Confidentiality--what is it? Confidentiality is an ethical belief that private information should not be revealed to others without a client's approval. The identity of clients, email addresses, content of therapy conversations, professional opinions about the client, and other personal information contained in a clinical record are generally considered to be confidential information. Whether working with clients online, by telephone, or in face-to-face meetings, mental health clinicians consider protecting the confidentiality and privacy of clients a moral duty. So, as you might guess, confidentiality is crucial to good therapy. At Dr. Franklin Online your personal information is safeguarded the same way it would be for clients who are seen in an office setting. Your information will never intentionally be disclosed to anyone who does not have a legitimate, legal need to know.
Having said that, every US State has exceptions and legal limitations to confidentiality and privacy. There are three basic exceptions to confidentiality: 1) licensed mental health clinicians are required by law to notify the proper authorities in cases of child abuse (i.e., emotional, physical, or sexual); 2) clinicians must breach confidentiality if clients make serious, believable threats to harm themselves. However, Texas law does not require me to notify the appropriate authorities of potential harm to others; 3) in certain, unusual situations, such as divorce or child custody hearings or grievance board actions, lawyers can subpoena information from clinicians. If any of these situations were to occur, my staff and I will make every effort to get your permission to release copies of records beforehand. However, this is not always possible.
As confidentiality and privacy are related to each other, so too, are they related to online security. Since the Internet posses some unique problems related to privacy, Dr. Franklin Online secures all emails and videos using 40-bit encryption. As a result of these security measures, my Internet security consultants and I believe that communicating via the Internet is as safe as talking to me in an office setting. In addition to the measures I have taken, there are added steps that you can take to improve privacy and security on your end.
The single most important thing that can be done to improve security is for you to safeguard privacy on your end. As one example, you should not send email from your computer at work since an employer has a legal right to access and view all of your emails. Likewise, when using your home computer, please make sure you are the only person to have access to your email account. While saving passwords is, no doubt, convenient it allows someone else to guess the first character of your password by simply trying every letter and number at the password prompt. If someone can obtain the first character, the rest of your password will just pop-up. If that were to occur, then that unauthorized person would have access to your emails.
The bottom line of confidentiality is that it has never been (and is not now) foolproof, either online or in face-to-face settings. In real-world encounters, client confidentiality and privacy are violated all the time, such as when a patient sees someone else's name on a file or computer screen or when a door is left ajar and a patient in the waiting room overhears another's name or presenting problems being discussed on the telephone.
If you have questions about Internet security, please note that concern when you submit the optional questionnaire so we can discuss the matter in more detail.