Both Pennsylvania law and professional codes of ethics emphasize the importance of confidentiality in a counseling relationship. However, law and ethics also emphasize the sanctity of life and the protection of individuals. Confidentiality may be breached if the counselor has reason to believe that the client may pose a threat to him/herself or to others. Confidentiality must also be breached if the counselor has reason to believe that a child is the victim of sexual or other forms of physical abuse or if the counselor is required to testify in a court of law.
Due to the number of students seen by a limited number of counseling staff members, we utilize a time-limited approach to counseling. We typically limit the number of individual counseling sessions to about eight per student per academic year.
If it appears that a specific counseling issue will need longer-term therapy, we will refer you to a professional or agency who is equipped to work with you for a longer period of time. When making any referral, we will consider the special needs of the student, including the identified problem and transportation, financial and insurance circumstances.
Release of Information
Professional ethics concerning confidentiality prevent us from even acknowledging that we work with a particular individual. Therefore, if you wish for the counseling staff to confer with your family members, instructors or other concerned individuals, you must sign a "Release of Information Form." A signed "Release of Information Form" will offer guidelines concerning with whom we may discuss your situation and will outline any limited on such a discussion. Of course, a release is not mandatory if confidentiality must be breached (as described in Confidentiality above).
Medical or Psychiatric Consultation
In some instances, it may be beneficial for the counselor to consult with a medical or psychiatric professional. For example, antidepressant medication may be in order for some students. Or the possibility of an underlying medical disorder must be considered in some instances. If a medical or psychiatric consultation is indicated, we will discuss that possibility with you.
What You Can Expect/What We Expect
First, we want you to understand that confidentiality is taken very seriously by the counseling staff. However, there are limits as noted above. We may ask that you sign a "Release of Information Form" if the situation warrants it. It is important to understand that we operate under a brief therapy model and certain counseling issues may be best resolved in combination with a medical or psychiatric consultation.
We ask you to be prompt, to call ahead of time if you will need to postpone an appointment and to be open with your counselor. You can expect us to be attentive, empathic and honest.