Our Privacy Practices
Notice of Privacy Practices
We updated our privacy practices as of August 1, 2020. Should you have any questions regarding this matter you may contact our office. We are posting our updated practices here for convenience. If you are a client, you may request a printed copy of this updated document.
- OUR PLEDGE REGARDING HEALTH INFORMATION:
We at, A Balanced Life Inc. Individual, Family and Child Therapy, Inc. (furthermore abbreviated to “ABL”), understand that health information about you and your health care is personal. ABL is committed to protecting health information about you. We create a record of the care and services you receive from us. ABL needs this record to provide you with quality care and to comply with certain legal requirements. This notice applies to all of the records of your care generated by this mental health care practice. This notice will tell you about the ways in which ABL may use and disclose health information about you. This notice also describes your rights to the health information we keep about you, and describes certain obligations we have regarding the use and disclosure of your health information. We are required by law to:
- Make sure that protected health information (“PHI”) that identifies you is kept private.
• Give you this notice of our legal duties and privacy practices with respect to health information.
• Follow the terms of the notice that is currently in effect.
• ABL can change the terms of this Notice, and such changes will apply to all information ABL has about you. The new Notice will be available upon request, in our office, and on our website.
- HOW ABL MAY USE AND DISCLOSE HEALTH INFORMATION ABOUT YOU:
The following categories describe different ways that ABL uses and discloses health information. For each category of uses or disclosures we will explain what we mean and try to give some examples. Not every use or disclosure in a category will be listed. However, all of the ways ABL is permitted to use and disclose information will fall within one of the categories.
For Treatment Payment, or Health Care Operations: Federal privacy rules (regulations) allow health care providers who have direct treatment relationship with the client to use or disclose the client’s personal health information (PHI) without the client’s written authorization, to carry out the health care provider’s own treatment, payment or health care operations. ABL may also disclose your protected health information for the treatment activities of any health care provider. This too can be done without your written authorization. For example, if a clinician were to consult with another licensed health care provider about your condition, we would be permitted to use and disclose your personal health information, which is otherwise confidential, in order to assist the clinician in diagnosis and treatment of your mental health condition.
Disclosures for treatment purposes are not limited to the minimum necessary standard. Because therapists and other health care providers need access to the full record and/or full and complete information in order to provide quality care. The word “treatment” includes, among other things, the coordination and management of health care providers with a third party, consultations between health care providers and referrals of a client for health care from one health care provider to another.
Lawsuits and Disputes: If you are involved in a lawsuit, ABL may disclose health information in response to a court or administrative order. ABL may also disclose health information about your child in response to a subpoena, discovery request, or other lawful process by someone else involved in the dispute, but only if efforts have been made to tell you about the request or to obtain an order protecting the information requested. Should you request a document, your therapist has 10 business days to complete your request.
III. CERTAIN USES AND DISCLOSURES REQUIRE YOUR AUTHORIZATION:
- Psychotherapy Notes. ABL keeps “psychotherapy notes” as that term is defined in 45 CFR § 164.501, and any use or disclosure of such notes requires your Authorization unless the use or disclosure is:
For your therapist’s use in treating you.
b. For your therapist’s use in training or supervising mental health practitioners to help them improve their skills in group, joint, family, or individual counseling or therapy.
c. For your therapist’s use in defending him/herself in legal proceedings instituted by you.
d. For use by the Secretary of Health and Human Services to investigate our compliance with HIPAA.
e. Required by law and the use or disclosure is limited to the requirements of such law.
f. Required by law for certain health oversight activities pertaining to the originator of the psychotherapy notes.
g. Required by a coroner who is performing duties authorized by law.
h. Required to help avert a serious threat to the health and safety of others.
- Marketing Purposes. ABL will not use or disclose your PHI for marketing purposes.
- Sale of PHI. ABL will not sell your PHI in the regular course of our business.
- CERTAIN USES AND DISCLOSURES DO NOT REQUIRE YOUR AUTHORIZATION.
Subject to certain limitations in the law, ABL can use and disclose your PHI without your Authorization for the following reasons:
- When disclosure is required by state or federal law, and the use or disclosure complies with and is limited to the relevant requirements of such law.
- For public health activities, including reporting suspected child, elder, or dependent adult abuse, or preventing or reducing a serious threat to anyone’s health or safety.
- For health oversight activities, including audits and investigations.
- For judicial and administrative proceedings, including responding to a court or administrative order, although ABL’s preference is to obtain an Authorization from you before doing so.
- For law enforcement purposes, including reporting crimes occurring on our premises.
- To coroners or medical examiners, when such individuals are performing duties authorized by law.
- For research purposes, including studying and comparing the mental health of clients who received one form of therapy versus those who received another form of therapy for the same condition.
- Specialized government functions, including, ensuring the proper execution of military missions; protecting the President of the United States; conducting intelligence or counter-intelligence operations; or, helping to ensure the safety of those working within or housed in correctional institutions.
- For workers’ compensation purposes. Although ABL’s preference is to obtain an Authorization from you, ABL may provide your PHI in order to comply with workers’ compensation laws.
- Appointment reminders and health related benefits or services. ABL may use and disclose your PHI to contact you to remind you that you have an appointment with me. ABL may also use and disclose your PHI to tell you about treatment alternatives, or other health care services or benefits that ABL offers.
- CERTAIN USES AND DISCLOSURES REQUIRE YOU TO HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO OBJECT.
Disclosures to family, friends, or others. ABL may provide your PHI to a family member, friend, or other person that you indicate is involved in your care or the payment for your health care, unless you object in whole or in part. The opportunity to consent may be obtained retroactively in emergency situations.
- YOU HAVE THE FOLLOWING RIGHTS WITH RESPECT TO YOUR PHI:
- The Right to Request Limits on Uses and Disclosures of Your PHI. You have the right to ask ABL not to use or disclose certain PHI for treatment, payment, or health care operations purposes. ABL is not required to agree to your request, and your therapist may say “no” if she/he believes it would affect your health care.
- The Right to Request Restrictions for Out-of-Pocket Expenses Paid for In Full. You have the right to request restrictions on disclosures of your PHI to health plans for payment or health care operations purposes if the PHI pertains solely to a health care item or a health care service that you have paid for out-of-pocket in full.
- The Right to Choose How we Send PHI to You. You have the right to ask ABL to contact you in a specific way (for example, home or office phone) or to send mail to a different address, and we will agree to all reasonable requests.
- The Right to See and Get Copies of Your PHI. Other than “psychotherapy notes,” you have the right to get an electronic or paper copy of your medical record and other information that we have about you. ABL will provide you with a copy of your record, or a summary of it, if you agree to receive a summary, within 30 days of receiving your written request, and ABL may charge a reasonable fee for doing so. Our current rate is $0.25/page, plus hourly cost of your therapist or ABL employee’s time in preparing and sending the documents.
- The Right to Get a List of the Disclosures Your Therapist Has Made. You have the right to request a list of instances in which your therapist have disclosed your PHI for purposes other than treatment, payment, or health care operations, or for which you provided your therapist with an Authorization. ABL will respond to your request for an accounting of disclosures within 60 days of receiving your request. The list ABL will give you will include disclosures made in the last six years unless you request a shorter time. ABL will provide the list to you at no charge, but if you make more than one request in the same year, we will charge you a reasonable cost based fee for each additional request.
- The Right to Correct or Update Your PHI. If you believe that there is a mistake in your PHI, or that a piece of important information is missing from your PHI, you have the right to request that we correct the existing information or add the missing information. Your therapist may say “no” to your request, but your therapist will tell you why in writing within 60 days of receiving your request.
- The Right to Get a Paper or Electronic Copy of this Notice. You have the right get a paper copy of this Notice, and you have the right to get a copy of this notice by e-mail. And, even if you have agreed to receive this Notice via e-mail, you also have the right to request a paper copy of it.
Informed Consent for Individual, Family, or Couples Counseling
The therapeutic relationship is unique in that it is a highly personal and at the same time, a contractual agreement. Given this, it is important for us to reach a clear understanding about how your relationship with your therapist will work, and what you can expect. This consent will provide a clear framework for your work together. Feel free to discuss any of this with your therapist. Please read and indicate that you have reviewed this information and agree to it by filling in the checkbox at the end of this document.
The Therapeutic Process
You have taken a very positive step by deciding to seek therapy. The outcome of your treatment or your child’s treatment depends largely on your and their willingness to engage in this process, which may, at times, result in considerable discomfort. Remembering unpleasant events and becoming aware of feelings attached to those events can bring on strong feelings of anger, depression, anxiety, etc. There are no miracle cures. We cannot promise that your behavior or circumstance will change. We can promise to support you and do our very best to understand you and repeating patterns, as well as to help you clarify what it is that you want for yourself.
The session content and all relevant materials to the client’s treatment will be held confidential unless the client requests in writing to have all or portions of such content released to a specifically named person/persons. Limitations of such client held privilege of confidentiality exist and are itemized below:
- If a client threatens or attempts to commit suicide or otherwise conducts him/her self in a manner in which there is a substantial risk of incurring serious bodily harm.
- If a client threatens grave bodily harm or death to another person.
- If the therapist has a reasonable suspicion that a client or other named victim is the perpetrator, observer of, or actual victim of physical, emotional or sexual abuse of children under the age of 18 years.
- Suspicions as stated above in the case of an elderly person or dependent adult who may be subjected to these abuses.
- Suspected neglect of the parties named in items #3 and # 4.
- If a court of law issues a legitimate subpoena for information stated on the subpoena.
- If a client is in therapy or being treated by order of a court of law, or if information is obtained for the purpose of rendering an expert’s report to an attorney.
Occasionally your therapist may need to consult with other professionals in their areas of expertise in order to provide the best treatment for you. Information about you may be shared in this context without using your name.
If you see your therapist or another ABL employee outside of the therapy office, we will not acknowledge you first. Your right to privacy and confidentiality is of the utmost importance to us, and we do not wish to jeopardize your privacy. However, if you acknowledge us first, we will be more than happy to speak briefly with you, but feel it appropriate not to engage in any lengthy discussions in public or outside of the therapy office.
FEE & FEE ARRANGEMENTS
This section varies from contract to contract. Our clients are welcome to request a copy of their paperwork if needed. We always update our clients if there is a change to our payment policies.
As long as we are given 24 hours notice or more, there is never a charge for a missed or rescheduled session. Cancellation notice may be given by email, phone, (530) 544-1748, or text message, (530) 448-4528. For full cancellation policy, please direct questions to the office.
The therapist will not voluntarily participate in any litigation or custody dispute in which you and another individual, or entity, are parties. Your therapist will generally not provide records or testimony. Should your therapist be subpoenaed, or ordered by a court of law, to appear as a witness in an action involving you, you agree to reimburse the therapist for any time spent for letter writing, preparation, travel, or other time at your therapist’s usual and customary hourly rate.
If you need to contact ABL or your therapist between sessions, please leave a message on our voice mail. If someone is not immediately available, we will attempt to return your call within 24 business hours. Please note that Face- to-face sessions are highly preferable to phone sessions. However, in the event that you are out of town, sick or need additional support, phone or online video sessions are available. If a true emergency situation arises, please call 911 or any local emergency room.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND TELECOMMUNICATION
Due to the importance of your confidentiality and the importance of minimizing dual relationships, ABL staff and therapists, do not accept friend or contact requests from current or former clients on any social networking site (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc). We believe that adding clients as friends or contacts on these sites can compromise your confidentiality and our respective privacy. It may also blur the boundaries of the therapeutic relationship. If you have questions about this, please bring them up when you meet with your therapist and you further discuss.
ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION & TELEHEALTH
ABL cannot ensure the confidentiality of any form of communication through electronic media, including text messages. If you prefer to communicate via email or text messaging for issues regarding scheduling or cancellations, we will do so. While we may try to return messages in a timely manner, we cannot guarantee immediate response and request that you do not use these methods of communication to discuss therapeutic content and/or request assistance for emergencies.
Services by electronic means, including but not limited to telephone communication, the Internet, facsimile machines, and e-mail is considered telemedicine by the State of California. Under the California Telemedicine Act of 1996, telemedicine is broadly defined as the use of information technology to deliver medical services and information from one location to another. If you and your therapist chose to use information technology for some or all of your treatment, you need to understand that:
(1) You retain the option to withhold or withdraw consent at any time without affecting the right to future care or treatment or risking the loss or withdrawal of any program benefits to which you would otherwise be entitled.
(2) All existing confidentiality protections are equally applicable.
(3) Your access to all medical information transmitted during a telemedicine consultation is guaranteed, and copies of this information are available for a reasonable fee.
(4) Dissemination of any of your identifiable images or information from the telemedicine interaction to researchers or other entities shall not occur without your consent.
(5) There are potential risks, consequences, and benefits of telemedicine. Potential benefits include, but are not limited to: improved communication capabilities, providing convenient access to up-to-date information, consultations, support, improved quality, change in the conditions of practice, improved access to therapy, better continuity of care, and reduction of lost work time and travel costs. Effective therapy is often facilitated when the therapist gathers within a session or a series of sessions, a multitude of observations, information, and experiences about the client. Therapists may make clinical assessments, diagnosis, and interventions based not only on direct verbal or auditory communications, written reports, and third person consultations, but also from direct visual and olfactory observations, information, and experiences. When using information technology in therapy services, potential risks include, but are not limited to the therapist’s inability to make visual and olfactory observations of clinically or therapeutically potentially relevant issues such as: your physical condition including deformities, apparent height and weight, gait and motor coordination, posture, work speed, any noteworthy mannerism or gestures, physical or medical conditions including bruises or injuries, basic grooming and hygiene including appropriateness of dress, eye contact (including any changes in the previously listed issues), sex, chronological and apparent age, ethnicity, facial and body language, and congruence of language and facial or bodily expression. Potential consequences thus include the therapist not being aware of what he or she would consider important information, that you may not recognize as significant to present verbally to your therapist.
If you are a minor, your parents may be legally entitled to some information about your therapy. Your therapist will discuss with you and your parents what information is appropriate for them to receive and which issues are more appropriately kept confidential.
Ending relationships can be difficult. Therefore, it is important to have a termination process in order to achieve some closure. The appropriate length of the termination depends on the length and intensity of the treatment. Your therapist may terminate treatment after appropriate discussion with you and a termination process if your therapist determines that the psychotherapy is not being effectively used or if you are in default on payment. Your therapist will not terminate the therapeutic relationship without first discussing and exploring the reasons and purpose of terminating. If therapy is terminated for any reason or you request another therapist, ABL will provide you with a list of qualified therapists. You may also choose someone on your own or from another referral source.
If you have an unsatisfactory experience, you are always welcome to contact our office to request the Clinical Director’s contact information. Should you ever need to, you may also contact The Board of Behavioral Sciences which receives and responds to complaints regarding services provided within the scope of practice of Licensed Marriage & Family Therapists, or Licensed Clinical Social Workers. You may contact the board online at www.bbs.ca.gov, or by calling (916) 574-7830.
Should you fail to schedule an appointment for three consecutive weeks, unless other arrangements have been made in advance, for legal and ethical reasons, ABL will consider the professional relationship discontinued.