Can a therapist tell your parents what you tell them?

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In this blog we have discussed whether your therapist will tell your parents what you tell them in sessions. 

We have also discussed what laws protect your privacy in sessions and therapy as well as what you can do to seek help without involving your parents. 

Can a therapist tell your parents what you tell them?

If you are a minor, it is likely that your parents will be informed in the case that you seek professional help, considering that your parents have to consent to your sessions. 

If you are an adult, your therapist will not inform your parents nor your partner or spouse typically unless you are a danger to yourself and others or if you are incapable of taking care of yourself or not of sound mind. 

In the case of young adults, it is unlikely that your parents will be notified unless you are on their insurance. In such a case, your parents are likely to find out that you are seeing a doctor for your mental health considering that insurance companies tend to send what is called “explanation of benefits” which includes what the insurance services has been used for. 

However, it is unlikely that your therapist will call them up and inform them of what is happening in the sessions nor will your parents nor the insurance company be able to access your records. 

While in the case of minors, it is very likely that parents will be infromed, it has to be mentioned that confiendentiality regarding minors can vary from state to state where parental consent might not be required for older teens in some states while it is mandatory for younger children below the age of 13. 

Confidentiality is an important aspect of therapeutic care considering that trust is necessary for clients since most of what is shared is often something they would like to conceal from others or at times, the problem tends to be the parents themsleves. 

While a therapist must keep things confidential and it is part of their ethics to maintain confidentiality, there are limits to this confidentiality since therapists are bound by the ethical guidelines of their state license.

For your own safety, there are some exceptions to the rule when it comes to confidentiality in therapy. Generally, these rules have to do with the well-being of the patient or people in the patient’s life.

For example, therapists are required to report if a patient is a threat to themselves or others. This may mean the patient has threatened suicide, is repeatedly harming themselves, or has threatened to harm another person. In this case, a therapist may recommend hospitalization so the patient can be monitored. 

Once the patient is deemed stable, the therapist may then work with close friends or family members to develop a support plan for the patient in order to maintain that sense of stability.

Additionally, therapists are also required to report cases of ongoing child abuse or neglect. In these cases, a variety of public servants may be brought into the fold, including law enforcement or child protective services. Again, this is a measure created to ensure the safety of a patient and it should not deter you from being open and honest about your situation with your therapist.

Finally, if a minor is seeking therapy and is engaging in risky behavior, their parents or guardian may be informed. Different states have different laws regarding minors in therapy, so it can be a good idea for the parent, therapist, and patient to sit down in an early session and establish ground rules.

What this means is that your therapist, if you are a minor, is mandated to disclose information if you are in danger or in harm’s way or if your behaviour is harming others, depending upon the laws of their state.

Your therapist will not tell parents about various situations that you present in sessions unless you are in threat of harm according to ethics and state law. However, you have to understand that all of this is for your own well-being and safety and otherwise they would not normally do this since they want to provide you a safe space to talk as well as they take your privacy very seriously.

There are some Laws are also in place to protect your privacy such as The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which contains a privacy rule that ensures that an individuals’ medical records and personal health information are protected which also includes information about therapy. 

However, The HIPAA Privacy Rule is a minimum level of protection and some states have additional laws with even stricter laws in place to protect your personal health information. 

Some of what HIPAA covers include:

HIPAA allows your therapist to talk with your family about your mental health treatment in a variety of ways and in some context such as If you want your family to be involved in your treatment, HIPAA allows your therapist to share your information.

When you are connected with a session or are seeing a mental health care professional for prescription medication, HIPAA allows for information to be shared with the family you in the case of side effects of the treatment. 

HIPPA also allows for sharing of information when you are incapacitated and If you are unable to make decisions for yourself, either because you are unconscious or deemed not of a sound mind.

At your first visit with your therapist, they should give you enough information about confidentiality and limits of confidentiality as well as information explaining privacy policies and how your personal information will be handled. 

When it comes to discussing confidentiality and privacy with younger children, the therapist along with the child and parents will discuss confidentiality together and also discuss ground rules so that both parties know what type of imfornaton will be shared with parents and what will be kept private. 

How to get help for depression without telling parents?

If you have been struggling with mental health problems like depression, here are some things you can do to get help without involving your parents:

Find support

In case you are a minor and you are unable to maneuver around the requirements surrounding informed consent and finance, consider seeking out support groups- offline and online. 

Usually community centers will have information about people who come together to support each other and cope with depression. Research has shown that support groups are effective in helping people with mental illnesses cope- especially those facilitated by a professional. 

If you do not want to go personally, you can opt for support group forums surrounding depression where you can meet people who are also coping with the symptoms of depression. 

Whether you are a dependent adult or a minor, seeking support from support groups can be helpful if it is done with the intent to find support and learn various techniques and skills from others in helping you cope with depression. 

Educate yourself

Educate yourself about your conditions through reliable sources online. You can watch video essays and seek support from the community that a particular forum, website, or e-professional might have built. 

Take time to learn about what could be happening to you and also what are some of the ways you can cope to reduce symptoms. Cognitive behaviour therapy techniques tend to be especially effective for depression. 

Most of these techniques revolve around cognitive distortions and core beliefs which may require you to challenge them and restructure your belief system. 

By educating yourself you can empower yourself to make changes- no matter how small- which can help you cope with your symptoms.

However, if your symptoms also include suicidal ideation and attempts, it is of utmost importance that you seek out help and support from your professional health care service provider and your family. 

Consider counselling in School

Another avenue for support and help could be your school counsellor. School counsellors are also trained professionals that can help students to adjust to the school environment and also attend to and identify psychological disorders.

However, you have to remember that by ethics they are also mandated reporters. They can reach out to the school administration, your parents, or any other external services for the same reasons cited above.

Alternative emergency contact

If you are an adult and you need help to deal with your depression but you do not want your parents involved, you can list the name of your trusted friend, your sibling, or your partner as an emergency contact. 

This is mandatory and required in the event of a crisis such as a possible suicide attempt or if the professional believes that you are a harm to others or yourself. 

Choose self care. 

There are many things you can do to take care of yourself and help yourself through your depression. Most of them are also techniques and skills that are used in therapy under the  professionals’ guidance. 

Some of them include:

  • Journaling your thoughts and feelings to develop insight
  • Doing things that bring you joy
  • Challenging your distortions
  • Spending time with loved ones
  • Setting realistic goals
  • Removing or reducing stressors

Conclusion

In this blog we discussed whether your therapist will tell your parents what you tell them. 

We also discussed issues related to confidentiality and what you can do to get therapy without involving your parents. 

FAQ related to can a therapist tell your parents what you tell them

What is the importance of confidentiality in therapy?

Confidentiality is an important aspect of therapeutic care considering that trust is necessary for clients since most of what is shared is often sensitive. It is also important because it allows to cultivate and culture a relationship of trust between you and your therapist. 

When can therapists break confidentiality?

While a therapist must keep things confidential and it is part of their ethics to maintain confidentiality, there are limits to this confidentiality since therapists are bound by the ethical guidelines of their state license.

For your own safety, there are some exceptions to the rule when it comes to confidentiality in therapy. Generally, these rules have to do with the well-being of the patient or people in the patient’s life.

Can a minor see a therapist without telling parents?

While in the case of minors, it is very likely that parents will be infromed, it has to be mentioned that confiendentiality regarding minors can vary from state to state where parental consent might not be required for older teens in some states while it is mandatory for younger children below the age of 13. 

References

Protecting your privacy: Understanding confidentiality. Americal psychological Associaiation. Retrievdd on 15th May 2022. https://www.apa.org/topics/ethics/confidentiality

Can My Therapist Tell Other People About Our Sessions? Good therapy. Retrieved on 15th May 2022. https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/faq/can-my-therapist-tell-other-people-about-our-sessions

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