Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Teens, Therapy and Privacy

Nervous about coming to therapy? 

Of course you are! That is a healthy and very common reaction. Why? You feel alone and vulnerable, and to top it off you are going to talk to a complete stranger about your personal life! You are entrusting the therapist with information that you may not have shared with your closest family members or friends.

Never fear;  therapists have a code of ethics which states that we must keep your private information to ourselves. There are only a few situations in which a therapist is obligated, by law, to break confidentiality:

1. You present a danger to self or others. If the therapist thinks you might hurt yourself or someone else, they need to tell your parent(s) and possibly others.

2. You are the victim of emotional, sexual or physical abuse or neglect.
In this case, the therapist may need to report the information you share to people who work to protect children. However, most therapists will tell you that they feel they need to do this to keep you safe before they make a call or file a report. In Connecticut, I  need to file a report with a state agency called the Department of Children and Families, and a social worker would then look into the situation, gather information, and make every effort to make sure you are protected from future abuse.

In the vast majority of experiences with clients, there is no need to break confidentiality. However, if it is essential to break confidentiality, I discuss my reasoning and next steps with clients before I do so.

Most of the time teens are understandably worried about less serious issues getting back to their parents- like relationship or school problems-  that they are not comfortable sharing with them.  Here's the good news: in many cases therapists do a great job of working with teens to help them decide if, when, and how to share sensitive information with parents. Two aspects of my work I find very rewarding are helping teens learn more helpful ways of thinking about problems, and teaching new approaches to talking to parents.

If you are working with a therapist or school counselor, you should and can check with them about confidentiality. Let them know what information you are not comfortable sharing with teachers, parents, or others.

If you have any questions or concerns about therapy and confidentiality, please ask, and I will be happy to answer them for you.

Be well,

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