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Confidentiality/Informed Consent

Welcome to Misericordia University’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center (CAPS Center).  In order to serve you better we would like to provide you with some information about counseling which will be discussed during your first appointment.  If you have any questions, please let your counselor know.

What is Counseling?

Counseling provides and opportunity for individuals to learn to make better decisions, improve personal skills, develop increased confidence, overcome blocks to personal effectiveness, receive assessment and recommendations for treatment for specific psychological problems, and acquire a keener awareness and appreciation of their needs and the needs of others.  In a personal interaction with a counselor, a client is helped to explore and express feelings, examine beliefs and ways of thinking about the world, reflect on patterns of behavior, and work toward making healthy changes.

Your First Appointment

At your first visit, called the intake session, you will be given our standard paperwork to be completed prior to meeting with the intake counselor.  This paperwork contains questions on your current concerns and counseling interests and on your family background.  Responses to completed questions will help inform the intake counselor as to your reasons for coming.  While we believe if you answer these questions your counselor will be better able to help you, please be aware that you can decline to respond to any of the questions listed.

 After completing the paperwork, the intake counselor will review your responses and meet with you to discuss your concerns and decide together how counseling services can best help you.  These services may consist of individual, couples, or group counseling at the CAPS Center or possibly a referral to an on-campus or off-campus service that may be more appropriate to your needs.

Students whose needs cannot be accommodated within the short-term counseling model this Center uses, or whose needs require an expertise that is not found in the Center, will be referred to community resources.  Examples of student concerns that would likely need a different/higher level of care and more long-term care than what is within the role and scope of the Center are:

  • Risk of self-harm or harm to others that cannot be altered by the level of services that can reasonably be provided by the CAPS Center on a timely basis, or is not improved with hospitalization.
  •  Chronic severe self-injury/mutilation (e.g. student presents with history of self-injury that has required medical attention and the self-injury is still occurring).
  •  Chronic, substantial risk of self-harm or harm to others, or evidence of progressive deterioration, as evidenced by one or more suicide attempts or one or more psychiatric hospitalizations and indication that these concerns are current.
  •  Evidence or risk of progressive deterioration in mental or emotional functioning, requiring intensive intervention
  • History of treatment that is beyond the resources of the Center and evidence that the need for the previous level of care continues or is likely to be needed (e.g. need for frequent consultation after hours or need to meet more than once a week on a regular basis).
  • A need for medical detoxification and/or medical stabilization.
  • A history of non-cooperation with treatment and indication that the need for treatment is evident currently (e.g. unwillingness to remain on medication for psychotic symptoms).
  • The presence of a significant or long-standing eating disorder with no period of remission, no previous treatment, or that may pose a medical danger. 
  •  Presence of significant drug and/or alcohol problems such as substance dependence, primary substance abuse, and/or past failed treatments.
  • Request for psychological evaluation for the purpose of employment clearance or other nonacademic purpose.
  • Services to fulfill students’ court mandated assessment or treatment requirements.

Students who come to the CAPS Center for services should be able to utilize short-term counseling effectively. The following characteristics suggest that a student may have difficulty doing so and may be better served by a community referral:

  • Coming to the Center because of external pressures to do so by faculty, staff, parents, or disciplinary actions without sufficient evidence of internal motivation that is critical for success in the counseling process.
  •  Inability to identify a focus for counseling and lack of ownership and responsibility for identified concerns.
  • Current relevant history or clinical interview that shows a lack of ability to develop a short-term therapeutic relationship (e.g. student is extremely guarded during counseling and cannot open up in order to explore and work on issues and concerns).
  • Clinical assessment that the termination of a short-term therapeutic relationship would be detrimental to the client (e.g. student has history of emotional trauma and/or abandonment that remains currently relevant, and does not seem to have the coping resources to manage major relationship transitions).

Additional Appointments

Beyond the initial assessment, there can be no guarantee that you will be offered additional sessions at the CAPS Center.  Continued counseling is available if you and your counselor mutually decide that additional individual sessions would be appropriate and if there is a counselor available to see you.  Resources at the center are limited, and it would be impossible for us to meet the on-going counseling needs of all students.

If you and your counselor agree that continuing in counseling is appropriate, you will be assigned to one of the staff counselors for this purpose.  This counselor may or may not be the same person you saw for your intake.  Counseling sessions are typically scheduled weekly or bi-weekly and last forty-five to fifty minutes.  During an early visit with your assigned counselor, you will work on establishing goals for counseling.

Session Limits

In order to provide counseling service to as many students as resources allow, the Misericordia University CAPS Center provides short-term counseling only, limiting the number of sessions a student can receive to 6 per semester.  While many students find that fewer than 6 sessions per semester is adequate for their needs, those who find that 6 sessions are not adequate can be referred to community therapists.  Exceptions to these limits are occasionally made for clinical or ethical reasons; you and your therapist, in consultation with your therapists’ supervisor, will determine whether exceptions can be made in your case if more than 6 sessions are desired or needed.

Referrals

If you are referred off-campus for counseling services, you will be given the names of several therapists and some information about how to choose a therapist from the community.  Please review this information carefully and ask your counselor if you have questions about the referral process.  While we try to provide as much helpful information as we can, it will be your responsibility to act upon the information you are given.

Waiting List

When ongoing counseling is desired and no counselor is immediately available, you may be put on a waiting list for individual counseling.  We recognize that coming to counseling often takes courage and resolve, and waiting can be frustrating when you are ready to do something difficult and important.  Please know that the CAPS Center is doing its best to accommodate as many students as possible with a minimal wait.

Students who are placed on the waiting list are encouraged to inform us if the need for counseling becomes more urgent after your initial appointment.

Cancellations and No Shows

Personal commitment to counseling is crucial for success.  We expect you to keep all appointments scheduled with your counselor.  If you must miss a session due to illness or an emergency, please call the CAPS Center at 674-6408 to cancel the appointment as far in advance as possible.  More than one cancellation during the course of your individual counseling may decrease the total number of sessions which you may have at the Center before reaching the session limit.

If you “no show” for a session without calling in advance, you must call the CAPS Center to reschedule within 48 hours or you may be placed on a waiting list for further services and the no show will count toward your allotted sessions. If you are persistently unable to keep your scheduled appointments, your counselor may discuss alternative treatment options with you that allow for more flexibility.  Please note that if you miss two scheduled appointments, we will assume you are not interested in counseling at this time and will close your file.  Of course, you are welcome to contact the Center again in the future if the need arises.

Confidentiality and Records

Counseling often involves sharing sensitive, personal, and private information by clients with their counselor.  Recognizing this, laws and ethical guidelines require that all interactions with the CAPS Center, including content of your sessions, your records, scheduling of or attendance at appointments, and progress in counseling are confidential.  No record of counseling is contained in any academic, educational, or job placement file.  While we do keep records of the content of your sessions, in your CAPS Center file, we make every reasonable effort to ensure the security of these files.

Exceptions to Confidentiality

For the vast majority of clients, no exceptions to confidentiality are made.  However, there are some exceptions to confidentiality which you should know about before you begin counseling:

  • The professional counselors on the staff at the CAPS Center operate as a team.  Therefore, from time to time, your counselor may consult with other counselors or receive supervision from a clinical supervisor.  These consultations are for professional and training purposes only and are aimed at providing the best possible care for all clients. 
  • You may request, in writing, that the CAPS Center release information about your counseling to persons you designate.
  • If there is evidence that a student poses a clear and imminent danger of harm to self and/or others, a counselor is legally required to report this information to the proper authorities.  Appropriate university officials, medical, or law enforcement personnel will be notified to ensure the safety of the student and the community.
  • Pennsylvania state law requires that anyone who learns of, or has strong suspicions of, abuse or neglect of any person less than 18 years of age must report this information to the proper authorities.
  • A court-ordered subpoena can require the CAPS Center to release information contained in records or require a counselor to testify in a court hearing.