Confidential Therapy for Federal Employees
Federal employees face a wide range of mental health concerns—from difficulty maintaining a work-life balance to anxiety and depression. When seeking mental health care, confidential therapy is essential to protect sensitive information about federal employment and the employees’ personal information.
Moreover, psychotherapy is most effective when you can be open about your mental health concerns, and confidentiality can help you feel more comfortable throughout the therapeutic process. Whether you’re seeing a therapist for the first time or transitioning to online therapy, here’s what you need to know about the ins and outs of client confidentiality.
What is client confidentiality?
Client confidentiality is protected through the therapist-patient privilege and under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
As a respected component of therapy, client confidentiality requires therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, clinicians, and other licensed mental health professionals to protect their client’s privacy by not releasing information discussed during therapy. Meanwhile, the HIPAA privacy rule protects individuals’ medical records and personal health information, including confidential records about psychotherapy and mental health.
During your first psychotherapy appointment, your therapist will provide paperwork explaining privacy policies, psychotherapist-patient privilege, and how your personal information will be handled. In some cases, there are some scenarios that override the privacy rule. Under the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics, the limits of confidentiality include:
- Therapists may disclose confidential information without the client’s consent to protect the client or the public from serious harm, for example, if a patient threatens to harm another person or acts on suicidal thoughts.
- Therapists are required to report ongoing domestic violence, child abuse, and the abuse of the elderly and people with disabilities.
- Therapists may release private information to law enforcement agencies or the court at their discretion if they receive a court order, for example, during a criminal case.
Will your insurance company see your records?
Therapists will share certain — usually only basic — information about your mental health diagnosis and treatment with the health insurance company or government program paying for your treatment to determine insurance coverage.
Health insurance companies and government programs are also bound by the HIPAA privacy rule to keep information about medical and mental health services confidential.
Is online therapy confidential?
Online therapy is as confidential as in-person psychotherapy sessions, meaning the information shared with a therapist cannot be shared with anyone else—including family members—without the client’s permission. However, similar to in-person mental health services, there are limits to confidentiality under the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics.
To ensure confidential communication, be sure to search for an online psychotherapist or therapy platform that uses HIPAA-compliant technology. For example, online therapy platforms like the Therapy Group of DC use HIPAA-compliant, secure systems to provide confidentiality therapy to federal employees and other prospective clients.
What should you expect from therapy?
Before you start your first appointment, your therapist will likely send you some paperwork, including:
- HIPAA privacy forms
- A medical history form, including questions about your current medications
- A mental health and history questionnaire about your current symptoms
- A record release form
- A therapist-patient privilege and confidentiality services agreement
During your first visit or online appointment, your therapist will ask about your concerns, what brought you to therapy, and whether you’ve used mental health services in the past. You’ll discuss the length of your treatment, your treatment goals, and different therapeutic approaches.
If you have specific concerns about confidentiality or psychotherapist-patient privilege, for example, if you want to make an intimate confession or you’re worried about a breach of confidentiality, discuss these questions with your psychologist. Your therapist will be happy to help you understand your privacy protection.
If you experience a breach of confidentiality or feel that your therapist has violated your therapist-patient privilege in any way, you can report him or her to the state licensing board of psychology.
Finding the Right Therapist
Finding the right therapist is integral to the success of your treatment. According to the American Psychological Association, forming a therapeutic relationship leads to better long-term psychological outcomes. Above all else, you should feel that your psychotherapist provides a safe, confidential space to express your thoughts, feelings, and concerns.
To find a psychotherapist, reach out to a provider through the Therapy Group of DC. Our licensed mental health professionals offer confidential counseling using secure systems. Whether you’re navigating mental health concerns, searching for emotional support, or facing job stress, one of our compassionate therapists will provide personalized guidance every step of the way.