My psychotherapist has a general policy of not releasing to current patients her psychotherapy notes of therapy session and conversations. She has this right under the law if she feels the release to the patient could harm the therapist-patient relationship. In my pending divorce, we have a GAL investigating visitation and custody, and she has asked me to sign a release so my therapist can send the GAL the therapy notes. The problem is that if the GAL has the therapy notes and uses them, then they will become available to me upon deposition of the GAL, which may be necessary. How should my therapist and I treat this situation in terms of legal responsibility versus the harm to the therapist-patient relationship?I don't want to know what my therapist's notes say. I trust her that she is looking out for my treatment-first. She feels it would also be bad for my relationship to concept of therapy if my ex-wife gets to peruse all my therapy conversations. I signed a release for the GAL to speak with my therapist and they have spoken at length, but the GAL is still requesting the actual verbatim session notes.
Your psychotherapist is displaying arrogance.
The problem is what the notes show. You should be able to examine the notes first. The alternative is for you to sign a release so the therapist can speak to the GAL. I hope you have an attorney involved.
Does this answer your question?
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This is a difficult position to be in. One easy way to resolve it, at least in principle, is to reach an agreement with the other side regarding the issue in question, presumably child custody and visitation. I don't intend to minimize your situation, but I've seen a lot of settlements once GAL's started poking their noses through the therapy records of one of the parties. Once an agreement is reached the GAL's job becomes useless and their job is over (at least regarding custody). Short of that, keep in mind that the law considers any patient-therapist privilege to belong to the patient, not the therapist, and if you waive the privilege then the burden falls upon her to justify to the court her refusal to cooperate with the GAL's investigation, which creates tension between you and your therapist.
It might help you if you read the statute governing patient-therapist privileges, specifically G.L. Chapter 233 §20B (http://www.malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartIII/TitleII/Chapter233/Section20B). Subsection (e) addresses your situation somewhat:
"In any case involving child custody, adoption or the dispensing with the need for consent to adoption in which, upon a hearing in chambers, the judge, in the exercise of his discretion, determines that the psychotherapist has evidence bearing significantly on the patient’s ability to provide suitable care or custody, and that it is more important to the welfare of the child that the communication be disclosed than that the relationship between patient and psychotherapist be protected; provided, however, that in such cases of adoption or the dispensing with the need for consent to adoption, a judge shall determine that the patient has been informed that such communication would not be privileged."
In short, you could move the court to review the records to determine whether or not the records are important enough to the issue of custody and visitation that the risk to your relationship with your therapist is secondary. This could be the right option if you feel you are stuck. If you have a lawyer you should discuss this with them immediately. If you don't have a lawyer, get one right away so you can provide more information regarding the specifics of your case.
Two separate issues: patient/therapist privilege on one hand, and what is relevant to your legal case on the other hand. These issues are fact specific to each case. There could be several options. One option that usually satisfies GALs is asking the therapist to write a summary report regarding specific questions. This way her notes remain private. Good luck.
This: "She has this right under the law if she feels the release to the patient could harm the therapist-patient relationship"
is a specific analysis.
This: "My psychotherapist has a general policy of not releasing to current patients her psychotherapy notes of therapy session and conversations."
Is not a specific analysis.
Both of them cannot be entirely accurate.
Do you want accurate, personalized, legal advice that you can rely on? You will have to hire an attorney, not ask on Avvo. I am not your attorney and am not creating an attorney-client relationship by this post. I am therefore giving only general advice. This advice may not apply to you or your situation; may not take account of all possibilities, and may not match the advice I would give to a client. DO NOT rely on this advice or any other advice on Avvo to make your legal decisions. If you want an answer to a legal question you should retain an attorney who is licensed in your state.
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