Our overall goal is to make Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) a place where you feel safe to talk about personal concerns. We are committed to keeping your information private and confidential. We follow professional guidelines of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Counseling Association as well as the legal statutes established in the Commonwealth of Virginia. CAPS is required to keep confidential records of any psychological and psychiatric services we provide to you. Written records are not part of your academic record, and we will not disclose information about you to any other office or individual unless you have signed CAPS’ written authorization to release information.
We work hard to keep students receiving services at CAPS safe and provide for the safety and well-being of the Mason community. There are specific times when CAPS is required to share information by law to keep people safe. This will be reviewed with you at the start of your first appointment at CAPS and you will have the opportunity to ask questions. Please note that if you are being prescribed medication by a CAPS psychiatrist and you are utilizing insurance coverage under someone else’s plan, your information may be accessible by the policyholder from the insurance provider.
Specific exceptions to confidentiality occur in the following situations:
- If there exists a substantial likelihood that in the near future you:
- may cause serious harm to yourself or others and/or
- that you may suffer serious harm due to a lack of capacity to protect yourself from harm or to provide for your basic human needs;
- If there is reasonable suspicion of current abuse or neglect of a child (i.e., under age 18), elderly adult (i.e., age 60 or older), or incapacitated adult;
- If there exists a valid court order to disclose confidential information;
- If the University threat assessment team receives information that results in the team opening an investigation for you, CAPS may be required to provide information from your CAPS record to the threat assessment team as part of the investigation;
- If the Virginia Department of Health determines that there exists a need for contact tracing (i.e., for a reportable condition such as COVID-19), CAPS may be required to cooperate with local health authorities and confirm that you have been in the office. CAPS will only provide the minimum information necessary (e.g., date, time and location) and will not provide any details about the nature of your visit.
The Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act’s (FERPA’s) disclosure restrictions do not apply to concerns stemming from personal knowledge derived from direct, personal experience. For example, a faculty or staff member who personally observes a student engaging in erratic and/or threatening behavior is not prohibited by FERPA from disclosing that observation to other officials or to the student’s family. However, counseling records are specifically exempt from FERPA and confidentiality in the counseling relationship is protected in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This prevents CAPS from discussing a student’s counseling without written permission from the student. Counselors and support staff cannot confirm in any way if a student has been seen at CAPS. CAPS will, however, work with students to obtain a release of information to support coordination of assistive efforts when relevant. In the event of imminent safety concerns, CAPS will/can notify appropriate authorities to address those imminent concerns.
Under state and federal laws, confidentiality in the counseling relationship is protected. This prevents Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) from discussing your student’s counseling history without written permission from your student. CAPS staff cannot confirm or deny in any way if your student has had any contact with CAPS. Exceptions to confidentiality may occur should your student be in imminent danger of harming self or others. If you have any questions about CAPS services for your student, please call the Associate Director of Clinical Services at (703) 993-2380.