Practice Policy & Informed Consent for My Therapy Services
PSYCHOTHERAPIST-CLIENT SERVICE AGREEMENT
Welcome to my practice. This document contains important information about my professional services and business policies. Although this information may seem long and sometimes complex, it is very important that you understand it because when you agree to engage in therapy with me it represents a formal agreement between us. We can discuss any questions you have before we start therapy or at any time during therapy.
presentation_80pxPsychotherapy has both benefits and risks. Risks may include experiencing uncomfortable feelings, such as sadness, guilt, anxiety, anger, frustration, loneliness and helplessness, because the process of psychotherapy often requires discussing the unpleasant aspects of your life. However, psychotherapy has been shown to have many positive benefits for individuals who undertake it. Therapy often leads to a significant reduction in feelings of distress, increased satisfaction in interpersonal relationships, greater personal awareness and insight, increased skills for managing stress and resolutions to specific problems. However, there are no guarantees about what will happen—there are so many variables I cannot predict anyone’s outcome from the beginning of therapy. Psychotherapy requires a very active effort on your part, in fact you are the major change agent for whatever situation we are addressing in therapy. In order to be most successful, you will have to work on things we discuss outside of sessions and take an active role in your own transformation.
The first session or two will involve a comprehensive evaluation of your needs and your goals. By the end of the evaluation, I will be able to offer you some initial impressions of what our work might include to make forward progress. At that point, we will discuss your treatment goals and create an initial treatment plan. You should evaluate this information and make your own assessment about whether you feel comfortable working with me or not. If you have questions about my procedures, we should discuss them whenever they arise. If your doubts persist, I will be happy to help you set up a meeting with another mental health professional for a second opinion. My priority is for your wellbeing, and if that means referring you to someone more compatible with yourself and your particular needs then that is the direction I would take.
Appointments will ordinarily be 55 minutes in duration, typically once per week at a time we agree on, although some sessions may be more or less frequent as needed, and we can assess this as we go along. The time scheduled for your appointment is assigned to you and you alone. Do not bring anyone else along to a session without first talking it through with me. If you need to cancel or reschedule a session, I ask that you provide me with 24 hours notice. If you miss a session without canceling, or cancel with less than 24-hour notice, my policy is to collect the amount for that session [unless we both agree that you were unable to attend due to circumstances beyond your control]. If it is possible, I will try to find another time to reschedule the appointment. In addition, you are responsible for coming to your session on time; if you are late, your appointment will still need to end on time, as I would normally have others scheduled after you.
The standard fee is $110.00 for a 55 min session (this amount includes GST) unless otherwise negotiated. A discounted price of $80/session is available for students, pensioners, and other low income earners—You must be able to present your student, pension or health care card. A full range of rates and packages can be found here. You will be invoiced for each session. Payment must be made by electronic transfer, or cash, and details will be on my invoice.
In addition to weekly appointments, it is my practice to charge this amount on a prorated basis (I will break down the hourly cost) for other professional services that you may require such as report writing, telephone conversations that last longer than 15 minutes, attendance at meetings or consultations which you have requested, or the time required to perform any other service which you may request of me. If you anticipate becoming involved in a court case, I recommend that we discuss this fully before you waive your right to confidentiality. If your case requires my participation, you will be expected to pay for the professional time required even if another party compels me to testify.
I am required to keep appropriate records of the services that I provide. Your records are maintained in a secure location and kept confidential. I keep brief records noting that you were here, your reasons for seeking therapy, the goals and progress we set for treatment, your diagnosis, topics we discussed, your medical, social, and treatment history, records I receive from other providers, copies of records I send to others, and your billing records. Except in unusual circumstances that involve danger to yourself, you have the right to a copy of your file. Because these are professional records, they may be misinterpreted and/or upsetting to untrained readers. For this reason, I recommend that you initially review them with me, or have them forwarded to another mental health professional to discuss the contents. If I refuse your request for access to your records, you have a right to have my decision reviewed by another mental health professional, which I will discuss with you upon your request. You also have the right to request that a copy of your file be made available to any other health care provider at your written request.
As a rule, I will disclose no information about you, or the fact that you are my patient, without your written consent. My records describe the services provided to you and contain the dates of our sessions, your diagnosis, functional status, symptoms, prognosis and progress, and any psychological testing reports. If there is any reason to share your information with other health care providers I will require your permission in advance, either through your consent at the onset of our relationship or through your written authorization at the time the need for disclosure arises. You may revoke your permission, in writing, at any time, by contacting me. We will always talk about any sharing of your information first, before asking you for consent.
II. “Limits of Confidentiality”
Possible Uses and Disclosures of Your Records Without Consent or Authorization
There are some important exceptions to this rule of confidentiality – some exceptions created voluntarily by my own choice, and some required by law. If you wish to receive mental health services from me, you must sign this form indicating that you understand and accept my policies about confidentiality and its limits. We will discuss these issues now, but you may reopen the conversation at any time during our work together.
I may use or disclose records or other information about you without your consent or authorization in the following circumstances, either by policy, or because legally required:
· Emergency: If you are involved in a life-threatening emergency and I cannot ask your permission, I will share information if I believe you would have wanted me to do so, or if I believe it will be helpful to you. I am a former paramedic and I may be privy to important medical information about you that emergency personnel may need to know to optimize their care of you in the case of a medical emergency.
· Child Abuse Reporting: If I have reason to suspect that a child is abused or neglected, I am required by law (Family Law Act 1975) to report the matter immediately to the relevant authorities.
· Adult Abuse Reporting: If I have reason to suspect that an elderly or incapacitated adult is abused, neglected or exploited, I will make a report and provide relevant information to the relevant authorities.
· Court Proceedings: If you are involved in a court preceding and a request is made for information about your diagnosis and treatment and the records thereof, such information is privileged under state law, and I will not release information unless you provide written authorization or a judge issues a court order. If I receive a subpoena for records or testimony, I will notify you so you can file a motion to quash (block) the subpoena. However, while awaiting the judge’s decision, I am required to place said records in a sealed envelope and provide them to the Clerk of Court. In civil court cases, therapy information is not protected by patient-therapist privilege in child abuse cases, in cases in which your mental health is an issue, or in any case in which the judge deems the information to be “necessary for the proper administration of justice.” In criminal cases, there is no statute granting therapist-patient privilege, although records can sometimes be protected on another basis. Protections of privilege may not apply if I do an evaluation for a third party or where the evaluation is court- ordered. You will be informed in advance if this is the case.
· Serious Threat to Health or Safety: If I am engaged in my professional duties and you communicate to me a specific and immediate threat to cause serious bodily injury or death, to an identified or to an identifiable person, and I believe you have the intent and ability to carry out that threat immediately or imminently, I am legally required to take steps to protect third parties. These precautions may include 1) warning the potential victim(s), or the parent or guardian of the potential victim(s), if under 18, 2) notifying a law enforcement officer, or 3) seeking your hospitalization. By my own policy, I may also use and disclose medical information about you when necessary to prevent an immediate, serious threat to your own health and safety. If you become a party in a civil commitment hearing, I can be required to provide your records to the magistrate.
Other uses and disclosures of information not covered by this notice or by the Australian laws that apply to me will be made only with your written permission.
III. Patient’s Rights and Provider’s Duties:
Right to Request Restrictions: You have the right to request restrictions on certain uses and disclosures of protected health information (PHI) about you. You also have the right to request a limit on the medical information I disclose about you to someone who is involved in your care or the payment for your care. If you ask me to disclose information to another party, you may request that I limit the information I disclose. However, I am not required to agree to a restriction you request. To request restrictions, you must make your request in writing, and tell me: 1) what information you want to limit; 2) whether you want to limit my use, disclosure or both; and 3) to whom you want the limits to apply.
Right to Receive Confidential Communications by Alternative Means and at Alternative Locations: You have the right to request and receive confidential communications of PHI by alternative means and at alternative locations. (For example, you may not want a family member to know that you are seeing me. Upon your request, I will send your bills to another address. You may also request that I contact you only at work, or that I do not leave voice mail messages.) To request alternative communication, you must make your request in writing, specifying how or where you wish to be contacted.
Right to an Accounting of Disclosures: You generally have the right to receive an accounting of disclosures of PHI for which you have neither provided consent nor authorization (as described in section III of this Notice). On your written request, I will discuss with you the details of the accounting process
Right to Inspect and Copy: In most cases, you have the right to inspect and copy your medical and billing records. To do this, you must submit your request in writing. If you request a copy of the information, I may charge a fee for costs of copying and mailing. I may deny your request to inspect and copy in some circumstances. I may refuse to provide you access to certain psychotherapy notes or to information compiled in reasonable anticipation of, or use in, a civil criminal, or administrative proceeding.
Right to Amend: If you feel that protected health information I have about you is incorrect or incomplete, you may ask me to amend the information. To request an amendment, your request must be made in writing, and submitted to me. In addition, you must provide a reason that supports your request. I may deny your request if you ask me to amend information that: 1) was not created by me; I will add your request to the information record; 2) is not part of the medical information kept by me; 3) is not part of the information which you would be permitted to inspect and copy; 4) is accurate and complete.
Right to a copy of this notice: You have the right to a paper copy of this notice. You may ask me to give you a copy of this notice at any time. Changes to this notice: I reserve the right to change my policies and/or to change this notice, and to make the changed notice effective for medical information I already have about you as well as any information I receive in the future. The notice will contain the effective date. A new copy will be given to you or posted in the waiting room. I will have copies of the current notice available on request.
Minors: It is my policy not to provide treatment to a child under age 13 unless she/he agrees that I can share whatever information I consider necessary with a parent. For children 14 and older, I request an agreement between the client and the parents allowing me to share general information about treatment progress and attendance, as well as a treatment summary upon completion of therapy. All other communication will require the child’s agreement, unless I feel there is a safety concern, in which case I will make every effort to notify the child of my intention to disclose information ahead of time and make every effort to handle any objections that are raised.
I am often not immediately available by telephone. I do not answer my phone when I am with clients or otherwise unavailable. The most expedient way to contact me is to email me at email@example.com At these times, you may leave a message on my confidential voice mail and your call will be returned as soon as possible, but it may take a day or two for non-urgent matters. If, for any number of unseen reasons, you do not hear from me or I am unable to reach you, and you feel you cannot wait for a return call or if you feel unable to keep yourself safe, 1) call Lifeline on 13 11 14 and ask for help, or 2) go to your Local Hospital Emergency Room. I will make every attempt to inform you in advance of planned absences, and provide you with the name and phone number of the mental health professional covering my practice.
If you are unhappy with what is happening in therapy, I hope you will talk with me so that I can respond to your concerns. Such comments will be taken seriously and handled with care and respect. You may also request that I refer you to another therapist and are free to end therapy at any time. You have the right to considerate, safe and respectful care, without discrimination as to race, ethnicity, color, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, national origin, or source of payment. You have the right to ask questions about any aspects of therapy and about my specific training and experience. You have the right to expect that I will not have social or sexual relationships with clients or with former clients.