Your first appointment will provide you with an opportunity to talk confidentially about your immediate concerns. The counselor will talk with you about some of the reasons you scheduled the appointment and will evaluate what services or resources will be most helpful for you. Some students find that talking with a counselor once is sufficient to resolve the immediate concern. If further services would be beneficial, these will be discussed and a recommendation will be made by the counselor. These additional services may include resources offered by the Counseling Center or referral to another community resource.
Federal and state laws along with professional ethical standards prohibit the disclosure of any information you provide us unless we have your proper written consent. Thus, if a USAO official or your parents or anyone else should inquire about your receiving services here, we would not be able to disclose any information about you without your written permission. All consultations are confidential. No information about the students we see or the concerns they discuss is entered on an official college record or released to others without the student's prior written consent. Therefore, there will be no disciplinary response to anything shared in counseling. Having said that, there are a few exceptions to the confidentiality laws and standards, as follows:
- If your counselor believes that you or someone else is in clear and imminent danger of harm, your counselor is legally obligated to inform proper authorities and others in order to prevent the harm from occurring. This information would be disclosed only to appropriate professional workers, necessary university and public authorities, a potential victim of aggression or the client's family.
- If you provide information indicating that someone under 18 years old is being abused, your counselor is legally required to notify proper authorities.
- In rare cases, a court may order your counselor to disclose information about you.
- If you are under 17 ½ years old, your parents or legal guardian may have access to your treatment records.
- When the client requires hospitalization for severe psychological problems, suicidal ideations or attempt, or other life threatening issues. In these instances, the counselor must notify the client's parents or spouse, the Dean of Students, and, if the client lives in a residence hall, appropriate members of the residence life staff. Only relevant, limited and necessary information will be shared with these individuals, who are always notified whenever a serious medical emergency arises with a student.
In the preceding situations, the counselor will, whenever possible, first discuss the disclosure of information with the client. The counselor will provide reasons why the disclosure is appropriate and necessary and will attempt to secure the client's permission to release information. The client and counselor may jointly be involved in sharing the information. However, should the client fail to give permission, the counselor will proceed to release the information without the client's consent. In some emergency situations, there may not be an opportunity to discuss disclosure of information with the client prior to the actual disclosure
The counselor follows the professional ethics, laws, and guidelines that govern our discipline. When mental health issues warrant professional attention beyond that which the USAO Counseling Center can reasonably provide, the counselor will assist students with appropriate off-campus referrals.
Please feel free to discuss any questions you may have regarding our services or policies with your counselor.
As a client, you have the following rights:
- To ask questions about your counselor's professional qualifications and experience.
- To be an active participant in decisions about counseling goals and strategies and to refuse any goals or strategies with which you do not agree.
- To review records in your file, together with your counselor. (Please note that only the counselor has access to your file, which contains notes by your counselor about the work you are doing together. Files are kept in a locked file cabinet and remain in the office at all times.)
- To have your counseling experiences remain confidential within certain limits. (see policy on confidentiality)
- To end counseling at any time.