The recent passage of the Obama administration’s stimulus bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, holds a significant amount of promise in the quest to invigorate the national economy and to help people more comfortably wade through the fallout of the financial crisis. We can thank the work of a few legislators as well as the historical importance of the issue and those who have fought for their rights in the past.
The bill is also set to invigorate a topic close to the heart of meaningful psychotherapy: privacy. A small yet important victory for mental health care providers as well as the people they serve, this measure has been met with enthusiastic cheer by the American Psychoanalytic Association. It has also received praise from professionals associated with the New England Journal of Medicine.
The bill has elements that feed into an initiative to move medical records forward in tandem with modern technology. It specifies that patients shall have the right to obtain their own medical records via an electronic copy sent directly to them. This helps to ensure the privacy of specifically protected information, such as psychiatric history.
The therapist-patient privilege has enjoyed a long and underscored tradition in the United States. Even so, the physical nature of medical records has left sensitive information open to interception. This has remained despite our modern capabilities to keep such information more confidential.
This is a recognition and reconfirmation of the rights of clients and mental health professionals to engage in therapy and healing in a safe and effective context. It is a positive reinforcement of the importance of this issue. The measures taken to help ensure that confidentiality and privacy are allowed to evolve with modern technology reflect an understanding, competence, and compassion on the part of involved legislators that clearly brings hope to the psychiatric professions for the years to come.
© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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