Can I get my personal info back, please?
January 10, 2012 12:06 PM   Subscribe

Can I request a therapist shred my information/notes, or send everything pertaining to me, to me via mail?

I went to see a therapist for depression/eating disorder related issues. After one session, she said she would discuss her observations at our next appointment. At the next appointment she told me that I had no joy in life, and that she could not help me because this is "just my personality." Okay then. I now feel deeply uncomfortable that she has the packet of very personal information I filled out for her, if we are not going to continue this relationship. Can I ask for her to send it to me, or to destroy it? I need a script so I don't send her a note that comes off as cross as I feel.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can request copies of the information, but state licensing laws require that therapists maintain a record of your visits for a specified period of time (usually about 7 years). The records are to be stored securely and cannot be released to anyone else without your consent.
posted by goggie at 12:11 PM on January 10, 2012 [8 favorites]

I am a therapist (and familiar with record-keeping laws and ethics), and goggie's answer is exactly right. You can obtain a copy of your records from the therapist, but she is legally required to maintain your file in a secured location for a certain length of time after you discontinue treatment. Those records are essentially unable to be accessed by anyone else without your express written consent, so it shouldn't be any danger to you that she simply has the information on file. Only you and she legally have access to the record unless you sign a consent to release information.
posted by so_gracefully at 12:25 PM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

Try something like this.

Dear Therapist,
After meeting with you, I have decided that we are not a good fit and I have decided not become your client. I provided you with a great deal of personal information on the intake forms. I realize that you may be legally required to retain certain records. However, to the greatest extent possible, please remove my personal information from your files and dispose of it appropriately. Thank you for this consideration.

Since you didn't establish an on-going patient-client relationship, she might be willing and able to do something. On the other hand, just sending her the letter might make her feel that questions could come up later on and she would need to document what happened. Doing nothing is pretty safe.
The truth is that she could lose her license and her livelihood if she shares your confidential information (except as provided in HIPPAA and other laws). Frankly, the bigger risk is if you used your insurance to pay for the session but it is too late to do anything about that now.
posted by metahawk at 12:29 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Incidentally, that's a bizarre thing for a therapist to say. The whole point of therapy is that you can change your behavior and be happier if you understand the structure of your personality. If therapists stopped at "that's just your personality," they'd all be out of job. You are well shot of this person.
posted by musofire at 12:35 PM on January 10, 2012 [16 favorites]

Wow. Double wow.

There is at least a bright side. If she had been a tiny bit more or less incompetent, you might have actually had this woman as a regular therapist. Very, very close shave there.

Request all your records. Keep in mind that to anyone else, it will just be one record among many, and, people don't really care.

Double check the particular licensing laws in your state, as to what actually has to be maintained (all information, just the date and time of your visits, etc etc), just in case there is anything that is not required, and if so, send a super-formal letter requesting everything not required be let go.

When meeting future therapists, suggest the first session will be something of a 'trial session', to see how well you both gel.
Possibly even set up an appointment with more than one therapist beforehand, so that afterwards, if you're not feeling like you got much out of it, but would possibly just go along again anyway out of inertia, you instead have an appt with another therapist, already set up. And of course, if you feel like it went well, you ring and cancel the later appt (with plenty of notice). It's a small safety net also, since it's easier to make two appointments with different therapists initially, than to have to work up to contacting someone again after a negative experience like this one.

Best of luck.
posted by Elysum at 12:37 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Possibly even set up an appointment with more than one therapist beforehand

Yep. I talked to eight. EIGHT. One of them told me I need a "new personality." He is not my therapist ( I adore mine).

Be careful, as with anything so personal the good ones are amazing and the bad experiences burn.
posted by sweetkid at 2:50 PM on January 10, 2012

Wow, she sounds like a terrible person, but Goggie is right. She legally has to keep it for a while. Be comforted by the fact that no one else is allowed to see it. :-/
posted by namesarehard at 3:17 PM on January 10, 2012

If you happen to be in Los Angeles (it's a long shot, I know), I can recommend a couple of different therapists that have helped me / a few friends with eating disorder and depression issues. You can memail or email me.
posted by insectosaurus at 4:25 PM on January 10, 2012

Is it possible that the therapist was trying to tell you that she believes your depression and eating disorder issues are symptoms of a personality disorder but made a hash of saying so?
posted by talitha_kumi at 1:57 AM on January 11, 2012

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