Understanding Counseling and Confidentiality

Simply stated, counseling is any relationship in which one person is helping another person to better understand and solve some problem. Friends and relatives provide a type of counseling, as do academic advisors, teachers, and many others. The staff at CAPS differ from others who may offer counseling because of their extensive training in psychology and human behavior. They have a broad range of experience working with many different situations.

What can you expect from your counselor?

You can expect someone who is interested in listening to your concerns and in helping you to better understand and deal more easily and effectively with them. Your counselor will take you seriously and be willing to openly discuss anything you wish to discuss.

Because different counselors have varying beliefs about how people change, they differ on how much talking they do in sessions, whether they ask you to do "homework," and their focus of discussion. If you have any questions about what is going on, by all means ask.

Counselors have no "magical" skills or knowledge, and will be unable to solve your problems directly for you. Your counselor will want to work with you, but won't do for you what you are capable of doing for yourself. Your counselor will maintain strict confidentiality except under unusual circumstances. If you have questions about the limits of confidentiality, please bring them up with your counselor.

What are your responsibilities in counseling?

Your main responsibilities in counseling are to attend your regularly scheduled sessions, talk about what is bothering you as openly and honestly as you can, and complete any tasks or "homework" assignments you may be asked to do. Please let your counselor know if you are unable to make it to a session. Most counseling will require you to try something new or a "different approach." Remember your counselor is most interested in your well being and in your benefiting from counseling. Please let your counselor know when your problems have been solved or if you don't feel like you're making any progress.

Tips on how to benefit from counseling

  • Attend your sessions and take an active part in them.
  • Be ready to focus on a specific problem or issue.
  • Tell your counselor if you don't think you're being helped

Will the counseling be confidential?

CAPS strictly protects the confidentiality of information shared during sessions. This section summarizes our practices regarding the legal and ethical aspects of confidentiality and the sharing of information. It is not intended as a summary of actual laws of the State of California.

Written Records
Brief information from each session is recorded at CAPS. This file is separate and independent from your medical record, and can only be accessed by members of our staff. If you are prescribed medication by a staff psychiatrist, a notation of the medication will be included in your medical record. This information is not copied when your medical records are sent elsewhere.

Release of Information
Information about you, including your use of the service, cannot be released to anyone outside of CAPS without your written permission. If you decide to release information, you will be asked to sign a form authorizing its release. This form will specify what we can pass on, to whom, and when. You may revoke your permission by giving us a written notice.

Limits of Confidentiality
There are exceptions to confidentiality of therapist-patient information set by California law:

  • If you tell your counselor you were abused as a child, and you are under 18 years of age at the time you tell the counselor, the counselor must report the abuse to Child Protective Services. If you are over 18 when you tell the counselor, but there is a child at risk by the same abuser, then the counselor may be required to make a report.
  • If you tell your counselor about being sexually assaulted, the counselor is not required to make a report unless you are under 18 at the time you tell the counselor.
  • If you tell your counselor about elder abuse, the counselor may be required to make a report.
  • If you tell your counselor that you actually intend to cause imminent, life-threatening harm to yourself, the counselor is legally obligated to take whatever actions seem necessary to protect you from harm.
  • If you tell your counselor that you actually intend to do imminent bodily harm to a specific person(s), the law calls for your counselor to inform the authorities and intended victim(s), and to take additional action if necessary.

CAPS Release of Records form

Find out more about transferring records, or requesting release of medical records at Medical Records.

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