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Therapy 101

Your Rights as a Client

July 03, 2006

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Your Rights as a Client

You have the right to negotiate fees.

Some psychotherapists offer a sliding scale based on your income. However, not all psychotherapists will offer to negotiate their hourly rate...but it never hurts to ask.

You have the right to ask about the therapist's training and experience.

You also have the right to question the therapist's background on any specialty that they work in. In fact, I would encourage you to do so.

You have the right to assess the counseling offered.

You are never under any obligation to continue counseling if you change your mind or you feel the counseling is not benefiting you. You can make this decision at any time in your work, after one session or after 50 sessions.

Even if you negotiated a lower fee based on regular weekly sessions this agreement does not obligate you to continue if you do not wish to do so.

Some therapists may request that you sign a form at the beginning of your counseling to confirm your understanding of what you are about to undertake. This agreement never obligates you to further sessions.

You have the right to confidentiality.

Most people are aware that counseling is confidential. What you may not know is that you have the right to be very specific about any information you wish your therapist to disclose to a third party (i.e. your insurer or physician).

For example, let's say my client wishes for me to speak to her insurance company about her progress to date. My client can be very specific about the information that I make available.

The insurance company will likely want to know about my client's progress, her symptoms and my diagnosis. If marital strife is impeding my client's progress, I need not disclose the details of the marital disharmony if my client so wishes. However, for diagnostic purposes I would be obligated to include 'marital disharmony' as having an impact on her current state.

To learn more about confidentiality visit: Counseling Terms: Confidentiality.

You have the right to challenge your counselor on any actions or ideas he may have about your treatment.

At any time in the course of your treatment you can request a reason for the type of treatment you are receiving. A good therapist will welcome challenges as part of your growth.

You have the right to be free from overdisclosure on the part of the counselor.

Many therapists use self-disclosure to promote a positive therapeutic outcome. Disclosures from a counselor often help normalize a client's experience. However, all disclosures must be appropriate to the subject under discussion. If you do not feel a disclosure was helpful feel free to tell your therapist. You also have the right to ask your counselor why the disclosure was made.

Your rights as a client and as an active participant in your life.

One of the many benefits that you can gain from your counseling is the ability to recognize your rights as an individual. The deeper your understanding of your rights as a client the better you will be able to apply your individual rights in the different contexts of your life.

It is not expected that you would know all your rights at the beginning of your therapeutic journey especially if a specific right relates to an emotional gap for you. For example, if my history includes abuse, I might not recognize if my therapist engaged in a boundary crossing.

It is for this reason that it's a good idea to preview an article on your rights before embarking on your first encounter with counseling. And by the way, this will also add to your decision making on choosing a therapist.

Counselor Credentials

One way that the counseling professions attempts to protect the public from the inadvertent or intentional harm to clients is by putting formal safeguards in place. Generally speaking, the more credentialled a therapist, the more protection is afforded the client. Unfortunately there are no hard and fast rules on the matter.

The best protection is often from those professionals that are regulated by law. Psychologists and psychiatric nurses for instance are regulated by law.

The higher the credentials the more likely there are procedures in place for consumers to make a formal complaint. For example, all registered or licensed psychologists adhere to ethical principles that protect the client. The regulatory body that dispenses the license (or registration) provides a complaint process for consumers to access directly.

Practitioners who do not belong to a regulatory body do not have the same protection in place for their clients. Therefore, for those individuals who feel they have been harmed, their only recourse is to seek the help of a remediation lawyer or to undertake a lawsuit.

This article is a work in progress. Please watch for updates or if you have a question post it in the Psych Cafe Forum. And please feel free to post topics in the Forum that you would like to be included in further discussions.

Related Topic

Counselor Credentials

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Man, I was so knackered after my session. She says that's a good sign - means we're resetting the system.