Frequently asked questions
Privacy And Confidentiality
To add a new question go to app settings and press "Manage Questions" button.Privacy rights are important, especially when it comes to healthcare. Unfortunately, protections and requirements for adults, minors, family members, and even treatment providers can be unclear. Below, we have answered some of the most common questions people have about privacy and healthcare.Much of this information falls under the Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, often referred to as HIPAA.
Healthcare Providers Adults: What healthcare information is protected under privacy laws?Under HIPAA, the following information is considered protected:
Before receiving services, you should be provided a Notice of Privacy Practices. This is a written statement about how your provider uses and shares your information. They are required to receive an acknowledgment that you have seen the notice, but acknowledgement does not necessarily mean that you accept or reject how they use your information. If you do not agree with the terms, you are able to ask questions and discuss specific uses of information with your provider.
Who can access my healthcare information?
You have the right to decide how and with whom your protected health information is shared. Providers must respect your decisions regarding your privacy, and many states require individuals to complete paperwork stating who may or may not see their information. While providers generally follow their clients’ wishes, there are emergency situations when a provider may disclose relevant, protected health information to an outside party, including family members or law enforcement. These special circumstances include times when a provider believes there is an imminent threat of harm to self or others, or where an individual is deemed “incapacitated,” lacking the ability to make one’s health decisions, and sharing information is in the best interest of the client’s care.
Your insurance company also has access to general health information including what treatment was provided (Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes), diagnoses (ICD-10 codes), medications, and summaries or discussions needed to justify billing or payment of the submitted services. Your insurance company does not have access to services not submitted to them or that you have paid for in full out of your own pocket.
Can I plan how my information will be shared in an emergency?
Psychiatric Advance Directives are documents in which you list your preferences in case you are determined to lack the ability to make your own decisions during a mental health crisis. Creating this document when your ability to make decisions is not in question gives you an opportunity to impact what happens to you during a mental health crisis. Some things to be considered include:
information your doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers put in your medical record;
conversations your doctor has about your care or treatment with nurses and others;
billing information about you;
and most other health information about you held by any person providing you physical or mental health treatment.
While doctors ultimately have the power to make decisions, these documents can influence your care and give you a more active role in the case of crisis.
How can I access my healthcare records?
You have the right to see your health records—even if you have not paid for services. Depending on your provider, you may be asked to submit a request in writing. They may also charge a fee for copying and/or mailing your records. Providers are typically required to give access to your records within thirty days of your request.
In terms of therapy, you have a right to see your general health information including dates of services, billing, and diagnoses; however, you may not have access to your therapists’ notes from your sessions together. While laws differ by state, access to psychotherapy notes is granted if your provider records them in your general health information records or gives you access to them. If you want to see your psychotherapy notes, it is often good to start with a conversation with your provider about your feelings and concerns.
What if I believe my health record is incorrect?
If you believe something is missing or incomplete in your health record, you can request that your provider make corrections. If the provider does not agree that your information is inaccurate, you have the right to note in your file that you disagree.
What are my privacy rights in regards to alcohol and/or drug use?
Information on alcohol and/or drug use is unique from other mental health information. You are required to separately provide permission for any alcohol and/or drug use information to be shared. While this is a personal decision, it is useful for providers to share this information, especially if you take medications that may be less effective or harmful with substance use or you have additional medical conditions. It is very hard for providers to treat people without their full record.
If I am hospitalized, what health information can be shared with law enforcement?
Hospitals are able to disclose specific information to law enforcement for the purposes of “locating or identifying a suspect, fugitive, material witness, or missing person.” This information includes admission and discharge dates and times, description of distinguishing characteristics, and name and address, among other general identifying information. Your provider may not share information related to DNA, dental records, or any analysis of bodily fluids.
I feel that my privacy rights have been violated. What can I do?
If you feel that your privacy rights have been violated, you can file a complaint with the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights, your provider, or your health insurer. A group, company, or organization is not allowed to discriminate against you for filing a complaint. Click here to learn more information about the complaint process. Minors:Can I make my own decisions about my mental health treatment?
In most states, you are considered an adult at 18 and are then able to make healthcare decisions for yourself. If you are under 18, the ability to make decisions about your mental health treatment varies by state. Some states allow a minor to consent to treatment as early as age 12 but may have specific guidelines as to how often or what circumstances this consent is allowed. Decisions about treatment may be affected by services available, payment options, and insurance policies.
Does my parent/guardian have access to my health records?
Depending on state laws, your parent/legal guardian may have access to all or some of your health records. If a parent/guardian agrees to confidentiality between you and your provider, the treatment provider does not have to grant access to your health records. In states where there is no requirement to share information with a parent/guardian, disclosing information, such as diagnosis, is at the discretion of the provider. Neither you nor your parent/guardian has the right to access your psychotherapy notes. Disclosure of this information is also at the discretion of the provider.
Are my communications with my school counselor private?
Generally, communications with your school counselor are considered private information. In cases where there is a compelling reason to share information and an adult is in a position to help you, a school counselor may choose to disclose this information. While requirements on sharing this information vary by state, most states require reporting on cases of child abuse or neglect.
My family member/friend refuses to share their healthcare information with me. What can I do?
HIPAA allows individuals to make decisions as to who is allowed to see their protected health information. As a family member or friend, a provider may listen to you but cannot provide information about the patient, including whether or not they are in treatment. Except for in cases where the provider determines there is a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of the client or others and that you may be able to mitigate this threat, or if the provider determines the client is incapacitated. In both cases, the provider must use clinical judgment and respect any prior decisions of the consumer.
What if I just want to share important information with my family member/friend’s provider?You are welcome to call and leave a voicemail or email with your family member/friend’s provider giving them whatever information you would like to share. You may or may not hear back from that provider. It is likely that the provider will tell your family member/friend that you contacted them and will ask for permission to speak to you.
If the provider calls you, they may or may not confirm or deny that your family member/friend is seeing them. If your family member/friend has provided permission to share information, the provider will share whatever information was permissible and/or is appropriate for care.
types of treatment you want or do not want;
family members, friends, or treatment providers who should be alerted and/or involved;
alternatives to hospitalizations;
andpreferred treatment facilities.
Does my health insurance cover outpatient mental health care?
You will want to call the number on the back of your insurance card to verify that you have outpatient mental health coverage and that we are covered under your insurance. If you are private pay, out of pocket, or using out of network benefits, that is okay as well but make sure to know what options you have.
What questions should I ask my insurance company?
1.) What are my outpatient mental health benefits?
2.) What are my out-of-pocket expenses, such as deductible or co-pay?
3.) Is my counselor “in-network” with my plan?
4.) Do I need a pre-certification for outpatient mental health services?
PLC Accepted insurances:
United Health Care
PLC Alternatives to insurance:
Open Path (Sliding Fee $30-$80 per session. If interested, please inquire prior to making an appointment.)
Out of Network (see FAQ for more information)
Flexible spending accounts
*all major credit cards accepted*
Our First Meeting
At first counseling session can feel intimidating, even if you've see a therapist before. Don't worry, it's normal! Remember, it is my job to help you, not judge you. So I wanted to give you a couple ideas of what to expect:
1. We will go over the paperwork you filled out. We will make sure everything is all set before we begin. Insurance, forms, etc.
2. I will go over confidentiality and your rights. It is vital to me that your confidentiality is protected. I will cover the limits of confidentiality and let you ask any questions you may have.
3. We will discuss what brings you to counseling and get some background information. This is just our first time meeting, it's okay if we don't cover everything! This is your session and your time, we will cover what you want.
4. We will discuss any goals you may have and begin developing a plan of action for reaching those goals.
5. We will likely set up a follow up appointment. We will decide together how often that should be.
What Is Counseling?
Counseling helps people navigate often difficult life situations. You might be asking, "can't I just talk to a friend? That's free." Yes, you can and friends offer us a great service of love and compassion. However, sometimes the things we experience in life needs more than the love, compassion and listening ear of a friend.
Sometimes, you need a trained professional, who is objective and outside your "inner circle", who can offer you more insight, tools and resources. You could be experiencing a number of things, include the death of a loved one, divorce, trauma, stress, loss of a job and so much more. Counseling can help provide you with the tools and insights needed to manage all that life throws at us.
Counseling at Purple Lots Counseling is meant to empower people to lead healthy and fulfilled lives.