Confidentiality or Privileged Communication

Most states have enacted laws addressing the subjects of confidentiality and privileged communication between clients and counselors.  “Same as attorney-client privilege” is the language used in most statutes while others refer to the state’s rules of evidence.  While most states provide for confidentiality between counselors and clients, a list of exceptions always occurs.  Common exceptions include the following:

  1. A counselor formally reporting to or consulting with administrative supervisors, colleagues or supervisors who share professional responsibility (i.e. in this instance all recipients of such information are similarly bound to regard the communication as privileged);
  2. With written consent of the person who provided the information;
  3. When a communication reveals the intended commission of a crime or harmful act and such disclosure is judged necessary to protect any person from a clear, imminent risk of serious mental or physical harm or injury or to forestall a serious threat to public safety;
  4. When the client waives the privilege by bringing any public charges against the licensee, and;
  5. When knowledge is acquired revealing abuse or neglect of a minor or client lacking the capacity to give informed consent that the minor or client lacking the capacity to give informed consent is the victim of a crime.

The United States Supreme Court decision, Jaffee v. Redmond (1996), held that communications between psychotherapists and their clients are privileged and, therefore, are protected from forced disclosure in cases arising under federal law.

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