Q&A- Patient Confidentiality

Susan S. Woods, Ph.D.question and answer with Dr. Susan S. Woods

Q: Our 17 year old son has been seeing a therapist to help with emotional issues. We found out that he has been drinking at parties. I want to talk with his therapist to let her know of what we have just learned, but he says if I talk with her, he will not go to see her anymore. I feel I should call her anyway, though I don’t know if this will cause him to stop going to see her. Can you help me please?

A: Trust and confidentiality are the most important elements of a therapeutic relationship. If your son trusts his therapist, a suggestion from you that he tell her about his drinking should be enough for him to begin talking about this. He may not think it is as an important issue as you do and therefore may be resistant to telling his doctor. If you think his drinking is serious and central to his progress in therapy and he still refused to share the information with his therapist you can tell him you will continue his therapy only if he tells you and is therapist confirms, with your son’s permission, that he has discussed it. Your fear that he will stop going to therapy if you tell his therapist gives him too much power. Going to therapy is not the same as getting anywhere in therapy if your son is not honest with his therapist or does not trust him or her enough to be open about his problems he might as well not go since nothing will be accomplished anyway.

Susan S. Woods, Ph.D.

700 McClellan St ♦ Schenectady, NY 12304 ♦ (518) 372-0166

825 Riverview Rd ♦ Rexford, NY  12148

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