U-M Counseling and Psychological Services

Union at Night

A Special Note Regarding Confidentiality

As someone who cares about students and their well-being, it is completely understandable that you may want to know specifics regarding the therapeutic content and/or services that a student might be participating in at CAPS. However, as mental health-care providers, CAPS is legally and ethically required to uphold standards of confidentiality, and students expect us to uphold these standards.

Treating information confidentially means that CAPS cannot release any protected and privileged information to professors, advisers, parents, or concerned friends without the student’s consent. Confidentiality also prohibits CAPS staff from confirming that a student has made an appointment or attended sessions at CAPS without the student’s explicit permission.

Our staff keenly recognizes that this may be difficult for those concerned about a student; however, our duty is first and foremost to our student clients, and we at CAPS must maintain confidentiality consistent with our professional guidelines and mental health laws.  The practices and operations regarding confidentiality utilized by the CAPS staff are informed and guided by law (the Michigan Mental Health Code), by our ethical standards within psychology, social work, and psychiatry, and our professional standards (via our accrediting bodies).

Without confidentiality the therapeutic process has little chance of being effective.  There are narrow exceptions to when confidentiality must be “broken” including when we consider the student-client to be a threat to self or others; in order to protect children or minors from current potential abuse; or if court ordered by a judge in a current proceeding.

When a student requests and provides a release of information, the student should be making an informed decision about the nature and terms of the release.  Signing the release should always be the choice of the student. If a student chooses to sign a release of information, it should be because they feel it is in their best interest to do so and not because they feel coerced (intentionally or unintentionally) to do so.  Also, a release of information process can entail some information, but not all.

The best way to communicate concern for a student’s situation is to follow-up directly with the student if you continue to have concerns about their health, well-being, and/or participation in therapy.  Most students consider this helpful, supportive, and caring.  A simple “check-in” (e.g., how is it going, did you ever have a chance to connect with someone at CAPS?”) can be very supportive.