When does a therapist have to break confidentiality
When does a therapist have to break confidentiality? Confidentiality is sacred in psychotherapy. Without it, there is no degree of trust between client and therapist. Think about it. Why would someone tell their deepest darkest secrets to a therapist if they thought that person could just tell whoever they wanted? The rules regarding the use of confidentiality are varied and do have exceptions. Before we explore those limits in more detail, let’s briefly discuss what confidentiality means in a counseling situation.
What is Confidentiality?
Confidentiality is the assurance that the information a therapist receives about their client will not be shared with anyone else without the client’s consent. Therapists have both a legal and ethical obligation to keep information about their clients confidential. Additionally, there is no time limit to confidentiality; it pertains even after a client terminates therapy. Despite the importance of confidentiality, there are times when a therapist has a duty to break it. Keep in mind, that each state has specific laws regarding confidentiality and occasions when it must not be followed. The following are instances where confidentiality needs to be broken:
Abuse and Neglect of Children
This is one of the few laws that all states have that mandates therapists to break confidentiality. If a therapist finds out—or even strongly suspects—that a child is being abused or neglected (or that they might be abused in the future) they must report it to the child protective services agency in their state. When reporting abuse, it should always be done as soon as possible. If you have the opportunity, it is advisable to tell the parents, even if they are the people that allegedly abused the child.
Abuse and Neglect of the Elderly or Dependent Adults
Similar to children, most states have laws that protect the elderly or disabled from abuse and neglect. Depending on the state, a therapist that does not report suspected abuse might even be charged with a crime. For example, Utah will charge a therapist with a class B misdemeanor for a failure to report abuse.