Confidentiality is one of the most important factors when developing trust in a therapist-client relationship. But what happens when those who have gone to couples’ counseling are facing a contentious divorce or custody battle? There are strict rules and ethical standards all therapists must follow, not to mention HIPAA regulations to protect a patient’s right to privacy, but in some cases, a therapist has a legal duty to report certain issues.
What Happens When a Therapist Is Subpoenaed?
Generally, ethics rules and privacy laws protect those who participate in any kind of therapy. Even if a licensed therapist or counselor is subpoenaed by a judge, a therapist is limited in what they are allowed to disclose. Because these topics are limited to general subject matter that may have arisen in a session, therapists are rarely subpoenaed in cases involving divorce or child custody.
Exceptions to the Confidentiality Rule
Licensed therapists are mandated reporters, so if issues involving suicide, homicide, the threat to harm yourself or others, or child or domestic abuse are disclosed in therapy, they are required to report them to the proper authorities and may testify to them in court.
Talk with Your Therapist about Your Concerns
If you have specific concerns about confidentiality, it’s important to speak with your couples’ therapist to understand exactly what can and cannot be disclosed. You may want to consider seeing a different counselor for individual therapy if you believe you may be facing legal issues with your spouse or partner in the future. It’s also vital to keep in mind anything you say in couples’ therapy will be heard by your partner if they’re in the room with you.
Some couples’ therapists actually recommend each person see someone else for individual therapy. They may also set ground rules about specific issues they will not keep secret, such as infidelity. Laws surrounding confidentiality and ethics rules vary from state to state, so talking with your therapist and setting some ground rules at the very beginning is a good idea.
Couples therapy can help you resolve issues that may be holding you back from connecting with your partner. If you are going through a divorce, a therapist can also help you develop coping and communication skills that reduce stress and make the process easier. Contact a therapist at Kayenta directly to schedule a session.