Confidentiality in Counseling
FAQs about Confidentiality
Why are counseling services private and confidential?
Counseling is considered a medical service and protects your information just like UH Hilo Student Medical Services and other health provider offices in the community. Confidentiality in counseling creates a safe space for students to talk about anything and everything and to get support without fear of judgment or penalty. Students discuss many experiences with counselors that may include substance use, sexual activity, and concerns about illegal or other behavior that might violate the student conduct code. Counselors will not disclose this information unless the information shared falls under the category of one of the limits of confidentiality listed below. All students will be informed of these limits before speaking with a counselor, so that they can decide what information they wish to share.
Who will know that I am seeing a counselor?
Our office assistant, Sharon, and the counselor will be the only people to know. No one including parents, family members, professors, doctors, coaches, insurance companies, or other UH staff or faculty will be told that you come to counseling, or what you talk about while here. If you want someone to be able to talk to your counselor, or you want your counselor to be able to confirm that you attend counseling or discuss anything about your counseling session with anyone else, you must sign a consent form. In this form, you would give specific permission to your counselor to either obtain or release information and specify what information you want to be shared.
What if I see my counselor around town or on campus?
How you handle this is totally up to you. You and your counselor will probably discuss this during your first session and you can tell your counselor what you would prefer. Counselors know many students in many different ways, so some students are casual and friendly with their counselor when they see him or her outside of Counseling Services. Other students prefer to be as discreet about counseling as possible.
What about privacy and confidentiality in groups?
Many students are concerned about joining a group because of privacy and confidentiality. Please check here to learn more about the benefits of Group Counseling and how privacy and confidentiality are managed in a group setting.
Other than the exceptions to confidentiality listed below, all interactions with Counseling Services, including scheduling of or attendance at appointments, content of your sessions, progress in counseling, consultation during supervision and your records are confidential. No record of counseling is contained in any academic, educational, or job placement file. You may request in writing that the counseling staff release specific information about your counseling to persons you designate. You may also request in writing that counseling staff be allowed to obtain or discuss information about your medical or psychological status or history from relevant third parties such as doctors, psychotherapists, school personnel, parents, family members and/or other associates.
See intake form Informed Consent and Limits of Confidentiality.
Exceptions to Confidentiality
- The counseling staff works as a team. Your therapist may consult with other counseling staff to provide the best possible care. Interns may also consult with professors and peers in a graduate counseling program.
- If there is evidence of clear and imminent danger of harm to self and/or others, a counselor is legally required to report this information to third parties responsible for ensuring safety.
- Hawaiʻi State law requires that staff of Counseling Services who learn of or strongly suspect physical or sexual abuse of a child or elder must report this information to Child Protection Services (for child abuse) or Adult Protection Services (for elder abuse).
- A court order, issued by a judge, may require the Counseling Services staff to release information contained in records and/or require a therapist to testify in a court hearing.