Personal counseling involves sharing sensitive, personal, and private information with your counselor. Recognizing this, laws and ethical guidelines require that all interactions with the Center for Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) are confidential.  Confidentiality extends to content of your sessions, your records, scheduling of or attendance at appointments, and progress in counseling. No record of counseling is contained in any academic, educational, or job placement file.  Without your permission, no one has access to information you disclose in counseling. 

Some 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 counseling staff at the CAPS operates as a team. Therefore, from time to time, your counselor may consult with other CAPS staff members or receive supervision from a clinical supervisor. In addition, for students actively receiving psychiatric treatment (i.e. prescription or management of psychotropic medication) from healthcare staff at Cayuga Health at IC, we may request from you your written permission for your CAPS counselor and health care provider to consult with one another to ensure comprehensive and effective treatment.  This is considered Best Practice under an Integrated health care system.   These consultations are for professional and/or training purposes only and are aimed at providing the best possible care for all clients

  • You may request, in writing, that the CAPS counselor release information about your counseling to persons you designate. 
  • If there is evidence that a client poses clear and imminent danger of harm to self and/or others, a counselor should report this information to assisting resources. Appropriate medical or law enforcement personnel may be notified to ensure the safety of the client and the community.  Under the NY SAFE Act, counselors may be required, in an emergency, to report client possession or ownership of a firearm to county law enforcement.
  • New York state law requires that anyone who learns of, or has strong suspicions of, abuse or neglect of any person under 18 years of age must report this information to the proper authorities. 
  • A court-ordered subpoena can require the CAPS to release information contained in records or require a counselor to testify in a court hearing. All clients will be notified that a subpoena request has been made and this can be discussed with your counselor.

 If you have any questions or concerns regarding confidentiality, please discuss them with your counselor.


CAPS is one of the three offices that are part of the Center for Counseling, Health, and Wellness. At  CHW, we recognize that our patients and clients are whole people whose mental and physical health needs are intimately linked. This is why we utilize a model of care that provides  integrated medical, mental health, and health promotion services that support both mind and body.

Our staff consists of Mental Health counselors from CAPS, and Health Promotion specialists from the CENTER FOR HEALTH PROMOTION, and others. We provide integrated services through collaborative teams and secure electronic records and communications.  We ask for written consent from CAPS clients for collaboration with medical providers at Cayuga Health at IC if this is a benefit to the treaatment.


Your visits at the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services are confidential. Your Health Records are maintained through a secure electronic health record (EHR) system, accessible only to the CAPS staff. The privacy of this information is protected by law. Health care records are completely separate from all other college records. CAPS staff members may confer with one another as needed to provide integrated care for you. In the event of emergency treatment at Cayuga Medical Center or another hospital, the hospital and CAPS providers will share relevant health information for continuity of care. Otherwise, we will not release any information about you without your written permission, except as authorized or required by law, or in our judgment as necessary to protect you or others from a serious threat to health or safety.


Confidentiality For Minors (17 yo and under)

Section 33.21 Consent for mental health treatment of minors

Mental Hygiene Law (MHY) New York State

  (a) For the purposes of this section:

  (1) "minor" shall mean a person under eighteen years of age, but shall not include a person who is the parent of a child, emancipated, has married or is on voluntary status on his or her own application pursuant to section 9.13 of this chapter;

  (2) "mental health practitioner" shall mean a physician, a licensed psychologist, or persons providing services under the supervision of a physician in a facility operated or licensed by the office of mental health;

  (3) "outpatient mental health services" shall mean those services provided in an outpatient program licensed or operated pursuant to the regulations of the commissioner of mental health;

  (4) "reasonably available" shall mean a parent or guardian can be contacted with diligent efforts by a mental health practitioner; and

  (5) "capacity" shall mean the minor's ability to understand and appreciate the nature and consequences of the proposed treatment, including the benefits and risks of, and alternatives to, such proposed treatment, and to reach an informed decision.

  (b) In providing outpatient mental health services to a minor, or psychotropic medications to a minor residing in a hospital, the important role of the parents or guardians shall be recognized. As clinically appropriate, steps shall be taken to actively involve the parents or guardians, and the consent of such persons shall be required for such treatment in non-emergency situations, except as provided in subdivisions (c), (d) and (e) of this section or section two thousand five hundred four of the public health law.

  (c) A mental health practitioner may provide outpatient mental health services, other than those treatments and procedures for which consent is specifically required by section 33.03 of this article, to a minor voluntarily seeking such services without parental or guardian consent if the mental health practitioner determines that:

  (1) the minor is knowingly and voluntarily seeking such services; and

  (2) provision of such services is clinically indicated and necessary to the minor's well-being; and

  (3) (i) a parent or guardian is not reasonably available; or

  (ii) requiring parental or guardian consent or involvement would have a detrimental effect on the course of outpatient treatment; or

  (iii) a parent or guardian has refused to give such consent and a physician determines that treatment is necessary and in the best interests of the minor.

  The mental health practitioner shall fully document the reasons for his or her determinations. Such documentation shall be included in the minor's clinical record, along with a written statement signed by the minor indicating that he or she is voluntarily seeking services. As clinically appropriate, notice of a determination made pursuant to subparagraph (iii) of paragraph three of this subdivision shall be provided to the parent or guardian.

  (d) A mental health practitioner may provide a minor voluntarily seeking outpatient services an initial interview without parental or guardian consent or involvement to determine whether the criteria of subdivision (c) of this section are present.


--adapted from TEENAGERS, HEALTH CARE, AND THE LAW: A Guide To Minors’ Rights in New York State ----The New York Civil Liberties Union in collaboration with The Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest at Lowenstein Sandler LLP 3rd edition, 2018

 "As a general matter, when a minor consents to mental health care, information relating to such treatment may not be disclosed without the minor’s permission. These confidentiality provisions apply not only to providers licensed by the New York Office of Mental Health, but to any facility in which mental health services are provided, such as psychiatric centers and clinics.  Even when a parent gives consent to mental health services for a minor, the parent is not guaranteed access to information relating to the treatment. When a parent requests access to a minor’s mental health records, minors 13 and older may be notified of the request. If the minor objects to disclosure, the provider may choose to deny the parent’s request.  A provider is permitted to deny a parent access to a minor’s mental health records upon determining that disclosure would have a detrimental effect on the practitioner’s professional relationship with the minor patient, or on the care and treatment of the minor, or on the minor’s relationship with his or her parents or guardians. 

Further, professional ethics generally dictate that mental health professionals maintain strict confidentiality in dealing with their patients, including their minor patients. There are, of course, exceptions to the general rule of confidentiality."

The Law permits disclosures pursuant to relevant court order.

The Law permits disclosures for the purpose of warning potential victims of violence of credible threats.

The Law permits disclosures to parents or legal guardians in the context of defined mental health emergencies.  At Ithaca College, it is rare that a CAPS counselor would be the one to notify a parent directly in the case of a psychiatric emergency.  Such notification might come from our Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management, the Office of Case Management, or through the Office of the Dean for Students, who has oversight of CAPS.  What can/cannot be disclosed to a parent is impacted by FERPA.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that affords parents the right to have access to their children’s education records, the right to seek to have the records amended, and the right to have some control over the disclosure of personally identifiable information from the education records. When a student turns 18 years old, or enters a postsecondary institution at any age, the rights under FERPA transfer from the parents to the student (“eligible student”).