What myths keep many high-security clearance and LEO professionals from getting help?
Here we address the stigma and minimize the fear many law enforcement officers have of participating in therapy. The first step is to help officers understand their rights to privacy.
According to Counseling Today, there are several myths that keep many high-security clearance and law enforcement from seeking support through therapy:
False! Licensed mental health professionals are legally and ethically bound to protect client privacy. If you reach out to a therapist on your own - in other words, if you were not ordered to see a therapist by a court or your department - then the employer doesn't even have the right to know that you are attending therapy. Nothing that is said in counseling can be released to anyone without the officer's written consent. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the confidential relationship between a psychotherapist and an officer is privileged. To learn more, click here
The only times confidentiality can be broken are for the reasons below, which apply to every client/patient.
•A suspected incident of child abuse or neglect must be reported.
•A threat of imminent physical harm by a patient must be reported to law enforcement and to the person(s) threatened.
•A mental health evaluation must be initiated for a patient who is imminently dangerous to self or to others, or who is gravely disabled, as a result of a mental disorder.
•A suspected threat to national security must be reported to federal officials.
•Suspected abuse of a senior adult (70 years of age or older), including institutional neglect, physical injury, financial exploitation or unreasonable restraint, must be reported.
False! Treatment by a licensed mental health professional that is paid for by your insurance company or your EAP is protected by HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), and the same rules apply.
Patients may choose not to use insurance benefits so that their outpatient treatment remains separate from their medical record.
False! Limits to confidentiality vary by department and the standards may be different than those that licensed professionals have. The peer support member must disclose these limitations in the first meeting. In addition to the exceptions to confidentiality listed in Myth #1, most peer support teams are also expected to report crimes and sometimes policy violations. Outside of those limitations, conversations between a peer support member and an officer are confidential.
False! HIPAA protects both diagnosis and medication or other treatment methods because they are part of the clinical record and therefore confidential. If an officer would like the department to know this information, he or she must sign a release of information. Otherwise, the professional treatment provider cannot disclose anything related to the client/patient to the department or anyone else.
False! The department can only access information that an officer has granted it permission to have, as is the case with any other medical condition.
False! When there is a court-approved certification for an involuntary mental health hold, restrictions to weapons are limited while the certification is active. If the provider that requested the certification acknowledges that the client/patient is no longer a danger to themselves or anyone else, then the restriction can and should be released as well.
False! Seeking counseling voluntarily would NEVER automatically mean that an officer is unfit for duty.
False! The most important question to ask is "Who is the client?" If you are seeking support on his or her own, all of the rights stated above belong to the officer. If the department is the client, as is the case in a pre-employment evaluation or a fitness-for-duty evaluation, then the information most often belongs to the department.