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What are your rights as a client in therapy?

Updated: Mar 12, 2019

Considering therapy or other mental health services, but unsure about the process and your rights? It’s very important to have an open and honest understanding with your therapist or healthcare professionals about what your rights are as a patient and how the therapy process will work within their practice. Some patient rights may not be the same for all and exceptions may be made depending on the kind of treatment you will be receiving, what the conditions of your situation are, and even where you live because of state laws; however there are still standard guidelines that should be followed by all therapists when it comes to patient rights. While all specific concerns regarding patient rights should be addressed with your therapist, below are some general and standard rights that all patients are entitled to.

1. Receive an explanation of services you will receive regarding your treatment plan.

Once you begin working with a therapist or mental health care professionals, they will normally begin with an intake session where you will provide information on your current state (thoughts, feelings, struggles, successes and why are you reaching out for mental health care). Once your initial intake is complete, your therapist will often develop a treatment plan for you that is specific to your needs and hopes for the future. Your therapist should provide a thorough description of your treatment plan prior to implementing it. As a patient, you have a right to request more information regarding your treatment and additional explanations of the services you will be receiving if you are still unsure. Feel free to ask questions and share any concerns that you have as you learn about your treatment plan.

2. Be treated in a manner which is ethical and free from abuse, discrimination, mistreatment, and/or exploitation.

When working with a therapist, you have the right to feel safe while in treatment. All patients are entitled to ethical mental health care. Ethical mental health care means that therapists should never use any of your personal information outside of the therapist’s office or ask you to share your personal information. The therapist that you’re working with should never proposition a romantic or sexual relationship with you or pass judgement on you based on your race, gender, sexuality, background, etc. Patient safety and privacy should be respected by your therapist at all times.

3. Be treated by staff who are sensitive to one’s cultural background, heritage or identity.

Regardless of your background, culture or identity, all patients are entitled to be treated with respect while in a therapist’s office. This includes by the therapist, but also by all staff members working within the office such as receptionists, billing and security. Therapy should be a safe space for all, and that extends beyond just the exact room where a patient works with their therapist.

4. Participate voluntarily and consent to your treatment plan.

As a patient, you may feel unsure about a treatment plan and that’s okay. You have the right to refuse a treatment plan that has been developed by your therapist at any point in treatment. The only common exceptions to this are when a patient is court-ordered to attend a specific treatment plan. Besides court-ordered treatment plans, patients should always fully consent to their treatment in therapy.

5. Change therapists at any time.

Sometimes, professional relationships don’t work out between therapists and patients. It is okay if you would like to change therapists at any point during your treatment. Patient’s have the right to not be judged for this decision and make this choice at any time.

6. Object to or terminate treatment at any time.

Unless you are court ordered to attend therapy, patients have a right to object to or terminate their treatment at any point they’d like, no questions asked.

7. Privacy of care.

Patients have the right to confidentiality or privacy for all mental health treatment services they receive. This means that therapists cannot share a patient’s information with anyone outside of their office. Confidentiality may only be broken in the following cases:

- Information of child or elder abuse

- A patient’s intent to harm themself or another.

- Court order for specific information

Knowing your rights as a patient is important for helping make informed decisions regarding your mental health care. For more information on patient rights, please check out this helpful resource that helped inform this blog writing on patient rights.

Learn more about specific services offered by Lu Rocha by checking out her website.

Contributing Writer: Brittany A. Hamilton

Photo Credit: Hermes Rivera (Hermes Rivera@hermez777)


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