CMHCs have an obligation to safeguard information about individuals obtained in the course of practice, teaching, and research. Personal information is communicated to others only with the client’s consent, preferably written, or in circumstances dictated by state and federal laws. Disclosure of counseling information is restricted to what is necessary and relevant.
a. Confidentiality is a right granted to all clients of mental health counseling services. From the onset of the counseling relationship, CMHCs inform clients of these rights, including legal limitations and exceptions.
b. The information in client records belongs to the client and shall not be shared without permission granted through a formal release of information. In the event that a client requests that information in client records be shared, CMHCs educate clients to the implications of sharing the materials.
c. The release of information without the consent of the client may only take place under the most extreme circumstances: the protection of life (suicidality or homicidality), child abuse, abuse of persons legally determined as incompetent, and elder abuse. CMHCs are required to comply with state and federal statutes concerning mandated reporting.
d. CMHCs (and their staff members) do not release information by request unless accompanied by a specific release of information or a valid court order. CMHCs make every attempt to release only the information necessary to comply with the request or valid court order. CMHCs are advised to seek legal advice upon receiving a subpoena in order to respond appropriately.
e. The anonymity of clients served in public and other agencies is preserved, if at all possible, by withholding names and personal identifying data. If external conditions require reporting such information, the client shall be so informed.
f. Information received about a client by another agency or person should not be forwarded to another person or agency without the client’s written permission.
g. CMHCs have the responsibility to report the validity of data shared with other parties.
h. Case reports presented in classes, professional meetings, and publications shall be disguised so that no identification of the client is possible. Permission must be obtained from clients prior to disclosing their identity.