Not surprisingly, many children and parents are concerned about a confidentiality breach when seeking treatment for depression. While discrimination laws exist to protect us, they do not always eliminate the fear of social stigma that surrounds mental illness. Fortunately, confidentiality and privacy laws serve to protect those who rightfully seek the mental health treatment they need.
Confidentiality of Treatment Information
Many children, teens, and parents worry about seeking psychological testing or mental health treatment for fear of discrimination or interference with future educational, employment, or other personal pursuits. A child or teen may even worry that her peers, teachers, or coaches may find out her innermost thoughts and feelings discussed in treatment.
Fortunately, privacy and confidentiality laws strictly protect children from confidentiality breaches. In fact, mental health information is typically regarded as especially sensitive and carries extra safeguards.
According to the American Psychological Association's code of ethics, psychologists may only share the minimum information when required by law with third parties unless otherwise noted with explicit permission from a client and her parent.
Confidentiality Within Schools
If your child is treated or tested within a school district, her record remains confidential from third parties except when required by law. However, faculty or staff involved in her direct care or instruction may be made aware of certain aspects of her test results or treatment plan. Other students will not be able to access your child's test results or subsequent treatment, nor will it appear on any future transcripts.
Confidentiality and privacy laws also protect how written, electronic, or recorded data created during the time of your child's treatment is stored and transmitted. Data must be kept in a secured location, and transmitted in a regulated manner only under the confines of the law.
Your Child's Provider and Trust
When selecting a depression treatment provider for your child, you may consider taking recommendations from a trusted source, like your child's pediatrician. Make sure the provider has the appropriate credentials and education to practice in your state or country.
Talk to your child's provider at the onset of treatment to ensure that adequate protection is being taken to protect her from confidentiality breaches.
When it comes to your child's mental health provider, trust is an important factor in choosing the right person. You want to make sure that not only is your child receiving excellent clinical treatment, but also being treated ethically with respect for her privacy and confidentiality.
Understanding Health Information Privacy. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Accessed: 12/13/2010. http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/index.html
Stephen H. Behnke, JD, PHD, Elizabeth Warner, PsyD. "Confidentiality in the treatment of adolescents." Monitor on Psychology. March 2002; 33(3): 44.