Self-Harm and Confidentiality

By Holly Counts, Psy.D.

I have been wanting to see a therapist about self-harm and depression but I don’t want my parents to ever be aware of either. I have seen a therapist in the past for social anxiety and I was highly considering asking my parents to take me to another therapist for social anxiety but in all reality it would be more for the depression. Can I do this without them knowing about the depression and self harm (I’m not currently self harming)? Is the therapist required to tell them that I am depressed and such, because my parents have no knowledge of it? I want to be 100% sure of what they’d have to tell my parents before I do this. I don’t want my parents to know because it could be potentially stressful or painful for them and I have worked very hard on keeping it a secret for this long and I hope they will never know of mainly the self harm. I’m 17. Thank you for your time.

A: Let me begin by saying that I think you are putting way too much energy into keeping these issues from your parents; energy that you could be putting into getting better. What would be so bad about your parents knowing that you have struggled with depression?  I can understand that you don’t want them to know about the self-harm, but chances are that it is related to the depression, too.

Each therapist may handle the lines of disclosure between a parent and teen differently. Although, in most states, there are some basic laws and guidelines that must be followed, such as disclosing if someone is at risk of harming themselves or others. But again, the definition of self-harm typically means suicide, not self-harm such as minor cutting.

I suggest that you ask your parents to take you back to the therapist you saw before or a new therapist, if you prefer. Use any reason you are comfortable with to get there, but once in therapy, ask the therapist about their policies of disclosing information to parents. You are 17 (almost an adult) so most therapists would be willing to work with you on some things without full parental knowledge as long as you are truly not in danger. The therapist can help you decide what is important enough to tell your parents. However, there may be reasons beyond your control that would lead to disclosing more to them, such as needing a medication evaluation.

Your parents love you and want what is best for you. You don’t have to suffer in silence. They may handle all this much better than you realize, but you won’t know if you don’t give them that chance. 

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 Apr 2014

APA Reference
Counts, H. (2014). Self-Harm and Confidentiality. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 17, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/04/12/self-harm-and-confidentiality/