Confidentiality

Many people, when coming to visit a mental health professional, are concerned about confidentiality (privacy). They don't want anyone to know that they're coming for counseling, and they don't want anyone to know what they say to their counselor.

Student Counseling Services operates within strict professional guidelines regarding confidentiality. Mental health professionals are professionally and ethically obligated to keep what you say confidential. They may seek input from other therapists at the center in order to improve the quality of your care, but no information about your counseling will be released to, or discussed with, anyone outside Student Counseling Services without your explicit, written permission.

However, there are four specific instances where your counselor is obligated to breach confidentiality.

  1. If there is a risk of imminent harm to yourself or another person (e.g., a serious intent to commit suicide or homicide), counselors have a legal and ethical duty to protect life. Your counselor may contact police and psychiatric hospitalization services to protect yourself and others from suicidal or homicidal intent. Please note that your counselor will collarborate with you to implement safety plans other than police intervention or psychiatric hospitalization if possible. Police intervention and psychiatric hospitalization are used only when absolutely necessary.
  2. If your counselor is provided evidence that a child, elderly person, cognitively disabled, or physically disabled person is being abused, therapists will report this to appropriate authorities.
  3. Counselors must release information when a court of law orders them to do so. Counselors take steps to ensure that information released to a court of law is absolutely necessary for the legal process. Whenever possible, counselors take steps to avoid releasing information that the client deems as damaging. 
  4. If you experience a medical crisis while at Student Counseling Services, your counselor may  provide necessary medical information (e.g., about medications) to medical personnel as appropriate for your safety.

People coming to counseling sometimes worry that their insurance companies will have access to their records. This is not the case at Student Counseling Services. Since there is no charge for services to Southern Miss students, no insurance companies are involved.