Online Mental Health Counseling Informed Consent

Confidentiality

As a nationally certified and a state licensed mental health counselor, I adhere to a code of ethics which insures your privacy and confidentiality. Nothing you disclose is shared with anybody, either verbally or in written form. Your contact information is not shared with anyone. Should there be a need to share such information, it can only occur based on your written consent. There are some important exceptions to this rule. I am legally and ethically bound to breach confidentiality and report to proper authorities if I suspect that you are a clear and present danger to yourself or anyone else. I am obligated to warn any person who may be in danger from your actions. I am bound by law to report any suspected child abuse or elder abuse. In the case of court proceedings involving a client, I may be subpoenaed to release confidential information or if I am the defendant in a client initiated lawsuit or malpractice claim I may be required to breach confidentiality.

Outside of these very rare exceptions, all counseling session communications are strictly confidential. Although I may at times feel the need to obtain peer supervision regarding some issues relating to information brought forth in a session, the client is not identified in any way.The client is the holder of Privilege which basically means that all counseling session communications belong to the client. Any release of information outside the exceptions listed above, must be explicitly approved by the client in writing.

Security

Open Mind Counseling utilizes password protected computers with a full array of security software including anti-spam, anti-hacker, anti-malware, anti-ad as well as a robust firewall. Online counseling is conducted in a private office. All clients who participate in Open Mind Counseling are required to acknowledge their understanding of privacy and confidentiality. This is referred to as “informed consent.”

If your computer does not have security systems such as anti-virus, anti-malware, etc., or you access a public computer for online counseling, you can help ensure privacy by using a free secure web based email system such as safe-mail or Hushmail. The use of such email programs  is not required but recommended as part of informed consent relating to security of online counseling. For security while using live chat/instant messageing, consider Pidgin OTR (Off-the-Record) or ChatCrypt. Another program to consider for chat, voice and video encryption is Jitsi. For these security encryption programs to work, both parties need to be using the same program. Despite safeguards, absolute confidentiality and privacy cannot be guaranteed over the internet.

Special Concerns

Online counseling has some unique challenges. By law, a minor must have parental consent to participate in counseling. Obviously, it is not difficult for a minor to pass as an adult on the Internet. As such, part of online counseling informed consent is the acknowledgement that a person requesting counseling sessions is an adult. Should a minor wish counseling sessions, parental consent must be obtained through email and verified through phone contact.

Because there is always the possibility of technology failure and computer crashes, alternate modes of communication are recommended, but not required. Should power or technology failures occur, it is assumed counselor and client will reconnect once those failures have been rectified.

Last, but by far not the least of special concerns, is the issue of misunderstanding. Because online text based counseling is devoid of so many vocal and visual cues and clues, misunderstanding is possible. Every attempt is made to be as clear and straight forward as possible. Nevertheless, if a misunderstanding does occur, it will be up to the client and the counselor to work out a satisfacton.

For more information about the limitations, concerns and risk regarding online counseling, please read the Memorandum of Understanding about Electronic Communication.

By engaging in online counseling with Open Mind Counseling, you:

 
1)  have read the the information about privacy understand your rights of confidentiality.
 
2)  are 18 years of age or older.
 
3)  understand that if you are initiating a session for a minor and you are the parent or legal guardian, you must first email Open Mind Counseling at counselor@openmindcounseling.com and provide the name and email address of the minor along with a statement of your consent for service. You must also include a telephone number where you can be reached to verify consent.
 
4)  have been alerted to the issue of Internet security (Privacy statement) and have been advised on the need for antivirus, anti-spam, anti-hacker and firewall software for your computer. You have been advised of a free, secure web based email system (www.safe-mail.net) or (www.hushmail.com).
 
5)  understand that despite safeguards such as security software and passwords, internet confidentiality cannot be absolutely guaranteed.
 
6)  understand that Open Mind Counseling reserves the right to refuse participation in communication which is not deemed therapeutic.
 
7)  understand that Open Mind Counseling is not liable for how individuals respond to or utilize information presented during therapeutic communications.
 
8)  understand that Open Mind Counseling may present case information to professional peers for consultation. In such instances, no identifiable client information is disclosed.
 
9)  understand the fee for service rates and how to make payments.
 
10) agree that by contacting the counselor at Open Mind Counseling for the purpose of therapeutic dialogue indicates that you have read this page and are in agreement with it’s stipulations.
 
The next step is to make a payment for the service you would like. Payment for services can be made on the Rates page.
 
Following payment, you will be taken to an initial questionnaire which will provide basic background information. If for some reason you are not taken directly to this page, please contact Open Mind Counseling.