I fully respect each individual’s ethical and legal right to privacy, specifically privacy rights guaranteed under HIPAA. I am happy to collaborate with any other mental health, medical, or social service provider, in addition to family members, loved ones, significant others, and close friends but will not do so unless you have signed proper documentation and we have discussed what type of information may be shared. All information you disclose to me will be kept confidential, with the notable exceptions of circumstances such as disclosure that you may hurt yourself or someone else.
In working with teens and children who legally must have parents/guardians involved in their care, I work with patients and families to understand why it is important for their young loved ones to have privacy and adequate boundaries. I seldom break this trust unless I have a major concern for my patient’s well-being or a disclosure to hurt themselves or someone else has been expressed to me.
Probably like yourself, I am a Brooklynite. There is a good chance you may see me out in the neighborhood running errands or ordering bagels. If I do see you, I will not stop to say ‘hello’ or acknowledge you. Please do not take offense to this. I do not want to compromise my patient’s privacy or put them in a position where they may feel as though they need to explain to others how they know me. It should not be my decision to allow others to know whether a patient is in treatment. If you care to stop me and say ‘hi’, feel free to do so. In that case, I will acknowledge you. Again, please do not take it personally or think that I dislike or do not want to interact with you.
Additionally, when you work with a therapist, you probably should not be hearing about their life for the duration of your session. I will not spontaneously volunteer much information about myself. I will not take up the time that you have paid for to speak about my personal life. It is my professional opinion that therapists need to exercise self care just as much as anyone else, and therapists should find other ways to feel supported including talking with family and friends, seeing their own therapist, engaging in hobbies, and joining professional organizations. Your time and money is valuable, and your session should afford you the opportunity to discuss your concerns, successes, thoughts, and feelings without interruption.
Keeley Teemsma, MA, MSW, LCSW