Information on Confidentiality

Confidentiality in psychological counseling is important to encourage you to discuss all of the struggles that you are experiencing. Counselors are ethically and legally required to keep confidential information shared by you in counseling. Counseling Services uses the following confidential practices:

Written Records

Information about your counseling is recorded in an electronic file. This is separate and independent from your academic and health records, and can only be accessed by members of the Counseling Services staff.

If you are prescribed medication by a psychiatrist at Counseling Services, a notation of the medication will be included in your health services record, which is kept separately from your psychological counseling and academic record. This notation is not copied or released when your medical or academic records are sent elsewhere.
Records about your counseling are kept for seven years, which is consistent with the professional ethical guidelines.
You have a right to know the contents of your file unless your counselor (or parents, if you're under 18) deem that viewing it would be harmful to your mental health.

Electronic Information

Counseling Services utilizes an electronic scheduling system and client database, including your reported contact information, demographic information, a list of your initial presenting concerns and problems, and brief records of your counseling sessions. The staff at Counseling Services maintains strict security measures to protect this information--physical locks, electronic encryption, firewalls, and password protection.

E-mail

The staff at Counseling Services is aware that e-mail communication is not confidential. We will only communicate via e-mail with your permission, and will use it only to schedule/confirm appointments or for other administrative matters. The counselors at Counseling Services will not provide counseling through e-mail or other electronic means.

Limits of Confidentiality

California law places some limits on confidentiality in counseling:

  • If you tell your counselor you were abused as a child, and you are under 18 years of age at the time you tell your counselor, the counselor must report the abuse to a county Child Protective Services agency.
  • If you are over 18 when you tell the counselor, but there is a child currently at risk by the same abuser, then the counselor may be required to make a report to a county agency.
  • If you tell your counselor about being sexually assaulted, the counselor is not required to make a report unless you are under 18 at the time you tell the counselor.
  • If you tell your counselor about elder or dependent adult abuse, the counselor may be required to make a report.
  • If you pose a danger to yourself, the counselor may be legally obligated to take whatever actions necessary to protect you from harm.
  • If you tell your counselor that you intend to do imminent harm to a specific person(s), your counselor is required by law to inform the authorities, intended victim(s) and take additional action if necessary.
  • If a court of law orders a therapist or counselor to release information, that person is bound by law to comply with such an order.

Release of Information

With the exceptions noted above, information about you (including whether you have made appointments at Counseling Services) cannot be released to anyone outside of Counseling Services without your written permission.

If you decide that you want to authorize your counselor or other Counseling Services staff to disclose information contained in your counseling record, you will be asked to sign a "Release of Information" form. This form will specify:

  • What information is disclosed
  • Designate to whom the disclosure is to be made
  • Specify the purpose or need
  • Limit what information you want or don't want to release
  • Indicate when the authorization expires
  • You may cancel the authorization at any time by giving us written notice.

Similarly, if you decide to authorize release of your psychiatric and/or medication records, please speak with your psychiatrist. You will need to sign a release form through Student Health Center.

Common Reasons for Disclosure

Here are common reasons to authorize Counseling Services to disclose information contained in the confidential record:

  • To support academic accommodations - You may want to authorize disclosure if you are requesting academic accommodations from a particular professor or the University due to psychological conditions.
  • Additional treatment or testing by another professional outside of Counseling Services.
  • Some information on this page was adapted with permission from Stanford University's Counseling and Psychological Services webpage.