Privacy and Confidentiality
As part of our work together, Counselling Services staff will collect personal information about you that is relevant to providing assessment, consultation or counselling services. This information may include current concerns, relevant history, family information, past treatment or other relevant information.
We are committed to protecting your personal information in order to ensure that you feel safe and comfortable in your work with us, and we follow stringent professional and legal privacy practices.
The following outlines how your information will be used and protected in Counselling Services. If you have any questions or concerns about this, please follow up with your counsellor or the contact people listed at the end of this document.
Clinical — Personal information is used to ensure the best fit between client and counsellor, to determine the most effective treatment plan, and to measure treatment effectiveness. Information may also be used to assess risk of harm to self or others as part of responsible care and to ensure personal and community safety.
Feedback — Clients are also invited to share their impressions of counselling on a feedback or progress evaluation form. These forms are voluntary, as is the student’s option to provide identifying information. This information is also stored in aggregate format and used only for service evaluation, planning and improvement.
Confidentiality: Implied Consent to Share Information
When a student requests counselling through our office, permission to share information relevant to the provision of counselling is implied.
Relevant information may be shared between counsellors for the purpose of professional consultation, and with administrative staff as related to managing files, scheduling and documentation, and with other health care providers (e.g. Health Services staff), in order to ensure continuity and quality of care.
Additionally, authorized Laurier IT staff may access our electronic database for technical maintenance. All staff are bound by strict confidentiality agreements.
Please let us know in writing if you do not want us to use or share some or all of your information with people who provide you with health care. In this case, we may find it necessary to identify that there is information that we are not able to share, particularly if we are concerned that this information is relevant to your care.
Information Storage and Retention
Personal information is stored in a secure manner. Paper records are kept in a centralized storage system, which is locked whenever not directly supervised by staff. Electronic hardware is also locked or restricted when not under supervision. Passwords are used on all computers.
No original client records are removed from Counselling Services. When clinical records are required for an external meeting, copies are made, and identifying information removed.
As required by professional standards, documentation is kept for 10 years following the last contact, or longer if needed for legal purposes. After that time, files are destroyed in a manner that protects client confidentiality.
Expressed Consent to Share Information
When information about you is requested for reasons other than the provision of health care, your expressed (written) consent is required. This might apply to instances when information is requested related to academic issues/petitions, insurance or legal purposes, or if family or friends should request it.
Please note that in such cases we do not even confirm whether or not you are a client of our service, unless issues related to risk or safety are identified.
Exceptions to Confidentiality
We are legally required to release personal information with or without consent in the following (rare) situations:
· where such information is required to assess the possibility of/to prevent a life threatening situation;
· when there is evidence or suspicion that a child (under age 16) is, or may be, in need of protection;
· for the purpose of a legal proceeding, court order, or other legal requirement;
· when sexual abuse by a health professional (for example, a therapist, physician, chiropractor, massage therapist, physiotherapist) is reported;
· if a professional College or Association should request access to clinical material to ensure quality service;
· information related to risk of violence in the workplace.
Access to Information
Clients may be given supervised access to their file if requested and if this information will not be harmful to them. The client has the right to receive explanation of any information in the file, and to include documentation regarding any information they may feel is inaccurate.
Complete copies of files must be requested through the Privacy Office, consistent with university policy.
Any questions or concerns regarding Counselling Services’ Privacy and Confidentiality practices may be directed to either Dr. Alison Edgar Bertoia, C. Psych. (Director, Counselling Services, Wilfrid Laurier University) or Shereen Rowe (Privacy Commissioner, Privacy Office, Wilfrid Laurier University).