Confidentiality

Records of your visits to Student Counseling are never released to anyone on or off campus without your written permission, except under unusual circumstances (outlined below).

Law and Ethics

Confidentiality is a crucial concern when it comes to the therapeutic relationship as well as from a legal standpoint. In all but a few rare situations, client confidentiality (i.e., your privacy) is protected by NYS law and by professional ethical rules. Even so, there are a few limitations on confidentiality.

Here are the most common cases in which confidentiality is not protected by law:

  1. If you make a serious threat to harm yourself or another person, the law requires mental health professionals to act to protect you or that other person. This could include contacting emergency personnel, a friend, a family member or appropriate University staff. This also may involve involuntary hospitalization or referral for additional clinical services.
    • Please note that as of March 2013, Student Counseling is required to comply with the NYS SAFE Act. This law requires mental health professionals to inform the County Director of Community Services if you are likely to engage in conduct that will result in serious harm to self or others. If we determine that you are in imminent danger of seriously hurting yourself or someone else, we will alert the Onondaga County Director of Community Services and provide him/her with your name, contact information, and diagnosis(es). This law may prevent you from obtaining a gun permit for five years following a report to the DCJS.
  2. A court of law may order a mental health professional to release an individual’s records. In such cases, Student Counseling would be required to release your record, with or without your consent. Please consult your lawyer if you are involved in any court proceeding.
  3. Therapists are mandated reporters of child and elder abuse. If we learn of a present-day situation in which a child or dependent elder is being abused, we are legally required to report this to the appropriate authorities.

Coverage and Case Consultation

There are two situations in which your therapist might share some information about you with another therapist:

If a therapist needs to be away from the office, s/he will ask if a trusted fellow therapist may "cover" for him/her. The reason therapists have other therapists cover for them is to protect you in case of emergency. Therefore, the covering therapist would need to know some basic information about you. Generally, your therapist will tell the covering therapist only what he or she would need to know for an emergency. The covering therapist is bound by the same laws and ethical rules to protect your confidentiality.

Therapists sometimes consult other therapists or other professionals about their clients. This helps them to provide high-quality treatment. Consulting professionals are told only as much as they need to know to understand your situation and are not given identifying information. Consulting therapists are bound by legal and ethical mandates to protect your confidentiality.

Records

SCS maintains records of your visits in accordance with NYS and federal law. If you wish to release these records to any third party, you will need to sign an authorization to release information. New York State mental health law states that patients have the right to request copies of their mental health records; however, mental health law further states that mental health professionals may deny access to all or part of the information requested or may grant access only to a summary of the information if, after consideration, it is determined that the information may cause harm to the patient. If you are interested in reviewing your mental health record, please speak directly with your therapist.

Resident Providers and Faculty Supervisors

Resident providers are supervised by faculty. Supervisors are bound by the same laws and ethics to protect your privacy. Resident providers and supervisors are prohibited from providing academic or other professional evaluations or oversight of medical students whom they treat.

If you have any questions about confidentiality, please don't hesitate to contact us.