Report: GW mulling sharing counseling information with administrators

GW is considering a plan that would have students seeking counseling sign waivers that permit information about sessions to be shared with University administrators in some circumstances, Insider Higher Ed, an online news site, reported Friday.

The publication, citing anonymous sources, reported that University Counseling Center Director Diane DePalma was instructed to work with a GW lawyer to develop procedures to protect administrators’ liability in situations when students receiving counseling are at risk of harming themselves or others, the site said. The article can be found at http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2005/12/02/gw.

Inside Higher Ed reported that the possible plan would have the counseling center ask anyone receiving services from the UCC to sign a waiver permitting it to share notes and discussions taken during a session with certain administrators. The publication’s sources could not say if signing the waiver would be a required in order to receive service.

The publication said DePalma deferred questions to GW’s Media Relations office. Inside Higher Ed quoted Assistant Media Relations Director Matt Lindsay saying, “(W)e periodically review protocols, but no changes have been made.” He also said GW is facing a lawsuit that might have something to do with the situation. University officials were not reached for comment over the weekend.

Psychologists are required to take action when patients pose a danger to themselves or others but are only to break doctor-patient confidentiality to those who would provide immediate security. In September, The Hatchet reported that the Community Living and Learning Center discontinued its practice of asking community facilitators to record students’ mental health shifts.

Inside Higher Ed quoted Stephen Behnke, director of ethics at the American Psychological Association, as saying the proposed protocol at GW is “immensely troubling.”

“When you remove confidentiality, you remove the ability for effective psychotherapy,” he told Inside Higher Ed. “Anything that threatens (the patient’s) ability in confidence, I would be very concerned about.”

-Ryan Holeywell

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