OMHS Confidentiality

Law & Ethics

Confidentiality is a crucial concern when it comes to the therapeutic relationship. In all but a few rare situations, client confidentiality (i.e., your privacy) is protected by NYS law and by professional ethical rules. Tompkins Cortland Community College OMHS Counseling Center will never release information about you or your services to any outside party without your written authorization; however, there a few limitations on confidentiality.

  • If your clinical counselor believes you might seriously harm yourself or another person, state and federal law requires they act to protect you or the other person. This could include contacting emergency personnel, a friend, a family member, or appropriate College staff. This also may involve involuntary psychiatric evaluation or referral for additional clinical services.
    • OMHS Counseling Center clinical counselors are required to comply with the NYS SAFE Act (NYS MHL 9.46). This law requires mental health professionals to inform the County Director of Community Services of individuals likely to engage in conduct that will result in serious harm to self or others. If it is determined that a student is in imminent danger of seriously hurting self or others, OMHS clinical counselors must alert the Tompkins County Director of Community Services and provide them with a student’s name, contact information, and diagnosis(es). 
  • A court of law may order a mental health professional to release an individual’s records. In such cases, OMHS Counseling Center would be required to release student mental health records, with or without consent. Please consult your attorney and inform your clinical counselor if you are involved in any court proceedings.
  • NYS licensed mental health providers are mandated reporters of child, dependent adult, and elder abuse. If we learn of a present-day situation in which a child, dependent adult/elder is being abused, we are legally required to report this to the appropriate authorities.

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 Coverage and Case Consultation

There are two situations in which your clinical counselor might share some information about a student with another mental health professional:

  1. If a clinical counselor needs to be away from the office, they will arrange for a trusted colleague to "cover" for them. Generally, your clinical counselor will tell the covering clinician only what they would need to know for an emergency. The covering clinical counselor is bound by the same laws and ethical rules to protect your confidentiality.
  2. Clinical counselors sometimes consult other health/professionals about their clients. This helps them to provide high-quality treatment. Consulting professionals are told only as much as they need to know to understand a client situation and are not given identifying information. Consulting clinicians are bound by legal and ethical mandates to protect your confidentiality.