Psychological Counseling Services maintains strict standards around privacy and confidentiality. Your contact and participation with PCS is totally voluntary, and all information about you and your contact at PCS is private and confidential. There are some exceptions to this (see below), but they are only in extreme situations.
There are instances when a student and his/her counselor agree that it would be useful for the counselor to speak with a third party, such as a dean or parents, to share information. We will do so only after receiving the student’s explicit permission and consent. Occasionally a third party consults with staff out of concern for a student and conveys information to PCS. In those instances we do not divulge information specific to the student to the third party, even whether or not the student has had contact with PCS, but we do try to help with general advice and guidance.
No record of your use of Psychological Counseling Services will appear on the academic records of the College. PCS records are stored and maintained separately even from Health Center medical records. The medical staff only has access to PCS records in the case of emergencies and that is primarily as it relates to the use of psychiatric medications.
Within PCS, staff members share information in professional consultation and supervision with each other in order to insure the highest quality of psychological care. In appropriate circumstances, such as coordinating services to a student with eating concerns, counselors may also work collaboratively with the medical staff of the Health Center. Graduate students in clinical social work and psychology, who are seeing clients in therapy in our clinical training program, receive clinical supervision from members of our permanent staff.
Exceptions to Confidentiality
There are some exceptions to total confidentiality. In situations in which there is serious risk of harm to oneself or to others, a therapist may elect to take action and disclose appropriate health information to protect the person(s) at risk of harm or to assist in their emergency health care. In addition, there are laws requiring the reporting of current and ongoing physical or sexual abuse of children, disabled persons, or the elderly. In some legal matters, a judge may order a therapist to share someone’s health information.
Within the College, there are rare and exceptional circumstances in which the Dean of the College might require basic health information about a student in order to make a decision about the health and well-being of that student or about the safety and well-being of the Williams community. In any such situation, after the Dean determines that there is a likely and/or potential risk, basic health information about the student concerned can be solicited from the administrators of PCS on a highly circumscribed, need-to-know basis. In those situations, every reasonable attempt will be made to inform, collaborate, and receive authorization from the student to be an informed participant in that process.
If you have any questions about this policy or your own specific circumstances, please feel free to discuss your concerns with your therapist, the PCS Co-Directors, or the Director of the Health Center.