What is confidentiality? 

Due to the sensitive and personal nature of counseling, questions regarding confidentiality are understandable.  You can also direct any questions about confidentiality to your therapist or a Counseling Center staff member at any time.  

All therapeutic services are strictly confidential.  This means that nothing you share with your therapist is revealed to anyone without your permission.   This is true, even if what you are sharing has to do with activities that are not permitted by the school or the law (exceptions do apply and are listed below).  We do not disclose your name or identifying information to anyone outside of the Counseling Center. This includes other students, faculty and staff of SUNY Old Westbury, or family members.   

In order to provide you with the highest quality of care, your therapist may consult with other Counseling Center staff.  Other than these internal consultations, it is completely your decision whether to tell anyone that you are in counseling.  If, for example, you would like us to speak to someone (e.g. your parents or an outside doctor) about some aspect of your mental health care, we can do that but only with your written permission.  If you are referred to the center by a staff or faculty member, it is your discretion whether you want to disclose if or when you came to Counseling Center.  

Counseling & Psychological Wellness Services works to support other departments by providing guidance on how to support students and from time to time, we may receive referrals from campus partners such as Student Health Services, Office of Services for Students with Disabilities, Residence Life, Panther Pantry, and other campus partners, as needed. Confidentiality and privacy prevent our clinicians from discussing a student we have seen in counseling unless we have the student’s permission. Students may request information be shared amongst providers by signing a release form providing written consent for clinicians to collaborate in care. In these cases, no psychotherapy notes will be shared and students may request specific information be shared.  

Are there limits to confidentiality? 

Yes.  There are situations in which we are required by law and/or professional ethics to release information.  These include: 

  • Our assessment that you are a danger to yourself or others. 

  • Our assessment that a child, an elderly person or a person with a disability is being abused, neglected or exploited.  

  • If we are required to present records or information as part of a legal proceeding.   

Should any of these situations arise, our staff will make every effort to discuss with you what steps will be taken.  

There are some institutions that ask whether you have been in counseling on their application forms (e.g. the Peace Corps, the C.I.A., police departments, and state bar associations).  If you tell these organizations that you have been in counseling, they are likely to ask your permission to seek information from your counselor. However, rest assured that no outside agency will know about your contact with Counseling Services unless you give them and us your explicit permission.  

Age Limitations: 

If you are under 18, we cannot guarantee you confidentiality. If contacted by your parents/legal guardian, we would have to answer their questions in regard to your treatment. We will make every effort to maintain privacy in these situations but confidentiality cannot be guaranteed for minors.  

Are my counseling records made a part of my permanent file? 

No. No information disclosed during sessions is kept in your permanent academic or financial records held by the university.  In fact, all records are destroyed after seven years in accordance with the law after your final session.