Does a parent have a right to receive a copy of psychotherapy notes about a child’s mental health treatment?
No. The Privacy Rule distinguishes between mental health information in a mental health professional’s private notes and that contained in the medical record. It does not provide a right of access to psychotherapy notes, which the Privacy Rule defines as notes recorded by a health care provider who is a mental health professional documenting or analyzing the contents of a conversation during a private counseling session or a group, joint, or family counseling session and that are separate from the rest of the patient’s medical record. See 45 CFR 164.501. Psychotherapy notes are primarily for personal use by the treating professional and generally are not disclosed for other purposes. Thus, the Privacy Rule includes an exception to an individual’s (or personal representative’s) right of access for psychotherapy notes. See 45 CFR 164.524(a)(1)(i).
However, parents generally are the personal representatives of their minor child and, as such, are able to receive a copy of their child’s mental health information contained in the medical record, including information about diagnosis, symptoms, treatment plans, etc. Further, although the Privacy Rule does not provide a right for a patient or personal representative to access psychotherapy notes regarding the patient, HIPAA generally gives providers discretion to disclose the individual’s own protected health information (including psychotherapy notes) directly to the individual or the individual’s personal representative. As any such disclosure is purely permissive under the Privacy Rule, mental health providers should consult applicable State law for any prohibitions or conditions before making such disclosures.