Mental Health Privacy Questioned for Gubernatorial Candidates

One of the most sacred and foundational tenets within the mental health professions, whether psychotherapy, counseling, or any other discipline, is often cited as the right to client privacy. The basic concept of confidentiality has driven both public and private practice for quite some time, and it is precisely this asset that allows many people to approach therapy and other mental health services with a sense of security. Sometimes, however, this basic principle is called into question, especially when those in the public spotlight are being discussed. The issue has become prominent in the election campaign of a candidate for Governor of Minnesota, who has recently disclosed that he has a history of alcohol abuse and depression, both of which he has overcome through professional treatment.

Volunteering the information, the candidate expressed his belief that the public had the right to know that such issues existed in his past, yet declined to offer many personal questions posed about the nature of his prior difficulties. The candidate discussed a recent relapse with alcoholism, but did not answer questions posed about the nature of his depression or whether he had abused alcohol while working. While some commentators have praised the candidate’s disclosure, others have criticized the limited nature of the information, and have begun to press for details, suggesting that keeping such information confidential conflicts with the legitimacy of a campaign for public office.

The conflict has brought the issue of client confidentiality into the greater scope of national attention, as many wonder whether the candidate’s attempt at straightforwardness will cause a demand for further disclosure capable of harming his campaign. Meanwhile, however, the gubernatorial hopeful can rest assured that mental health professionals themselves will guard his information thanks to the great respect for confidentiality within the field.

© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Hamilton


    December 29th, 2009 at 4:06 PM

    Well I just think it is best left to the person in question to decide whether he/she wants others to know about a condition he/she has or has had in the past. The identity should be protected by default.

  • jenna


    December 30th, 2009 at 2:56 AM

    Well I just think the issue of privacy is pretty over-hyped. Unless you are in the public eye, like in the case of the person mentioned in this article, why would anybody bother about what disorder you had or why you had to go to a counselor…?

  • D.Richard


    December 30th, 2009 at 3:02 AM

    This candidate is certainly doing this to hype his candidature and to make himself noticeable. Next thing he would say is that he can improve himself then he can improve his governing area as we… :p

  • Jenn


    December 30th, 2009 at 10:32 AM

    hate it when things from the past that someone has so evidently overcome has to be rehashed over and over again in the public eye even when it has no relevance on the here and now

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