Therapist / Confidentiality Question

Maybe this first part is over-explaining, but never mind.

My wife is semi-estranged (more like 3/4-7/8 estranged) from her parents, who live quite some distance away. They have expressed a desire to repair the relationship, and my wife told them she would not consider it without attending some individual therapy first, followed by some sessions which would include them. Her parents seemed cautiously receptive to this. She had visited a therapist in the not-so-distant past, in the city where we used to live, and had a good working relationship with her. She told her parents that this is the therapist she’d like to see and that, furthermore, since we have very little money (which is true) her parents would have to foot the bill (I’m not looking for opinions on the propriety of this part of the situation). They said they’d think about it and asked for the therapist’s name, which my wife provided.

Yesterday my wife got an email from the therapist that my wife’s father had called her, asking a bunch of “prepared” questions about the therapist’s credentials, methods, etc.

My question is, was it kosher for the therapist to reveal to my wife that my wife’s father had called her? The therapist gave no details as to the questions asked or her own answers, beyond that she refused to answer a question that was of a “personal” nature, and that none of the questions concerned my wife directly.

I know nothing about this, so I may be way off base, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t be kosher. Your wife’s father isn’t the therapist’s patient. The therapist doesn’t owe confidentiality to any random guy who happens to ring her; only to her patients.

You’re right, maybe “confidentiality” is too strong. But did the therapist really owe my wife an email, saying, “Your dad called and had a lot of questions about me.” Is she obliged to share this information with my wife, unsolicited?

“Owe”, no. But if the Dad pointed out that the therapist had been specifically chosen by the daughter, I can understand the inclination to include her in events/timelines.

And we don’t know what Dad asked. Perhaps Dad asked some things that caused the therapist to think it was a good idea to touch base with the daughter. She didn’t reveal questions or answers, and rightly so.

She could be doing something as simple as cutting Dad off at the pass, if she suspects Dad going claim, he can’t get her to return his calls, he tried and got no answer, or some other shit, who knows?

Or, maybe Dad asked her to touch base with daughter.

I’m not inclined to see anything sinister here, just yet.

If I understand correctly, your wife is a patient of this therapist, correct? Did she inform the therapist that her parents may be looking for family counseling? It’s possible that the therapist is thinking the father was trying to get information on your wife’s therapy situation or ammo with which to discredit the therapist and she (the therapist) is keeping your wife abreast of the situation since that’s who she’s concerned about.

Yes, in my extensive personal experience with therapists, that is standard protocol. The therapist’s responsibility is to the patient first. The confidentiality agreement applies only to what your wife says and does. As a matter of fact, the therapist really shouldn’t have even acknowledged in any way that she was treating your wife, she should have said, ''I cannot disclose that information without a written consent form." She then had an ethical responsibility to inform your wife of that call, though she also has an ethical responsibility not to reveal the content of that call beyond very general information.

It’s a good idea if your wife does something like this in the future to give the therapist a head’s up and get a release signed.

ETA: On re-read, was the information he asked specific? If all he was doing was vetting the therapist, asking about general methods, etc, then the therapist breached HIS confidentiality. I think we need more details about what, exactly, the father said.

I don’t know, I’d be super annoyed if I was in this situation and the therapist didn’t tell me dad had called.

My wife was the therapist’s patient. It’s not clear from the correspondence that the therapist disclosed to the father that the daughter had ever been her patient. The father did know that my wife had been a patient of this therapist, as my wife told him so. I don’t know if it came up (“Did you ever have my daughter as a patient?”) but if it did, I’m pretty sure the therapist would’ve answered like you said.

We don’t know how specific the questions were, other than some were about her credentials, and at least one went unanswered as too “personal” (in the therapist’s words).

Thanks for all the replies.

Agreed. As a therapist myself, I feel for the therapist in this situation. Your wife should have let her know the plan. As far as the therapist knows, dad could be up to no good. She couldn’t ask dad without breaking confidentiality (“Are you calling because I saw your daughter?”) so the only thing she could do was let your wife know. Dad isn’t a client until they form a relationship, which is usually defined as at least making an appointment. Just calling about services does not make a relationship.

He wasn’t her patient so I would say there was no obligation to keep it confidential.

I’m going to run this one by my husband when he gets home. He’s a psychologist. (Well, almost…)

My mum asked me to see a therapist, after two sessions she called the therapist saying she didn’t think it was working - that I was still not communicating. The therapist told me this on the next meeting and we spent the remainder of the sessions discussing things I should say to my mum so in the end my mother had paid for therapy for me to therapy her. Never did get around to me.