Department of Social Services ( § 63.2-1509).
- Adult Abuse Reporting: If we have reason to suspect that an elderly or incapacitated adult is abused, neglected or exploited, we are required by Virginia law to immediately make a report and provide relevant information to the Virginia Department of Welfare or Social Services ( § 63.2-1606 ).
- Health Oversight: Virginia law requires that we report misconduct by a mental health care provider of our own profession. By policy, we also reserve the right to report misconduct by health care providers of other professions. By law, if you describe unprofessional conduct by another mental health provider of any profession, we are required to explain to you how to make a report to the licensing board ( § 54.1-2400.4 ). If you are yourself a health care provider, we are required by law to report to your licensing board if we believe your condition places the public at risk ( § 54.1-2400.7 ). Virginia Licensing Boards have the power, when necessary, to subpoena relevant records for investigating a complaint of provider incompetence or misconduct.
- Court Proceedings: If you are involved in a court preceding and a request is made for information about your diagnosis and treatment and the records thereof, such information is privileged under state law, and we will not release information unless you provide written authorization or a judge issues a court order (§ 8.01-399; § 8.01-400.2 ). If we receive a subpoena for records or testimony, we will notify you so that you (or your attorney, or us ) can file a motion to quash (block) the subpoena and can give reasons why we think your records should be protected from disclosure. However, while awaiting the judge’s decision, we are required to place said records in a sealed envelope and provide them to the Clerk of Court. NOTE: In Virginia civil court cases, therapy information or records are not protected by patient-therapist privilege in child abuse cases, in cases in which your mental health is an issue (e.g., if you sue someone for mental/emotional damages), or in any case in which the judge deems the information to be “necessary for the proper administration of justice.” In criminal cases, Virginia has no statute granting therapist-patient privilege, although records can sometimes be protected on another basis. Protections of privilege may not apply if we do an evaluation for a third party or where the evaluation is court- ordered. You will be informed in advance if this is the case.
- Serious Threat to Health or Safety: Under Virginia law, if we are engaged in my professional duties and you communicate to us a specific and immediate threat to cause serious bodily injury or death, to an identified or to an identifiable person, and we believe you have the intent and ability to carry out that threat immediately or imminently, we are legally required to take steps to protect third parties ( § 54.1-2400.1 ). These precautions may include 1) warning the potential victim(s), or the parent or guardian of the potential victim(s), if under 18, 2) notifying a law enforcement officer, or 3) seeking your hospitalization. By our own policy, we may also use and disclose medical information about you when necessary to prevent an immediate, serious threat to your own health and safety. If you become a party in a civil commitment hearing, we can be required to provide your records to the magistrate, your attorney or guardian ad litem, a CSB evaluator, or law enforcement officer, whether you are a minor ( § 16.1-337 ) or an adult (§ 37.2-804.2).
- Workers Compensation: If you file a worker’s compensation claim, we are required by law, upon request, to submit your relevant mental health information to you, your employer, the insurer, or a certified rehabilitation provider.
- Records of Minors: Virginia has a number of laws that limit the confidentiality of the records of minors. For example, parents, regardless of custody, may not be denied access to their child’s records ( § 20-124.6 ); and CSB evaluators in civil commitment cases have legal access to therapy records without notification or consent of parents or child ( § 16.1-342 ). Other circumstances may also apply, and we will discuss these in detail if we provide services to minors.
Other uses and disclosures of information not covered by this notice or by the laws that apply to us will be made only with your written permission.
If you have any questions about this policy, please let us know.