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My Therapist Consulted a Lawyer and Called DCF

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My Therapist Consulted a Lawyer and Called DCF

Postby needanswers_43 » Sun Mar 08, 2015 4:56 pm

Hello. First time poster here. My therapist, who I have been seeing for less than a year, consulted a lawyer without telling me beforehand. My therapist had second thoughts about an issue we discussed a few days before - I was concerned I had abused another child when I was 11 years old (I am now an adult.) During therapy, my therapist told me, based on my experience and the facts of the situation, that it was totally normal and that many children experiment, that I was not an abuser. There was nothing abusive about what happened when I was 11 years old based on the definitions of abuse (I have done my research,) - I know this now. This was an issue I had been feeling guilty about throughout my teenage years and wanted to discuss with a professional for some time. The relief upon finally opening up to someone about it was great and I felt calm for the first time regarding this issue, finally being able to come to terms that what I had done was nothing wrong.

It came as a shock upon learning, just days later, that my therapist went behind my back to seek a lawyer's opinion of what I had said in our therapy session. He informed my therapist that they were legally obligated to contact DCF and report abuse. My therapist called me a few days later and told me how they had asked a lawyer about what they should do and that they called DCF but there will be no investigation, since the other party is no longer a minor. I can't understand what my therapist's reasoning was behind contacting DCF if there was no abuse, like they said. My therapist did not really tell me why they felt inclined to consult a lawyer, so I am feeling pretty confused right now.

I am feeling betrayed and confused as to why my therapist felt the need to do this. Is it right for me to question my therapist's professionalism? Did my therapist violate confidentiality by seeking a lawyer or calling DCF without notifying me beforehand? My stomach has been in knots since I spoke with my therapist two days ago - I know I am not guilty of anything, but the shock that my name and information was reported to DCF is a terrible feeling alone, along with feeling betrayed by my therapist. I called my therapist yesterday to clarify what I had been told the previous day, but could not reach them. I do not want to have to pay for another session with this therapist as I don't think I can trust them anymore. Any helpful opinions would be much appreciated! Thanks.
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Re: My Therapist Consulted a Lawyer and Called DCF

Postby Ada » Sun Mar 08, 2015 9:45 pm

needanswers_43 wrote:Is it right for me to question my therapist's professionalism?

Yes. You are hiring this professional to help you. Certainly Ts can be challenging, difficult, thought provoking. You're always entitled to question that though. And come to your own decision about the balance between growth and harm.

Did my therapist violate confidentiality by seeking a lawyer or calling DCF without notifying me beforehand?

I personally think so, yes. I am not a lawyer or a therapist. This is not legal or professional advice. Just my own personal opinion. As I understand it, and this varies between countries and professions. Therapists are generally required to report where they feel someone. [Yourself or another.] May strongly be at risk of harm. Given this was a historical incident. I can't see any reason to break confidentiality without discussing it with you first. That said I can understand being in doubt. And therefore wanting to get a professional second opinion. But in that case it should be done without identifying you in any way. And without therefore needing to tell you when it went nowhere. Therapists need supervision and support too. But that should be done without breaking confidentiality.

I called my therapist yesterday to clarify what I had been told the previous day, but could not reach them. I do not want to have to pay for another session with this therapist as I don't think I can trust them anymore.

I think it would be good to talk to this T. To clarify whether they did break confidentiality sharing your name and details. Or whether they were able to do this anonymously. And also to find out why they said it was all fine in the session. And then went back on that. But I can completely see where you're coming from on the trust issue. I wouldn't be OK with that either. If I'd built a strong healing relationship with the T. And they talked me through their reasoning for the report. Then perhaps I'd think twice about breaking off. But from what you describe so far. Not a chance I'd go back.
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Re: My Therapist Consulted a Lawyer and Called DCF

Postby needanswers_43 » Mon Mar 09, 2015 2:09 am

Ada wrote:
needanswers_43 wrote:Is it right for me to question my therapist's professionalism?

Yes. You are hiring this professional to help you. Certainly Ts can be challenging, difficult, thought provoking. You're always entitled to question that though. And come to your own decision about the balance between growth and harm.

Did my therapist violate confidentiality by seeking a lawyer or calling DCF without notifying me beforehand?

I personally think so, yes. I am not a lawyer or a therapist. This is not legal or professional advice. Just my own personal opinion. As I understand it, and this varies between countries and professions. Therapists are generally required to report where they feel someone. [Yourself or another.] May strongly be at risk of harm. Given this was a historical incident. I can't see any reason to break confidentiality without discussing it with you first. That said I can understand being in doubt. And therefore wanting to get a professional second opinion. But in that case it should be done without identifying you in any way. And without therefore needing to tell you when it went nowhere. Therapists need supervision and support too. But that should be done without breaking confidentiality.

I called my therapist yesterday to clarify what I had been told the previous day, but could not reach them. I do not want to have to pay for another session with this therapist as I don't think I can trust them anymore.

I think it would be good to talk to this T. To clarify whether they did break confidentiality sharing your name and details. Or whether they were able to do this anonymously. And also to find out why they said it was all fine in the session. And then went back on that. But I can completely see where you're coming from on the trust issue. I wouldn't be OK with that either. If I'd built a strong healing relationship with the T. And they talked me through their reasoning for the report. Then perhaps I'd think twice about breaking off. But from what you describe so far. Not a chance I'd go back.


Hello and thank you for your reply. My therapist told me when they talked to me a few days ago that they had given the DCF my personal information in their report. I am not sure how formal their report was, although they said it would he pulled up if there was ever another report filed. I am not sure why they would mention the possibility of another report being filed as I gave them no reason to think so. If there really was a strong sense of doubt regarding the truth of what I was telling my therapist, or they had any reason to see me as a danger, why wouldn't they consult the DCF or another organization immediately instead if going to a lawyer? Does this suggest the therapist is more concerned with their own credibility than the actual concern for their patient being a liability to others?

As far as the lawyer, I would like to believe they did not divulge my personal identifying information to them, although I actually have no idea. I will be sure to ask once I speak to my therapist again. It's saddening since I felt like we covered a lot of ground and I really did develop trust and respect for/with with this therapist. I am really looking forward to their explanation for the decision to think twice and contact these third parties and hope I get the answers I'm looking for.

As much as I don't wish to break off our sessions as I felt I was actually growing, I fear the level of trust has been damaged forever. On the flip side, I could give it another shot and look at this as a chance to rebuild trust, which could apply itself to my personal life, but something tells me that I deserve better professional treatment. Hopefully I will be able to speak to my therapist tomorrow and maybe even gain some understanding and, at the very least, closure.
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Re: My Therapist Consulted a Lawyer and Called DCF

Postby clever_username » Thu May 07, 2015 3:18 pm

I can understand how betrayed you must feel. Opening up to a stranger you blindly trust about things from your past that haunt you. I must say that the way you have handled this situation, at least on this forum, has been quite professional.

In reference to your concerns, therapists (doctors, social workers, counselors, etc.) frequently consult with other professionals for any number of reasons. Confirming a diagnosis, determining what tx might work best, asking for guidance, etc. Generally, all identifying patient information is left out so as to maintain confidentiality and protect the patient. Other healthcare professionals, and legal professionals, are bound by doctor-patient or attorney-client privilege.

Think back to your first visit with your therapist. Did you sign any paperwork before you started therapy? Did your therapist tell you that everything you say will be kept confidential except in the cases of child abuse, elder abuse/neglect, and if you are a danger to self and/or others? Your therapist should have gone over this with you, but he/she might have just given you paperwork and you signed without adequately understanding what it means.

In your case, you disclosed potential child abuse. Therapists are mandated reporters of abuse or suspected abuse, meaning, if a therapist is found guilty of not reporting abuse and, perhaps, it happens again, chances are that therapist will be in BIG trouble. You said you were 11 when this incident occurred? The details of what occurred are irrelevant to this discussion, but your therapist likely gave what was discussed during your session more thought once it was over. It's often in those moments of reflection that a therapist might have a lightbulb, but it's too late because the patient has left.

It sounds like your therapist consulted a lawyer, which could be interpreted as maintaining his/her professional commitment. The lawyer may have heard this and, not knowing you, advised the therapist to file a report. That must be done immediately, unfortunately. Your therapist might have been blindsided by this, and it's not like he/she can call you up and say, "hey, I'm filing a report, see ya next week." Reports have to be filed against a person even if he/she is dead. You know, just in case it happens again. It's just one of those things.

My thoughts...your therapist could have handled it better, but his/her actions were likely not meant to cause harm, although you are justifiably hurt. Legal obligation to report or not, your trust was betrayed and trust is hard to repair once broken. I'm sure your therapist is feeling SUPER guilty right now. Similar to how you expressed your feelings and frustrations to us, you should discuss them with your therapist. You are clearly level-headed and capable of having an adult conversation about your concerns. As unfortunate as this event might be, big blowups in the beginning frequently set the stage for a strong relationship and great therapeutic work, as strange as that may sound. You get "real" real fast.

Best of luck!
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