Confidentiality is an essential part of any clinical relationship. All aspects of your participation in clinical services at the Counseling Center, including the scheduling of appointments, content of counseling sessions, and any records that we keep, are confidential as outlined by federal and state law. What you share with the counselor will be held in confidence, unless you authorize your counselor to discuss it with others. If you wish your counselor to communicate with any one else, you will be asked to sign a Release of Information form which specifies what information you want released and with whom it is to be shared.
Counseling records are maintained in files separate from the student's academic files and cannot be accessed by faculty, staff, administrators, parents or other students without the student's written permission. Students are encouraged to address any questions or concerns about confidentiality with a counselor during their first appointment.
Under Massachusetts law, some specific types of information are not confidential. Abuse of children, the disabled, and the elderly must be reported to the Department of Social Services (DSS). Situations involving the possibility of imminent harm to self or others may also require the counselor to release information as part of a plan of action to keep everyone involved safe.
Examples of when confidentiality may be breached:
1. A client wants/needs to share information about their counseling with a third party. In this case, confidentiality is broken at the request of the client. In order for this to occur, a Release of Information form must be signed by the client and detailing to whom this information can be released. Examples:
- The client has already informed a faculty member, advisor, or staff member that he/she is in counseling and wants or needs the Center to provide a letter of proof or support.
- The client is seeking treatment with a community-based provider and requests a treatment summary be forwarded to the new provider.
2. The client is an immediate threat to themselves (suicidal) or others (homicidal). Examples:
- If suicidal, and the client cannot or will not go to a hospital voluntarily, Counseling Center staff must contact campus police, family, friends, or some other responsible party to ensure the safety of the client and help initiate the medical/mental health care that the client needs.
- If the client is homicidal and a potential victim is known, Counseling Center staff must inform the police and/or the potential victim of the client's homicidal intent.
3. The client mentions a past or present instance of abuse which involves children, the elderly or the disabled. By law, the Department of Social Services (DSS) must be contacted.
4. If the client is involved in a court case, client counseling records may be requested (subpoena) or demanded (court order).