Informed consent for psychological services is a clinically meaningful and client empowering dialogue. Additionally, many licensing board complaints can be prevented or quickly resolved by a thoughtful, documented informed consent. Here are some of the basics to review:
What is important for an individual to know about therapy before agreeing to participate?
Therapist’s training, methods, common interactions with clients and typical structure of service (e.g., length of session, frequency of sessions).
Possible benefits and risks of psychotherapy.
Office hours and times the therapist will likely be available to schedule appointments. (If the therapist has no available evening appointments for three months, that would be important information to share with all new clients.)
Availability outside of therapy sessions for non-urgent issues and during therapist’s time off when therapy will not be available.
Medical records: Who is the identified client (e.g., individual, couple, family). Who has access to the records and when. If more than one person is involved, who “owns” the record and who can authorize release.
Confidentiality and limitations to confidentiality, including mandated reporting and policies regarding minors.
Expectations around canceling sessions and if late cancellation fees apply.
Fees…deductibles… co-pays… who is responsible if the insurance company doesn’t pay? What information is provided to the insurance company?
Policy on electronic communications (texts, emails, social media contacts).
A possible separate agreement for collateral individuals involved in the treatment of the identified client.
Expectations for clients in the waiting room and in the office. Can a client have a conference call in the waiting room while waiting for scheduled appointment? Can a parent who is seeking treatment for one of her three children wait in the waiting room with the other two children? Can children be left unsupervised in the waiting room while the parent is in the therapy office? Can children be dropped off with no parental supervision?
What are the “rules” clients need to follow when in the therapy space?
We can begin building the therapeutic relationship while sharing with the individual or family and helping them anticipate the essential characteristics of our work together.
For a wide variety of additional information regarding informed consent (including some sample forms), go to http://kspope.com/consent/.
Editor’s Note: Pope originally composed this information for members of the New Hampshire Psychological Association on behalf of the association’s Ethics Committee.
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