Is Therapy for Panic Disorder Confidential?

Psychotherapy for Panic Disorder

Psychotherapy, often simply shortened to therapy, is one of the most popular treatment options sought out by panic disorder sufferers. While in therapy, you will be expected to openly discuss your current symptoms and personal issues. Speaking directly and honestly about your problems can take some courage and trust. 

It may be a bit easier to share such personal information, knowing that what you discuss will be kept confidential.

However, there are some circumstances in which your therapist may need to breach confidentiality. Read ahead to learn more about the therapy process, confidentiality, and reasons why your therapist would need to break confidentiality.

Understanding the Therapy Process

Therapy involves meeting with a mental health professional to discuss your current symptoms and other personal issues.  During your initial session, your therapist will complete an assessment to help determine your diagnosis and direction for treatment.  He will want to know more about your current symptoms, medical history, as well as other important information about the overall quality of your life, such as more about your social support, stress levels, and job satisfaction.

Once your assessment is complete and a diagnosis has been made, your therapist will help you in creating a treatment plan that will outline ways that you will manage your condition.

For instance, if diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, such as panic disorder, your treatment plan will include goals for how you will cope with this condition and work towards recovery. One goal may be to develop strategies to get through panic attacks.

Other treatment options may include following up with your prescribing physician and taking your medications as directed.

Therapy will continue until you have learned to shift towards healthier thoughts and behaviors and are better able to cope with your condition. You will still need to work towards maintaining your success after treatment and it is not unusual to return to therapy if symptoms once again become unmanageable.

What is Confidentiality?

At your first therapy meeting, your therapist will also discuss confidentiality. While attending therapy, the term confidentiality means that everything you share in the therapy session remains private between you and your therapist. Confidentiality is an important part of therapy because it will allow you to build a trusting relationship with your therapist so that you may be open and honest to work through your issues.

When Can Confidentiality in Therapy be Broken?

Despite the importance of confidentiality, there are certain circumstances in which in can be broken in therapy for panic disorder. The most common reasons why a therapist would break confidentiality would be for circumstances in which the client is at risk of hurting oneself or others.  

In such situations, the therapist must report to authorities. For example, if you mention in therapy that you're are experiencing suicidal thoughts, that you have a plan, and that you have the means to carry through with your plan, your therapist would be legally and ethically obligated to contact authorities.

In such circumstances, you may be forced to be in hospital care until you are deemed safe to yourself and the general public. Cases of suspected child, spousal, and elder abuse are often similarly reported.

Another circumstance in which confidentiality may be broken is if your therapist shares your information with other mental health professionals. For instance, when working towards higher levels of licensure, therapists are often required to be under supervision. The supervisor would then need to know the details of the therapist’s cases in order to guide him in mastering his therapy skills and providing better client care.

Last, a therapist may be required by law to break confidentiality if court-ordered to do so. Therapists are subpoenaed to court from time-to-time to openly discuss a client in his care. In these situations, the therapist is mandated to disclose any information requested by the court.

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