Policy on Confidentiality

The law protects the privacy of all communications between a client and a mental health professional. In most situations, the Counseling Service can only release information about your treatment to others if you sign a written authorization form that meets certain legal requirements. If you and your counselor agree that it would be beneficial for your counselor to share confidential information about your treatment with someone else, your counselor will prepare an Authorization Form for your signature.

In some situations, no authorization to release confidential information about a client's treatment is required by law or ethical standards. In these situations, the counselor may release information without the client's permission. Information sharing within the Counseling Service for clinical and administrative purposes is routine. The other situations in the following list are unusual at the Counseling Service, but do occur occasionally:

  • Clinical and Administrative Purposes
    You should be aware that the counselors in our office will discuss their work with clients with each other, for the purpose of providing the best possible counseling to clients. All of the counselors are bound by the same laws and ethical principles concerning confidentiality. Our secretary needs access to client information to schedule appointments and to maintain client records. Our secretary has been given training about protecting client privacy and has agreed not to release any information outside the Counseling Service without the permission of a professional staff member.
  • Serious Threat to Health or Safety
    If a counselor believes that a client presents a clear, imminent risk of serious physical harm to another person, the counselor may disclose information necessary to seek hospitalization or otherwise protect the threatened person. If a counselor believes there is a clear and imminent risk that a client will do serious physical harm to himself/herself, the counselor may disclose information necessary to seek hospitalization or to alert family members or others who may have the ability to protect the client.
  • Child or Dependent Adult Abuse
    If a counselor has reason to believe that a child whom the counselor is treating has been abused or if the counselor suspects that a dependent adult has been abused, the law requires that the counselor file a report with the Department of Human Services.
  • Judicial and Administrative Proceedings
    If a client is involved in a court proceeding and a court order is issued for information about the professional services the client received at the Counseling Service and/or for counseling records, we must provide the requested information to the court.
  • Health Oversight Activities
    If a government health agency or authority, such as one of the boards that licenses mental health professionals in Iowa, requests information about a client, the Counseling Service may be required to provide that information.
  • Government Oversight Activities
    If a government official or agency such as a coroner or medical examiner, military agency, national security or intelligence agency, or law enforcement official requests information about your treatment, the Counseling Service may be required to provide that information under certain circumstances.
  • Worker's Compensation Claims
    If a client files a worker's compensation claim, we must provide any requested information concerning the client's physical or mental condition relative to the claim.
  • Complaints/Lawsuits
    If a client files a complaint or lawsuit against a counselor, the counselor may disclose relevant information regarding that client's treatment to defend himself/herself.

If one of the preceding situations (other than clinical/administrative sharing) arises, the counselor will make every effort to fully discuss it with the client before taking any action and will limit disclosure to what is necessary. In some emergency situations, there may not be an opportunity to discuss disclosure with the client before action is taken.