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When considering seeking out mental health treatment, you may have a variety of different concerns that will need to be addressed. One of these concerns might be how your privacy will be protected. Luckily, several legal and ethical safeguards are in place to help protect your privacy when it comes to health care, including mental health care.
Mental Health Privacy Protection in HIPAA
Almost everyone who has visited a medical professional of any kind has heard about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). You have probably received information and been required to sign paperwork concerning HIPAA at various doctor’s offices. HIPAA was the creation of laws that protect sensitive patient information. It holds medical professionals to a high standard nationwide and prevents them from sharing their patient’s medical information without their consent.
In order for individuals to feel safe and comfortable obtaining the health care they need, it is crucial that there are strong privacy protections in place. This is especially true in the mental health care field, where medical information is often extremely personal and sensitive. There are several legal ramifications for breaches of HIPAA privacy protection. Violators face jail time and heavy fines.
Ethical Considerations for Protecting Patients’ Privacy
Medical professionals are required to undergo extensive training on professionalism and ethics during the course of their schooling. They are taught to incorporate core values into their practice of medicine, which include certain beliefs and virtues. These values are protected because of the importance of building trust between the public and medical professionals.
Medical ethics are studied through a careful and systematic analysis of decisions and behaviors in different situations. Ethics are instilled in every aspect of medical training. Respect for individuals, the importance of informed consent, and a basic right to privacy through confidentiality practices are key to building patient trust.
Privacy and Ethics in Mental Health Care
Mental health professionals often work with their clients on very difficult and sensitive subjects. Individuals seeking help for a mental health issue are most likely already feeling a certain sense of vulnerability. Mental health professionals should always keep this in mind and do everything they can to protect their patient’s privacy. Trust in your mental health team is the foundation of all mental health treatment.
When Can My Therapist Share My Information?
Mental health professionals are in a somewhat unique position in the medical community. Information about mental health symptoms and treatments shares the same protections as other medical information. However, there may be times during the course of treatment when information about a patient might be shared.
The first situation in which a mental health professional will share information about a patient’s condition or treatment is with the permission of the patient. Patients sometimes have family or close friends that will be helping provide support or aid in treatment. Information may be shared as needed with others as long as the patient is aware and has given consent.
In the case of a patient being unable to give permission due to incapacitation or absence, a mental health care provider may determine that it is necessary to share information. They will only do this if they believe that it is in the best interest of their patient. Using all the information they have will give them the ability to form a professional and ethical judgment.
At all times, mental health care providers must ensure the health and safety of their patients and others. Mental health care professionals are mandatory reporters of abuse. They also have a “duty to warn” if they suspect that their patient might be a harm to themselves or others. All medical professionals are required to keep their patients and any involved third parties safe.
Questions to Ask About Privacy and Confidentiality
When you are looking for mental health treatment, it is essential that you find a place and people to work with that help you feel safe and secure. Your treatment will be a personal and individualized process, and you deserve to feel as comfortable as possible and build relationships of trust with your support team.
If privacy is something you are concerned about, it is something you should communicate very clearly about with any potential therapists or other medical professionals. If they are aware that you are concerned, they should be able to give you information and reassurance to calm any anxiety you may be feeling.
Ask any questions that you are curious about, such as:
- Will the things I discuss in therapy be kept private?
- Who will see information about my healthcare or treatment plan?
- Will you discuss the things I share with other mental health professionals?
- Under what circumstances would you share my information without my consent?
Ask potential therapists these questions and see how you feel about their answers. If they do not address your concerns to your satisfaction, they may not be the best fit for you. Remember that the most important part of effective mental health treatment is for you to feel safe and comfortable with your mental health team.
At Alter Wellness Care, we understand that seeking mental health support is a vulnerable action that takes incredible strength. It is our number one priority to make our clients feel safe and comfortable when seeking treatment. We strive to provide excellence of care to every person who walks through our door. From the initial assessment to the development of your individual treatment plan, we will treat you with the utmost respect and do everything we can to protect your privacy. Our professional and compassionate team will address any concerns you may have at any point. Give us a call today at (866) 311-3510 for more information on Alter Wellness Care’s commitment to professionalism and ethical treatment.